MP proposes amendment to criminalise ticket bots

MP proposes amendment to criminalise ticket bots

Conservative MP Nigel Adams has asked for the Prime Minister's support to tackle the mass scale online ticket touting.

Following similar measures taken in New York, Adams (pictured) has proposed an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill that would criminalise the misuse of so-called "bot" technology to unlawfully harvest event tickets. The amendment is due to be debated in Parliament by October 27. 

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Question Time, said: “A few weeks ago, I thought I had successfully bought four tickets online for one of my favourite bands Green Day - only to be told that the tickets were unavailable and the gig was sold out. But within minutes, I could buy the tickets on another site for twice the price. It turns out that the ticket site had been the victim of a computerised attack by organised touts who then resell the tickets at inflated prices.

“Will the Prime Minister ask her ministers to give close consideration to my amendment to the Digital Economy Act that would make the computerised harvesting of tickets for resale an offence. Similar legislation exists elsewhere and it would go a long way to protecting consumers and genuine music fans.”

Prime Minister Theresa May responded: “I think it is right as part of the Consumer Rights Act last year, a review of online ticket sales was one of the issues that was introduced. It was Professor Mike Waterson who has produced an independent report on online secondary ticketing that has produced a number of recommendations - some of them for industry itself to be able better protect itself from this problem, but the government will be looking at the recommendations very carefully to see what can be done to address the very issue that he talks about.”

At some sought-after events, it is claimed that up to 70% of tickets listed on the ‘Big 4’ secondary platforms - Viagogo, Ticketmaster-owned GET ME IN! and Seatwave and eBay-owned StubHub - are purchased by ticket touts using sophisticated technology. 

StubHub has backed Adams' statement. A spokesperson for the company said: “StubHub supports legislation to tackle bot misuse. The misuse of these programmes harms all aspects of the ticketing industry, most importantly fans. We have consistently supported anti-bots legislation and recently gave evidence to the US Senate Commerce Committee on this subject. This is one of the biggest issues that the ticketing industry faces. However, legislation alone cannot solve this.

"Professor Waterson’s review into the secondary ticket market concluded that event organisers and primary ticketing companies need to develop better technology in the fight against bots, which we fully support.”

In July 2016, the New York State Assembly passed measures to criminalise ticket bots. The automated software hacks into ticket sales at the instant they go live - performing hundreds or thousands of transactions simultaneously, enabling touts to scalp huge volumes of tickets for resale at profit. 

Adams’ proposals have been welcomed by the FanFair Alliance, which is campaigning against industrial-scale ticket touting. 

Adam Webb, FanFair campaign manager, said: “Along with enforcement of existing consumer legislation - something that is urgently needed - if this amendment is made law then it would help turn the the tide and ensure that the ticketing market works in favour of fans, rather than touts and the under-regulated secondary platforms that they operate from.”

Following the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act in 2015, Government commissioned an independent report by Professor Michael Waterson to explore consumer protection measures concerning online secondary ticketing facilities. The government is yet to issue a response to the review.

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