The CMA has today announced that it will take enforcement action against secondary ticketing websites suspected of breaking consumer protection law.
After a thorough investigation into the sector, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has identified widespread concerns about the information people are given, and gathered evidence which it considers reveal breaches of the law.
The CMA is raising its concerns with a number of these websites and will be requiring them to take action where necessary. While it notes that some sites have already made changes since it opened the investigation, the CMA wants to ensure all sites comply with the law and that their customers are better informed about the tickets they are buying:
- 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.
In addition, the CMA will be acting to address a failure by one website to comply fully with formal commitments it had previously given to improve the information provided about tickets advertised on its site.
The CMA has also broadened the scope of its original investigation to include a number of additional issues, prompted by new information gathered in the course of its work, specifically:
- pressure selling – whether claims made about the availability and popularity of tickets create a misleading impression or rush customers into making a buying decision;
- 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.
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.
“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.”
In addition, the CMA will continue to work closely with partner agencies and enforcers including:
- The Advertising Standards Authority which is investigating whether secondary ticketing websites have broken advertising rules; and
- National Trading Standards (NTS) and Trading Standards Scotland which are looking at the practices of businesses that buy and sell tickets in bulk. 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 CMA has today proposed a number of steps that the industry could take in order to stop consumers losing out. The CMA is inviting feedback from the industry on this proposed approach.
Welcoming the news, Nigel Adams MP said: “This is a necessary and very welcome step from the CMA. We have raised this issue in Parliament repeatedly and it’s been clear that consumer law was not being respected, but it’s been difficult to get any progress. It’s good to see that the CMA appreciates both the breadth and depth of the problem. We really need enforcement action with real teeth in order to protect consumers – I’m pleased the CMA is undertaking to provide that and I’ll be following changes to these websites closely looking to see swift improvement of transparency and information for consumers.”