The Competition And Markets Authority (CMA) has announced that it will take enforcement action against secondary ticketing websites suspected of breaking consumer protection law following a long-running investigation.
The CMA has identified "widespread concerns" and gathered evidence which it considers reveal breaches of the law. The body notes that some sites have already made changes since it opened the investigation, but wants to ensure all sites comply with the law and that their customers are better informed about the tickets they are buying.
Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive, said: “Secondary ticketing websites can offer an important service – by allowing people the chance to buy tickets at the last minute or giving them a chance to re-sell tickets they can no longer use. But our investigation has identified concerns that the law protecting consumers is being broken.
“Thousands of people use these sites and they have a right to know if there is a risk that they will be turned away at the door, who they’ve bought their ticket from or exactly what seat at the venue they’re getting for their money.”
He added: “We are putting our concerns to these websites and will be requiring the changes necessary to tackle them. We will use the full range of our powers to get the right outcome for these sites’ customers -including taking action through the courts if needed.”
The CMA has ruled that it must be clear if there are restrictions on using a resold ticket that could result in buyers being denied access to an event; people should know whom they are buying from – for example if the seller is a business and/or an event organiser – and can benefit from their legal rights; and customers need to be told where exactly in a venue they will be seated.
It has also broadened the scope of its original investigation to include pressure selling - whether claims made about the availability and popularity of tickets create a misleading impression or rush customers into making a buying decisions; difficulties for customers in getting their money back under a website’s guarantee; speculative selling – where businesses advertise tickets for sale that they do not yet own and therefore may not be able to supply; and concerns about whether the organisers of some sporting events have sold tickets as a primary seller directly through a secondary ticket website, without making this clear to consumers.
The CMA will gather and assess evidence on these additional issues before deciding on whether further enforcement action is required.
A spokesperson for Ticketmaster, which owns the Seatwave and Get Me In! resale sites, said: “It is great to see that the CMA is taking this much-needed step to enforce the law in the UK resale market. We have been working closely with the CMA to ensure that we are compliant with consumer law, offering unparalleled transparency to fans when purchasing tickets.”
In addition, the CMA will continue to work closely with partner agencies and enforcers including: the Advertising Standards Authority, National Trading Standards (NTS) and Trading Standards Scotland. In NTS’s case this will include looking at how these businesses acquire tickets.
The CMA will also be engaging with event organisers to help them to avoid being challenged for using unfair terms to restrict the resale of their tickets.
The offices of secondary ticketing sites Viagogo and StubHub were reportedly raided by the CMA earlier this year. The Guardian reported that the CMA took the action in August after the companies failed to hand over details of their ties with prominent ticket touts.
The CMA opened a compliance review into Viagogo, Seatwave, Get Me In! and StubHub in June last year, aiming to assess whether the sites are providing adequate information to customers.
The body concluded that one website was not fully complying with enquiries and is acting in order to ensure it meets them fully. The other three sites have changed practices in line with CMA findings. Google announced new global resale regulations last week.
Read more reaction to today's announcement here.