Watchdog: Tighten up law to stub out ticket rip-offs on Viagogo and StubHub

Birmingham release tickets for 2022 Commonwealth Games

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As music festivals and other large live events resume after Covid, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has set out recommendations designed to protect consumers. The organisation wants a ban on platforms allowing resellers to sell more tickets for an event than they can legally buy from the primary market. It also wants to ensure that the platforms are fully responsible for incorrect details about tickets that are listed for sale.

CMA officials also want to see a system of licensing for platforms, to let an authority act quickly and issue sanctions such as taking down websites, withdrawing a business’s right to operate in the sector and substantial fines.

While the bulk-buying of tickets ahead of fans by professional resellers – who then sell them at often hugely inflated prices – may be illegal, swift and effective action is impossible under current law, the regulator said.

Similar issues affect rules that prevent resellers advertising tickets using incorrect details, or speculatively selling tickets that they do not own, the CMA added. It has previously taken action against secondary ticketing websites to tackle non-compliance, including the failure to provide important and accurate information to buyers.

Moves have included requiring Viagogo and StubHub to remove misleading messaging about availability and to warn customers where tickets they buy might lead to them being turned away at the event.

George Lusty, CMA senior director for consumer protection, said: “Over recent years we have taken strong action to protect people buying tickets from resellers online, and the secondary ticket websites are now worlds apart from those we saw before the CMA took action.

“While it is clear that concerns about the sector remain, there are limits to what the CMA and other enforcers can do with their current powers.”

Mr Lusty continued: “With live music and sporting events starting back up, we want the Government to take action to strengthen the current laws and introduce a licensing regime for secondary ticketing platforms.

“If adopted, these proposals will help prevent people getting ripped off by unscrupulous resellers online and we stand ready to help the Government to implement them.”

Adam French, consumer rights expert for Which? magazine, said: “Which? has repeatedly exposed rogue secondary ticket operators reselling tickets at extortionate prices without providing clear information or warning about the risk that people could be turned away at the door. It’s positive to see the Competition and Markets Authority pushing for changes that should offer all ticket buyers much stronger protections.

“The Government should implement these recommendations as soon as possible and push forward with plans to give the CMA much stronger powers to enforce consumer law.”

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