FanFair Alliance, the widely-supported UK campaign against industrial-scale online ticket touting, has urged MPs to introduce new legislation to protect British consumers from unscrupulous and exploitative traders who operate on controversial websites such as viagogo and StubHub.
At a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, hosted in the House of Commons, FanFair called for a “reset” in how politicians, regulators and the music business look to tackle ongoing problems in this market.
Despite a series of long-running investigations and actions by bodies including the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that have forced so-called secondary ticketing websites to improve their business practices, it is widely recognised that these platforms continue to benefit from large-scale ticket touts – many of whom acquire tickets through unlawful means.
Over recent years, FanFair has uncovered substantial evidence of speculative listings on secondary websites, where sellers list hundreds – and even thousands – of tickets they do not possess. A 2022 report by ITV News detailed how the vast majority of UK festival tickets listed on viagogo were fraudulently advertised by just 3 people. These 3 sellers are, we believe, still actively trading on the website.
Meanwhile, in March 2023, reporters for BBC Radio 4’s You & Yours highlighted how a new generation of touts are exploiting ticketing systems with increasingly sophisticated software.
In August 2021, the CMA published a series of recommendations that aimed to strengthen existing laws around ticket resale in order to protect consumers – including a ban on platforms allowing resellers to sell more tickets for an event than they can legally buy from the primary market, and ensuring platforms are fully responsible for incorrect information about tickets that are listed for sale on their websites.
Regrettably, in May 2023, the Department of Business & Trade rejected these recommendations – opting to prioritise the “power of competitive markets to give consumers choice and flexibility.” rather than protect ticket buyers and prevent unlawful activities.
Compounding this decision, it remains a source of immense frustration that Google and YouTube continue to permit ticket touting websites to buy themselves to the top of search results – signposting fans away from official sources of tickets.
As a result, FanFair Alliance believes it is now imperative for the UK to adopt legislation similar to countries including Ireland, France and Australia – outlawing the resale of tickets for profit, while ensuring customers who can no longer attend an event are being provided with viable services to resell at the price they paid or less.
Notably, in Ireland, where legislation to ban ticket touting was introduced in 2021, Dublin shows for artists including Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys appear to be ‘delisted’ by US-owned websites such as viagogo and StubHub.
A proposal for similarly effective legislation forms part of a new three-point plan that we believe would dramatically reduce exploitative mass-scale ticket touting, boost the live music business and improve the experience of audiences.
The FanFair Alliance 3-point plan:
- Legislative action:
New laws making it illegal to resell a ticket for profit, bringing the UK into line with other progressive music markets.
- Tech action:
Platforms like Google and YouTube must stop promoting touts, and help direct consumers towards legitimate sources of tickets
- Industry action:
Across the board, the live music business needs to make capped consumer-friendly ticket resale visible and viable
These proposed measures are already backed by a wide cross section of the music business, including:
Simon Jones, AEG Presents
John Rostron, Association of Independent Festivals
Alex Bruford, ATC Live
Brian Message, ATC Management
Paul Crockford, Crockford Management
Ric Salmon, Driift
Stephen Taverner, East City Management
Adam Tudhope, Everybody’s Management
David Martin, CEO, Featured Artists Coalition
Daniel Ealam, FKP Scorpio
Stuart Camp, Grumpy Old Management
Alec Mckinlay & Marcus Russell, Ignition Management
Sybil Bell, Independent Venue Week
Richard Jones, Key Music Management
Stuart Galbraith, Kilimanjaro Live
Harry Magee, Modest! Management
Mark Bent & Natasha Gregory, Mother Artists
Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive, Music Managers Forum
Music Venues Trust
Paul Craig, Nostromo Management
Jon Ollier, One Fiinix
Phantom Music Management
Angus Baskerville & Hayley Morrison, Pure Represents
Tom Kiehl, Interim CEO, UK Music
Gareth Griffiths, Director Partnerships and Sponsorship at Virgin Media O2
Ian McAndrew, Wildlife Entertainment
Adam Webb, campaign manager, FanFair Alliance:
“When the FanFair campaign was established in 2016, online ticket touting in the UK was out of control. There was little enforcement of consumer law, and fans were systematically misled and ripped off by the dominant secondary ticketing platforms. Despite substantial progress to improve this situation it is now clear we need a reset. We need fresh legislation and fresh thinking – ending once and for all the parasitical practices of online ticket touts, while doing more to proactively promote capped consumer-friendly ticket resale. The UK is rightly proud of its live music culture, and this is an area we should and could be leading the world.”
Sharon Hodgson MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse:
“Since I introduced a Private Members Bill in 2010 that attempted to outlaw the resale of tickets for profit, we’ve seen many other countries adopt strict anti-touting legislation. It is high time that the UK caught up. Every week we continue to see thousands of ticket buyers fall foul of predatory and unlawful practices in the secondary market. I wholeheartedly support FanFair Alliance’s three common sense goals which would provide audiences with far greater protections, while helping to boost one of our country’s most important cultural industries.”
Tom Kiehl, Interim Chief Executive, UK Music
“Over the course of the next year there will be a General Election in the UK, the outcome of which will define the music industry for the rest of the decade. It is vital as we approach this pivotal moment that policy makers secure a fair deal for music lovers by ending rip-off secondary ticketing practices. Sensible steps, such as FanFair Alliance’s Three Point Plan should be embraced.”