/ Travel & Leisure

Trading Standards: cleaning up the secondary ticketing market

Too many music fans are forced to use secondary ticket sites to get gig tickets, with no real picture of who they’re buying them from. Trading Standards wants to know if this has happened to you as it works to clean up the market.

Secondary ticket sites allow genuine fans to access tickets when they have missed the primary sale – and also to sell unwanted tickets if they can no longer make a gig. But the manipulation of the sector means that it’s not functioning in the way it should be.

Secondary ticket sites are unfair on fans

Touts are allegedly using computer software known as ‘bots’ and harvesting up tickets on the primary market to immediately sell them on at vast mark-ups on secondary sites. This leaves people with very little option but to revert to the secondary sites to purchase tickets for their favourite bands.

Sadly, it’s the fans that are losing out. In a Conversation about secondary tickets back in July, EdKirby explained how this had happened to him:

“Within hours the stadium gig was sold out – within minutes the same tickets were being offered for a 300% mark-up. When the band’s frontman pulled I was offered a refund at ticket face value. If all ticket resale for profit was banned, genuine fans would stand a chance of face value tickets. I’ve stopped going to live gigs. Sick of being ripped off.”

What is being done to protect fans?

Concerns over the way the secondary sites operate have led the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to conduct a thorough investigation into their practices. In parallel, here at Trading Standards we have been investigating the touts – businesses whose trade is the mass purchase and resale of tickets.

Initial enforcement action will focus on ensuring that secondary sites give consumers the information they need to make informed purchases. Websites will have to make it clear if there are restrictions on using a resold ticket that could result in buyers being denied access to an event.

They will also have to ensure customers are being told where exactly they will be seated. If there are any viewing restrictions for example, this must be made known to the purchaser beforehand.

Cracking down on rogue businesses

When using secondary ticketing sites, it’s often unclear whether the seller is a business or not; and yet this information is extremely important if things go wrong.

If you’ve purchased tickets from a business, you have legal rights that would not exist if you were buying from a private seller. Inevitably, this leads to some secondary ticket businesses posing as private sellers to sidestep the law.

Consequently, both the CMA and Trading Standards will be taking enforcement action to ensure that ‘professional touts’ and the sites they use make it clear that they are selling tickets through their business.

If you suspect you have purchased tickets on the secondary market from a business purporting to be a private seller, we are keen to hear from you. Any information you have could help us identify the seller.

We’re also interested to hear how much you paid and if there were any problems with the tickets themselves. For example, were you refused entry to the gig because you had re-sold tickets? Were there any problems with your seat, such as restricted views/access or were you and your party seated separately without you being told this in advance?

If you think you can help us, please call the Consumer Advice Helpline on 03454 040506 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm) – and do leave your comments and feedback below too.

This is a guest contribution from Julie McCarron from Trading Standards Scotland. All views expressed here are Julie’s own and not necessarily also shared by Which?.

Richard says:
4 January 2018

If you really want to stamp this out completely then make secondary selling of tickets illegal. Only tickets bought from the original vendor eg Ticketmaster would be legal. Make the original vendor accept returned tickets from fans who are unable to make the gig up to 24 hours before the concert. That allows enough time for the tickets to be re sold. Unfortunately this will not stop though. The big companies that sell tickets are also the secondary sellers so they merely transfer a large portion of the tickets from one company to the other (supposedly !) then sell the tickets at a huge profit while ripping off fans. They can’t deny this is the case as concerts are sold out in minutes, yet the secondary sites have large volumes of tickets at the same time. Personally I refuse to pay more than face value for any ticket. If I can’t get one from the primary seller then I don’t go. Simple as that. If everyone took the same attitude then it would end this practice overnight. The companies involved in this are parasites. More artists also need to become involved in sorting this out too. After all it’s their fans that are being ripped off !

Thanks for sharing this @malcolm-r. You make a fair point that this issue has been discussed on convo a fair few times, this time we’ve welcomed @jmccarron from Trading Standards to explain a little about what they are doing to clean up the market and how secondary ticket buyers can help them.

I welcome Julie McCarron’s contribution, but why does it have to be a new Conversation? Why cannot it be a comment added to the most appropriate existing one?

When this sort of thing happens all the good points and advice contributed to the earlier conversations get ignored, misunderstandings or misconceptions have to be corrected again, and there is no learning process. It will be interesting to see whether anything new emerges this time, and I shall be interested to know whether National Trading Standards have reviewed all the previous reports and case histories, and indeed what more they are looking for now that has not already been submitted. It is incredible that we are still going round and round this particular mulberry bush after all the effort put in already. As has been said many times by several contributors, tinkering with secondary ticketing will never make much difference. It has to be stopped, as Richard says above.

I am pleased to see that the unfair commercial harvesting and resale of tickets is rightly called touting at last. That this is highly organised and done in league with primary ticket sellers has been obvious for years but nothing effective was done to control or moderate it. Primary sellers could still manage the rationing and release of tickets in correlation to market demand including re-pricing [up or down] if necessary.

@ldeitz I was hoping that all the constructive comments and information might have been been taken into account by Julie, Lauren. Sometimes the impression is that a topic has been introduced with no reference to all the work contributors have already made. I was hoping Julie had read all these Convos to see if they would help her current work.

Excellent thinking m-r.

Thanks, @malcolm-r – what’s needed is recent case examples of secondary ticketing problems and while we have some that we have collected, we want to know of any more.

On your note about the intro, I apologise for not linking back to past work. In this case, it is a guest piece so we missed the opportunity to cover off our work on this issue. We thought with this guest piece that we’d help Trading Standards in their work in this area by offering a place to gather case examples of people purchasing tickets via the secondary ticketing market.

This is something about which I know almost nothing, since we don’t attend these things called ‘gigs’ and which I pronounce as ‘jigs’, much to our offspring’s amusement. The events we do attend are not those that seem to attract these pernicious re-sellers, but since the main blame is being laid at the feet of the automated buying process using bots I would have thought it relatively easy to stamp out. There are a number of methods that could work and wouldn’t require unnecessary legislation, such as banning secondary sales (apologies if these have been suggested in any one of the multiple topics already devoted to secondary ticketing):

1. Enforce a ban on bulk sales of tickets.
2. Limit tickets purchased online to two or four per purchase, each requiring a unique postal address, unique credit card details and unique IP addresses. Even sophisticated bots will be significantly slowed down if not thwarted outright by those.
3. Require two-step verification.
4. Require Captcha authentication. Not foolproof (what is?) but again it would thwart a lot of attempts.

All the above would require initial sellers to sign up to a code of conduct for initial sellers. But the ideas would work to an extent.

It is a shame that only a telephone line is offered as it only operates during office hours. I would suggest a website where relevant details can be uploaded.

Ian’s suggestions all seem very sound. The Australian states various regulations on maximum secondary prices also seem solid.

However overall given the limited resources available to TS one might appreciate the figures for how many people are affected by this practice and then debate how high a priority it really is.

Preventing people spending money from going to gigs because of a dearth of tickets – apart from the obscenely wealthy – might actually be construed as a good thing. On a less cynical note I recall that the “sold-out” Rihanna concert at Wembly was many tens of thousands empty whilst £15 tickets were on sale on Gumtree for £300. Seems some punters have learned that perhaps by refusing to pay for the tickets the market answer may be consumer boycotts.

Just make sure there are no secret sale or return agreements for the ticketing companies.

I have posted links to 6 previous conversations on secondary ticketing. Many contributors gave their experiences and others gave suggestions that might improve matters. What would be nice would be for Which? to trawl through these comments and put together a piece summarising the types of problem people have encountered and the various constructive suggestions that have been made, whether they all agree or not.

Being seen to make real use of, and taking action partly based on, the work people put in to Convos would reassure me that we are not just passing idle moments tap tap tapping on our keyboards. When I see a Convo such as this – 7 in recent times – with reference to only one previous convo – I do wonder whether we are just taking part in disconnected jottings, rather than seeing a real progression towards finding a solution. 🙂

Polly Lis says:
26 October 2020


Polly Lis says:
26 October 2020