Despite numerous false dawns in the battle against industrial-scale online ticket touting, yesterday’s news that the CMA is taking enforcement action against secondary ticketing websites felt like a genuine breakthrough.
The authority expressed “widespread concerns” about the market following a near year-long investigation into the big four resale platforms - Viagogo. StubHub, Seatwave and Get Me In! - and suggested that some sites may be breaking the law. The body has vowed to take court action if necessary and, tellingly, has broadened the scope of its investigation to include speculative and pressure selling.
Additionally, the Advertising Standards Authority is investigating whether the sites have broken marketing rules, National Trading Standards is looking into how “power-sellers” are able to buy tickets in bulk and Google has unveiled new global resale regulations. With high-profile artists from Ed Sheeran to Adele employing their own tactics to clamp down on the touts, the sector is facing intense scrutiny on multiple fronts.
The sight of real fans missing out on tickets for a hot show, only for scores to turn up instantly on resale sites at vastly inflated prices, has become depressingly familiar. It's an issue that has rumbled on for more than five years since an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches - The Great Ticket Scandal - uncovered the shocking scale of the problem. However, there is a momentum around recent events that suggests that, this time, something has to give.
In a market notorious for its lack of transparency, what is clear is that the secondary ticketing business has a major image problem. The CMA's intervention marks an opportune moment for it to clean up its act. Resale is not the issue here – a well-functioning fan-to-fan secondary ticketing marketplace is to be encouraged. But it is hoped that, in the wake of this week’s announcement, the sector can become regarded more as a public service than a symbol of collusion and greed.
Or as one insider put it: it’s time to shape up, or ship out.