The use of computer software to bulk buy tickets for gigs and sporting events will be made illegal in an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill. The amendment will give the government the power to create a new criminal offence of using bots to bypass limits on maximum ticket purchases set by event organisers. Touts who break the new law will face unlimited fines.
"Government's announcement will be music to the ears of UK audiences," said a FanFair Alliance spokesman. "It is also a vindication for campaigners and performers, who have called for reform of this shadowy market for well over a decade.
"For too long now, the practices of the secondary ticketing platforms have enabled online touts to thrive and generate huge profits at the expense of fans. Ticket resale in the UK is worth an estimated £1 billion per annum."
Ministers are also accepting the recommendations of Professor Michael Waterson's review into secondary ticketing, published last May, which called for for ticket sellers to put in place tougher anti-bot measures and report bot attacks, stronger enforcement of existing consumer rights laws, and the threat of further action if the industry does not act against rogue ticket traders.
"A crackdown on the misuse of bot technology to bulk-buy tickets will be hugely important in helping clean up this market, but of equal significance is Government’s blanket acceptance of recommendations in the Waterson Review which, if implemented, should lead to greater transparency," added the FanFair spokesman. "That is absolutely vital. Only with proper enforcement of the law will this market work in favour of consumers."
Richard Davies, founder of fan-to-fan face-value ticket reseller Twickets, also welcomed the development. “It’s heartening to hear that after years of campaigning, the government appears to have gotten the bit between its teeth on clamping down on the profiteering rife within the secondary market," he said.
The government is to provide investment to support National Trading Standards in its work alongside the Competition And Markets Authority on an enforcement investigation into suspected breaches of consumer protection law in the online secondary ticketing market.
“The news that Trading Standards will be funded to enforce these measures and that Waterson’s other recommendations have been accepted in full are also welcome, though we urge the government to go further and ban secondary ticketing for profit outright,” added Davies.
MP Sharon Hodgson, Labour co-chair of the APPG on ticket abuse, said: "It is excellent news that the government has now accepted the Ban The Bots amendment and will finally accept all of the recommendations of the Waterson Review which, to be frank, has been a long time coming.
"These measures will ensure that fans are protected and have assurances that they will not be ripped off any longer, but there still remains work to do to make sure that these measures are enforced properly so touts do not circumvent them as this is going to very soon be the law of the land."
Stuart Cain, MD at Birmingham-based The Ticket Factory, said: "Artists, ticket agents and promoters across the industry have really come together on this issue and united in the fight against touts and secondary sites. For too long a lack of legislation has been allowing fans to be ripped off, while also diverting revenues from the creative economy.
“Now, with the government’s announcement that it will crack down on the use of bots to bulk-buy and will implement the recommendations laid out in the Waterson report, it finally feels like the tide is turning.
“Essentially, anything that allows for greater transparency in the market and help to stop fans being conned is a positive. There’s still a way to go, but this is a promising first step when it comes to the industry finally cleaning up its act.”
Patrick Kirby MD of of Tixserve, the new secure digital ticket fulfillment platform for existing ticket sellers, said: “The government plan to ban the use of secondary ticketing bots is a welcome step towards protecting the interests of ticket rights owners and consumers.
“However, our team’s previous experience of dealing with fraud and abuse in the card payments and mobile airtime sectors indicates that those who stand to lose a lot of money due to anti-abuse measures do not roll over easily and will attempt to find creative ways of circumventing new legislation. As a result, the practical enforcement of the proposed law may prove to be challenging."