Online ticket touts are to face an enforcement investigation by competition authorities after major secondary sellers have been found in suspected breach of consumer protection law.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that one of the four main secondary ticketing platform websites – GET ME IN!, Seatwave, StubHub and viagogo - had not complied with undertakings they had made after an initial review carried out earlier this year to ensure that people are not getting the full range of information required by law when buying tickets put up for resale. It did not disclose which site had failed to comply.
The online touts snap up thousands of tickets as soon as they go on sale for big events, re-selling them for profit. Last month, it emerged that ticket touts earned an estimated £1 million from Justin Bieber fans in Scotland, after tickets for some of the stars Scottish dates went on sale for up to ten times face value.
The watchdog said there was a “lack of transparency” over who is buying up tickets from the primary market, while some consumers who buy tickets from online touts are not made aware if there is a risk that they will be turned away at the door after buying tickets for an event.
It added it would consider whether, in its view, both the businesses selling tickets and the secondary ticketing platforms advertising them are failing to provide the full range of information in breach of the law and, if so, said it would take enforcement action.
Andrea Coscelli, acting chief executive at the CMA, said: “A night out at a concert or a trip to a big match is something that millions of people look forward to. So it’s important they know who they are buying from and whether there are any restrictions that could stop them using the ticket.
“We have heard concerns about a lack of transparency over who is buying up tickets from the primary market. We also think that it is essential that those consumers who buy tickets from the secondary market are made aware if there is a risk that they will be turned away at the door.”
She added: “We have therefore decided to open a sector-wide investigation to ensure that customers are made aware of important information that they are legally entitled to. If we find breaches of consumer law, we will take enforcement action.”
A year ago, consumer group Which? said it had investigated the market and had found that the rules were “being repeatedly flouted on all the major secondary ticketing sites”. Under the Consumer Rights Act, consumers must be notified of any restrictions, all seating details and the original face value of the ticket. It also investigated sale in May this year and found that major ticket sellers were still failing to provide information about the ticket's face value, seat numbers or information about restrictions.
Vickie Sheriff, director of campaigns and communications at Which?, said: "On numerous occasions we have found tickets being sold unlawfully, so we welcome the competition authorities taking action to tackle this. No one can know the real value of their ticket if they haven't been given the information on face value, where the seat is located and any restrictions. Tickets also shouldn’t be fed straight into secondary sites at consumers’ expense.
"We expect the CMA to take strong action against ticketing sites and businesses not playing by the rules."
Earlier this year, organisers of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo urged fans of the event to shun unofficial sites selling tickets for the event to avoid being ripped off or left with fake tickets.