What is a “secondary ticketing website”?

Secondary ticketing websites are online platforms that enable tickets to live music or other entertainment events to be bought and sold.

In the UK, there are now two main secondary platforms: Viagogo and StubHub (which is owned by eBay). Until November 2018, Ticketmaster also operated its own secondary sites, Get Me In! and Seatwave – however it has since launched a capped ticket resale platform.

Why is secondary ticketing so controversial?

Two words: ticket touts.

The practice of buying and re-selling tickets for profit has always existed in some shape or form but, in the digital era, the scale of touting has increased substantially and for a variety of reasons:

i. Ticket harvesting. Seasoned touts look to acquire or “harvest” tickets by a variety of means – for instance, by use of multiple identities or multiple credit cards. Others may use specialised software (sometimes known as “bots”) to scoop up tickets the instant they are made available. These are then listed and sold for profit on secondary ticketing websites.

From research, we estimate that 90+% of tickets on resale platforms are listed by “traders” (those who sell more than 100 tickets per year).

ii. A lack of regulation. Legislation to better regulate the secondary market and provide buyers with greater information and transparency, such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015, has only been enforced relatively recently – and mostly thanks to actions of the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA).

Having agreed Legal Undertakings with StubHub (and Ticketmaster) in April 2018, the CMA served Viagogo with a court order in November 2018.

iii. Fan are confused. FanFair Alliance has campaigned strongly for secondary ticketing sites to stop  misleading marketing practices. After we submitted successive complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, Viagogo and other resale sites were forced to stop “drip pricing” in September 2018.

FanFair has also led efforts to stop secondary sites – and Viagogo in particular – from employing misleading advertising on search engines. This too has seen significant successes and, in July 2019, Google announced that it was suspending Viagogo’s search adverts – although unfortunately they have since reneged on this action.

I’ve been ripped off buying tickets from a secondary seller! What do I do?

If you’re looking unhappy with your treatment from a secondary ticketing site and seeking redress, FanFair Alliance recommends following the self-help advice we developed jointly with Claire Turnham from the Victim of Viagogo Facebook group.

Isn’t ticket touting illegal?

In some instances, yes. For example, the re-sale of football tickets has been banned in the UK since 1994. However, unlike countries such as France or Norway, the re-selling of live music tickets for profit is not against UK law.

(However, it is illegal to use automated software to bulk-buy tickets for commercial gain, and it is fraudulent to buy tickets using multiple identifies.)

Theoretically, there is a variety of legislation in place – including the Consumer Rights Act 2015, the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation & Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, and the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 – that should help protect audiences and ensure secondary ticketing websites operate with greater transparency.

Thanks to concerted action from Government, the CMA and National Trading Standards (NTS), such legislation is now starting to be enforced – however, there is still some way before this market is transformed.

How much is the secondary ticketing market worth?

We don’t know. In 2017, it was suggested that UK resales from Viagogo, StubHub, Get Me In! & Seatwave amounted to more than £1bn per year. Around half of this total was thought to derive from music events. Given developments  over recent years, we estimate that the UK’s secondary market has shrunk considerably.

What is the impact of ticket touting on the music industry?

Industrial-scale ticket touting is hugely damaging to music businesses, and to the wider music economy – diverting millions of pounds into the back pockets of touts and secondary platforms.

Independent research commissioned by FanFair Alliance has confirmed that music fans who purchase needlessly expensive tickets on the secondary market will spend less on recorded music, on merchandise and on attending other shows.

The market distortion caused by secondary ticketing also has a deep cultural impact.

Music is a commercial business, but the future prosperity of music depends upon live performances being accessible to the widest possible audiences – and to young audiences in particular.

What has FanFair Alliance achieved?

When FanFair Alliance launched in July 2016, the secondary ticketing market was a mess.

Without the enforcement of consumer protection legislation, the four dominant platforms – Get Me In!, Seatwave, StubHub and Viagogo – enabled large-scale touts to list significant volumes of tickets in almost complete anonymity.

For consumers, it was difficult to establish what you were buying, who you were buying from, and how much you were paying for it.

The platforms’ misleading marketing practices resulted in music fans being systematically misdirected towards over-inflated “resale” tickets, even when face value tickets were widely available.

However, after 3 years of campaigning, some significant changes have taken place, including:

GREATER TRANSPARENCY. As a result of the CMA’s investigation, secondary sites like StubHub and Viagogo are being forced into compliance and to provide buyers with legally-required information. For instance: a ticket’s location, its original face value, whether restrictions are in place, and the identity of the seller. Although improvements have been made, in July 2019 the CMA announced it was moving forward with legal proceedings for contempt of court against Viagogo.

GOOGLE SEARCH. FanFair has published extensive research (here, here and here) highlighting the detrimental impacts of search advertising on ticket purchasing. We have remained in close and constructive dialogue with Google, and campaigned hard for change. As a result, in January 2018, Google introduced a new certification programme for ticket resellers. In July 2019, Google announced a global suspension of Viagogo’s search advertising – although unfortunately they have since reneged on this action.

DRIP PRICING. After a long-running series of complaints from FanFair about “drip pricing” by the secondary platforms, the ASA took action to end the practice. In September 2018, after referring the issue to National Trading Standards, they announced fundamental changes to Viagogo’s website – and that all pricing information must now be provided upfront.

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT. FanFair supporters have participated in three separate evidence sessions for the DCMS Select Committee (here, here and here – the Committee’s subsequent Live Music report can be accessed here). Working alongside campaigning politicians, we have won Government backing for major legislative change – including new measures outlawing the use of software to bulk-purchase tickets, and to bolster the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

MARKET CHANGE. In 2018, AEG ended its partnership with StubHub at The O2 and The SSE Arena, Wembley – replacing it with a capped consumer-only resale service. Ticketmaster UK also closed its secondary ticketing sites, and joined other primary ticketing agents like See Tickets and Eventim in launching a capped resale service.

Alongside other pioneering consumer-friendly services from Twickets, DICE, Resident Advisor, Skiddle, We Got Tickets, Scarlet Mist and Ticketline there’s never been so many options to resell or reallocate your ticket to another fan.

ARTISTS. These actions have undoubtedly empowered artists to prevent exploitation of their audiences in the secondary ticketing market. Going forward, FanFair Alliance will publish further guidance for artist teams – highlighting how to use T&Cs effectively, and how to execute more effective anti-touting strategies.

What can the music business do?

For a start, music businesses can take a public stand and sign the FanFair Alliance Declaration – showing your support for consumer-friendly business practices, as well as pro-consumer legislation and technology.

If you would like to discuss practical measures to curb online ticket touting, then please get in touch at info@fanfairalliance.org.

What can I do?

  • Sign up to the FanFair Alliance mailing list (below).
  • Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Tell us about your experiences with online touts.
  • Follow this advice if you’re seeking redress from a secondary ticketing platform
  • Encourage your favourite artists to join the campaign.
  • Encourage your friends to do likewise.


Music Businesses

Take a stand against the touts. Join us and sign the FanFair Declaration today.

Fans speak up

Been ripped off by online touts? We’re interested in hearing about your experiences.