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Blighty Beat

By Rhian Jones

The resale of tickets in the U.K. has been a subject of much ire in recent years, with many a report of fans being turned away at the door after falling victim to fraud, and scalpers snapping up a large amount of gig tickets as soon as they go on sale to sell on for an inflated price.

Today, a new report could see the market in Blighty come under much stricter regulations in the future, and a number of high-profile British execs have pledged their support. 

In February of 2015, the U.K. Government decided to include legislation in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to protect fans from ticket fraud. Legally, fans would have to be provided with the precise details of the tickets they are purchasing (including face value and original seller), and ticket reselling companies were required to report criminal activity. 

A review of the secondary ticketing market was expected 12 months after the legislation came into action in May 2015, which has now taken place. 

The independent review, led by Professor Michael Waterson, found that there is still work to be done to better regulate the secondary ticketing scene, calling enforcement of the CRA “somewhat patchy,” particularly for music events.

The U.K.'s Music Managers Forum has welcomed the recommendations, and called on the Government to act. A statement reads: "Professor Waterson has clearly recognised long-term failings [of the ticket-buying process], and makes nine pragmatic recommendations that, if implemented, will help reform the market. We believe that fans should be given every opportunity to buy and exchange tickets at the price they were intended – not see them used as collateral to boost the profits of scalpers."

A number of high-profile managers and live agents have signed up to the statement, including Young TurksCaius PawsonATC Management's Brian MessageRadiohead managers Chris Hufford and Bryce EdgeCAA boss Emma BanksEd Sheeran manager Stuart CampModest!'s Richard Griffiths and Harry MageeThe 1975 manager Jamie OborneUnited Talent Agency's Neil Warnock and CODA's Rob Challice

In the report, Waterson calls for a mechanism to be devised in order to monitor the major secondary ticketing platforms to ensure compliance with the CRA. A body like National Trading Standards should carry out an investigation of compliance, followed by action coordinated by the police, Waterson added, with enforcement action, court proceedings and fines taken when evidence of breach of the CRA provisions is found.

Primary ticket vendors should guard against the possibility of mass purchase by individuals, by way of more requirements that prove individuals are genuine fans by means of confirmed identity technologies, said Waterson. He also called for increased transparency in showing how many tickets are available for purchase at the time of a general sale (so consumers don’t waste time trying to access tickets that have already been allocated as part of a pre-sale, corporate tie-up, priority booking or premium tickets).

With Government assistance, market operators should come together to standardise the way in which information on available ticket outlets and the pricing structure is made available to the public, said Waterson, who recommended that more should be done to inform consumers seeking tickets about how the market operates across both primary and secondary sellers.

Waterson isn’t a fan of banning the secondary ticketing market completely, as it will drive the practice further underground and get rid of the number of tickets sold (around 30%) that are priced below market value and therefore allow more people to attend an event, he explained. 

More than 40k fans have signed a petition demanding that Parliament enforce the CRA amendment and that ticket resellers are forced to reveal their identities. Concluded the MMF, "The music business has a significant role to play in driving change, and we are committed to work with partners to promote pro-consumer practices and technologies.

"However, we also reiterate Professor Waterson’s call for Government to act and for secondary ticketing services to follow the law. Above all, we need a Consumer Rights Act that is fit for purpose, and to have the law on ticket resales enforced by Trading Standards.

"U.K. audiences deserve clarity and fairness, not a dysfunctional and under-regulated secondary ticketing market that causes untold harm to our world-beating creative and cultural sector."