Touts who use bots to bulk buy tickets for music and sporting events will face unlimited fines as part of plans unveiled by the government in its long-awaited response to the Waterson Report on secondary ticketing.
In an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, ticket touts will be banned from using “bots” – computer software which gets around security measures to snap up hundreds of tickets as soon as they go on sale.
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.
"It’s unacceptable that touts are misusing technology to bypass security measures and buy up vast numbers of tickets before real fans get the chance, only to sell them on at rip-off prices,” said culture minister Matt Hancock (pictured). “It's a growing problem that affects too many people.
“This profiteering is simply not fair, so we are acting to put fans first and improve the chances of seeing our favourite musicians and sports stars at a reasonable price.
“Ticket sellers also need to do more, by improving transparency and ensuring that they are acting in the best interests of consumers and help the market work for everyone.”
The move is part of a wider government drive to make sure genuine fans are not losing out through the secondary market. Ministers are also accepting the recommendations of Professor Michael Waterson's review into secondary ticketing.
Published last May, the review 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.
The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) has welcomed the government’s response. STAR CEO Jonathan Brown said: “Over the last 10 months, STAR has been very focused on progressing the recommendations made to the primary ticket market in Professor Waterson’s excellent 2016 review of the secondary ticket market.
“With the co-operation of the Department For Culture Media And Sport, Department For Business, Energy And Industrial Strategy and the Competition And Markets Authority, we facilitated two meetings to enable the entertainment industry to discuss those recommendations and consider further actions. In addition to STAR and the organisations mentioned above, those meetings were attended by representatives of other entertainment industry bodies with an interest and responsibility for the primary ticket market. The meetings were a step towards fulfilling some of the recommendations made in the review, particularly in discussing with the CMA fair terms and conditions around the resale of tickets.
“STAR therefore very much welcomes the government’s commitment to improving the secondary ticket market for consumers by accepting and acting on the recommendations made by Professor Waterson.
In December, the Competition And Markets Authority launched an enforcement investigation to ensure that ticket resellers who are targeting UK consumers comply with UK law.
Last year, the state of New York made the use of bots a criminal offence after a report found that touts using a single bot had managed to buy 1,000 tickets in one minute for a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden.