Watchdog’s blueprint to banish web ticket touts: Music and sports fans should be protected from rip-off prices with tougher rules, experts say

  • Competition and Markets Authority calls for new licensing system for resale sites
  • It wants power to issue heavy fines or take down platforms that break the rules
  • Move follows campaign for more fairness for fans by stars including Ed Sheeran 

Websites that sell tickets should be subject to tougher rules to protect music and sports fans from rip-off prices, the competition watchdog has said.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has called for a new licensing system for ‘unscrupulous’ platforms that bulk buy tickets and sell them on at inflated places.

It would allow the regulator to act quicker and issue sanctions such as taking down websites, imposing heavy fines, and withdrawing a company’s right to operate.

The CMA first announced it would investigate rip-off secondary ticketing sellers – an industry worth £700million a year in the UK alone –in 2016. 

Ed Sheeran imposed restrictions on online resales amid fears the platforms are overrun by touts

Some musicians such as Ed Sheeran already impose restrictions on resales through Stubhub and Viagogo, which have a combined market share of over 90 per cent.

They are concerned that the platforms are overrun by touts hoovering up tickets at the expense of fans and selling them on for a profit.

Though the practice is illegal, the CMA said authorities are unable to take swift and effective action under the current law.

With music festivals and large sporting events resuming, it has published a list of recommendations to help toughen up its powers when dealing with such sites.

Alongside a new licensing system, it wants to be able to ban resellers from selling more tickets than they can legally buy from the primary market. 

The CMA also wants to ensure platforms are fully responsible for incorrect information about tickets that are listed for sale on their websites. 

Music festivals and large sporting events are starting to resume after Covid lockdowns, pushing the issue of ticket sales up the agenda

The regulator said: ‘If adopted, these proposals will help prevent people getting ripped off by unscrupulous resellers online and we stand ready to help the Government to implement them.’

Two online touts were jailed last year in a landmark conviction for fraudulently selling almost £11million worth of tickets through secondary ticketing sites.

This year tickets to watch England play in Euro 2020 resold on high-profile websites at a mark-up of more than 4,000 per cent.

Almost 30 seats for the game against Scotland on ticket resale site Ticombo that officially cost £43 were being sold for more than £1,000 – one of which cost £2,000, with a £400 booking fee.

The CMA has previously taken action against secondary ticketing websites to tackle non-compliance in the sector, including requiring Viagogo and StubHub to remove misleading messaging about ticket availability and telling customers if the tickets they buy might lead to them being turned away at the door.

George Lusty, senior director for consumer protection at the CMA, said: ‘With live music and sporting events starting back up, we want the Government to take action to strengthen the current laws and introduce a licensing regime for secondary ticketing platforms.’

Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: ‘It’s positive to see the CMA pushing for changes that should offer all ticket buyers much stronger protections.

‘The Government should implement these recommendations as soon as possible and push forward with plans to give the CMA much stronger powers to enforce consumer law.’

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