Waterson report on secondary ticketing is published

Waterson report on secondary ticketing is published

A Government-commissioned independent review of the secondary ticketing market has rejected the need for further legislation but called for greater enforcement of existing measures.

University Of Warwick-based economist Professor Michael Waterson received more than 1,000 submissions from promoters, managers, agents, artists and secondary ticketing platforms towards his 226-page report, which was published this morning (May 26).

The four main secondary ticketing sites – Get Me In!, Seatwave, StubHub and Viagogo – have repeatedly argued against the need for regulation, but last year the House of Commons backed an amendment to the Consumer Rights Act (CRA) to regulate re-sellers more closely. The legislation requires the publication of details such as the face value of the ticket, the seat number and any applicable restrictions. However, consumer group Which? recently monitored the Big 4 and concluded the rules outlined in the amendment were not being followed. 

“The secondary ticketing legislation introduced in the CRA is still being understood and is in need of some detailed clarification,” said Waterson. “Enforcement, in particular, is somewhat patchy. Clarification and enforcement should, in my view, take precedence over the creation of new legislation wherever possible.

“Specifically, clear onus should be placed on secondary ticketing platforms to ensure their sellers fully comply with the secondary ticketing provisions of the CRA. This is because the information requirements in that legislation apply equally to sellers and to secondary ticketing facilities. A mechanism therefore needs to be devised in order to monitor the major secondary ticketing platform.”

Waterson recommended a lead body, such as National Trading Standards, carry out a compliance investigation, followed by coordinated police action. “I recommend that enforcement action (and if necessary court proceedings) be taken in respect of breaches of the CRA provisions in order to test them in relation to practical scenarios.

“A penalty of £5,000 for a breach is substantial if it relates to a single ticket listing, insubstantial if it relates to the site’s listing of a popular artist’s tour without complying with the terms of the CRA. If my understanding is not borne out by the courts’ interpretationof the provisions, it may be necessary to amend the CRA.”

He called for ticket traders to be clearly identified on the sites, as opposed to fan-to-fan sellers.“Identification of traders as against consumer sellers would afford consumers additional protections,” he said. "If within a reasonable time no progress has been made by secondary sites on compliance and identification of traders, then I recommend that the government considers alternative approaches which might include the necessity for those selling beyond a certain volume of tickets to be licensed."

Waterson also took aim at the primary market, calling for more transparency and a more differentiated price structure. “It is clear to me that measures taken in the primary market would significantly reduce problems arising in the secondary ticketing market that affect consumers,” he said. “Moreover, without reform, some sectors of the primary market run the risk of reducing consumer confidence or confusing consumers with the result that consumers make decisions they would otherwise avoid.

“For many events, there are several primary sellers. Event organisers should be more transparent as to whether this is the case, listing official primary sellers and cautioning against unauthorised primary sites that may be bogus. Otherwise consumers are likely to be confused regarding primary ticket sales and may end up paying more than they otherwise would need to.

“Event organisers should seriously consider whether a more differentiated price structure within the venue than has been traditional, particularly in music, would allow cheaper prices for some seats than a relatively flat price structure achieving the same revenue, hence allowing an audience with a greater range of willingness to pay to attend the event.”

An anti-touting petition, sponsored by Mumford & Sons manager Adam Tudhope in collaboration with fan-to-fan ticketing site Twickets, has amassed more than 40,000 signatures in a matter of weeks. An advert demanding government action was also placed in various publications late last year, signed by the management of acts such as One Direction, Adele, Robbie Williams and Arctic Monkeys, along with members of Coldplay.

Waterson dismissed calls for an outright ban on the secondary ticketing market, arguing it would simply drive the sector underground. He added that around 30% of tickets on resale sites were priced below face value, thus “offering a useful service to consumers”. He also rejected a cap on resale prices. "The history of price caps in others pheres is not a propitious one, particularly where the set of sellers is not well defined; people find their way around them,” he said, adding: “There is a question of who would enforce the cap and what resources they would employ. Merely declaring there to be a cap is not sufficient.

“There are rapidly changing routes to market, including social networking sites, some of which are based in other jurisdictions, meaning any legislation would be extremely difficult to police or future-proof.”

This story will be updated throughout the day.

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