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Consumer Protection: Online Ticketing

Volume 773: debated on Thursday 30 June 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will implement the recommendations of the Independent Review of Consumer Protection Measures concerning Online Secondary Ticketing Facilities.

The Government’s response to Professor Waterson’s report will be published shortly and will give our position on each of his recommendations. I take this opportunity to thank Professor Waterson, who is professor of economics at Warwick University, one of Britain’s top universities, for all his work and for delivering a thorough report within the tight statutory timetable.

My Lords, it is over a year since the Consumer Rights Act required secondary ticket sellers to provide full details of tickets, including face value and seat allocation. Despite that, viagogo, Seatwave, GET ME IN! and StubHub continue to sell tickets against the rules, ripping off fans. A Harry Potter £130 ticket sold for £2,000, and £150 tickets for England’s first game in Paris sold for £6,000.

It is a good thing Iceland got rid of us. Black Sabbath tickets were sold at hugely inflated prices before they had even been released, and this month’s cricket tickets were being offered in breach of the rules. The money goes to neither the sport promoters nor to the artists. Professor Waterson, to whom we also pay tribute, found that the law was not being enforced and called on the Government to act. Will the Government now accept their responsibility and do so?

As I said, the Government will respond shortly to the report and Professor Waterson recognised the positive aspects of secondary ticketing. There are issues of transparency and enforcement, which he highlighted and which will obviously come out in our response.

My Lords, I declare my co-chairmanship of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse. Does my noble friend agree with Professor Waterson that while the voluntary implementation of his recommendations is the best way forward, if the secondary market continues to flout the law, we should look on an all-party basis to strengthen the law to protect sport fans and concertgoers?

I thank my noble friend for all he has done to make this legislation exist and Professor Waterson’s report to be tabled. We have certainly taken note of his recommendation that the primary and secondary ticketing markets should act, on a voluntary basis, on the issues that the professor has identified. I look forward to that being pushed forward. Clearly, we should try to ensure that these changes happen, because it is in the markets’ interest that they act before we look to legislate further.

My Lords, it is clear that the online secondary ticketing industry is making a fat profit out of fans desperate to see their favourite entertainments. I am glad that the Government have announced a compliance review following Waterson. However, will the Minister ensure that trading standards is mandated and directed to enforce the law as it stands right now, otherwise what is the point of passing legislation such as the Consumer Rights Act in your Lordships’ House if it will be ignored and flouted?

The Government will of course consult the enforcement bodies, including trading standards, before we publish our response. We are in discussion with them now. The noble Baroness makes some good points, but of course the internet has fundamentally challenged the ticketing environment. Professor Waterson himself said:

“Britain may be an island, but it is not an internet island”.

We have to recognise that and look forward.

My Lords, what advice would the Minister give to those who suddenly get an email offering one of these tickets?

I think my noble friend’s comment shows how careful people have to be. Of course, the Euro 2016 tickets are not covered by this legislation. One of the good things in Professor Waterson’s report is a list of hints and tips to help consumers. I should not anticipate our response but I hope that the project group will move forward in that area.

The ticketing system underpins the success of our events and our tourist events, in music as well as in sport, and I am sure the secondary sites will be a good source of tickets for Icelanders as they progress through the tournament.

My Lords, is there a case for using technology here to ensure that the ticket sellers reveal the identity of their websites?

Provisions are laid down in the Consumer Rights Act, which we introduced in this House. Technology is changing things. One thing that can be looked at is ID, but potentially that will have problems under the Data Protection Act if people’s names are published. However, other technological advances, such as the use of wrist bands and biometrics, are coming along. My message would be that we should take these into account in trying to reduce fraud and improve enforcement in this important area.