/ Travel & Leisure

Can the regulator clean up the ticket resale market?

secondary ticket market

The regulator has announced it’s taking enforcement action against ticketing companies who aren’t following the rules. But will this finally fix the ticket resale market for genuine fans?

When it comes to buying tickets to the latest music and sporting events, I’m completely out of the loop. I often don’t even realise some of my favourite artists are in town until a few weeks before, by which point the tickets are all long gone. So picking up someone else’s spares on a secondary ticket website can often be the only way I’ll get in.

The trouble with that is that these secondary ticketing websites often don’t show all of the information they are required to, meaning it can be hard to know whether your night out is likely to turn into a nightmare. But this could all change…

Resale tickets

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced today that it will take enforcement action against secondary ticketing websites suspected of breaking consumer protection law.

Last year, following concerns about the secondary ticketing market highlighted by us and others, the regulator announced that it would open up an investigation. And it has now reported back.

While the CMA has noted there have been some improvements over the last 12 months, there is still more the industry needs to do to clean up its act.

While the regulator hasn’t yet named the websites it’s concerned about, our research has repeatedly found examples where secondary ticketing sites aren’t giving you the information you need to make an informed decision. This is information such as the face value price of tickets as well as information like block, row and seat numbers.

Much like our own research findings, the regulator found information lacking around exactly where in a venue the seat is located or even if there are any restrictions on the ticket that could stop you from getting in.

It reported that there’s a lack of clarity around who is actually selling the tickets on these sites. Without this information, you don’t always know if you are buying from another individual with a spare ticket, or if the seller is a business or an event organiser which would mean you had more consumer protections.

The regulator is also concerned about whether you are able to get a refund when you are entitled to one, and whether people should be allowed to sell on tickets that they don’t physically have.

Fixing it for fans

The CMA announced that it will also be widening its investigation to look at issues like pressure selling, where you are led to believe lots of others are interested in the last few tickets. It will also be looking at whether some sporting events have sold tickets as a primary seller but via a secondary ticket website, without making this clear to ticket buyers.

A few months ago we asked you to tell us your experiences of using secondary ticketing sites. Almost half (49%) of you who had bought tickets said you thought that the website was the official ticket seller.

With people increasingly using these sites to buy tickets, it’s right that the regulator is taking action against companies that aren’t playing by the rules. We want to see this action now lead to greater transparency so that people have a better chance of getting the best tickets for popular events.

Have you bought tickets from a secondary site? Do you think action by the regulator will help fix the ticketing market?


Until such time as it is made illegal to re-sell tickets at more than their face value, this issue will continue.

The rip-off comes because currently re-sold tickets can be sold at a profit. This is taken advantage of by firms bulk-buying tickets to explicitly re-sell. Genuine consumers are being taken advantage of. The key to cleaning up the market is to make it illegal to re-sell tickets at more than the face value of the ticket.

There are times where people buy a ticket to an event and then find out they are unable to attend. These people should be able to re-sell the ticket, but for no more than they paid for it in the first place. Indeed, most people with a genuine reason to re-sell would expect to make a small loss on any such transaction.

Genuine fan-to-fan ticket exchange is a great idea which the digital world has enabled. The philosopher Eric Holler said (though he was referring to political ideology) ‘every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket’. Unfortunately, given the findings of the CMA, it is hard not to conclude this is what has happened to online ticket exchange: a great idea that been turned into a business that has become a racket.

For good consumer advice on how to navigate the UK ticket market and avoid being ripped off by secondary ticketing websites (who primarily serve the interests of opaque business ticket sellers and charge buyers a huge amount in fees), please follow the advice of the FanFairAlliance campaign set up by some fan-friendly people in the music business. I declare an interest as I work for them; we submitted a huge amount of evidence to the CMA as well as the ASA and NTS that consumer law was being breached.

Their guide is here: http://fanfairalliance.org/launch-new-online-guide-to-beat-touts/

It includes lots of info about how to buy face value tickets even close to a sold out event.

Hi Mark, thanks for sharing your guide for buying tickets. We previously heard from FanFair on Which? Conversation, Adam Webb wrote for us back in June: https://conversation.which.co.uk/travel-leisure/secondary-ticketing-funfair/

As a gentle reminder, we don’t allow promotional content to be shared on Which? Conversation. So please try and ensure that your comments aren’t too promotional. Thanks

I don’t think making it illegal to sell at a profit will be a viable solution. What will happen is that people will still bulk-buy, but not advertise to sell at a profit. Instead, there will materialize a black market of desperate fans offering above-market price for any tickets they can get. The sellers will then only need to private-message the fans.

I have a proper solution.

Tickets should be non-transferable. When you buy, your name is printed on the ticket. When you attend, you must show ID. If you can’t attend, you can sell the ticket back to the box office and they’ll give you a refund minus an administration fee. The box office itself will then re-sell your old ticket, at its proper price.

Both Victoria and New South Wales have introduced legislation this year to cap the profit marginat 10% and backed it up with seriously hefty fines [Aus$575000]. One wonders what the problem might be in introducing a similar system to the UK.

I do like Clint’s solution. One wonders on the amount of brainpower that has been devoted to the matter that so little effective has materialised over the years.

I agree that Clint’s solution makes sense. My solution has been to avoid being a fan of any person or organisation.

Steph says:
2 December 2017

I bought tickets last year from Ticketmaster at the time they were released. The only tickets available were HOT TICKETS. They were several hundred pounds but I bought them in the first few mins of them being released and assumed they were genuinely premium seats. When the tickets arrived from Ticketmaster the face value was printed on them and they were normal priced seats (albeit in a good block) . So, unless someone can convince me otherwise, my view is that Ticketmaster identified the ‘premium’ seats in advance and whacked on several hundred pounds to the price. They were not on a resale site, I bought them within 2 mins of them going live, and the face value was nowhere near what I paid. In the end the gig was cancelled and I got my money back but I still feel conned by Ticketmaster.