Ticket resale sites could face court over consumer law concerns

Secondary ticketing firms used by professional touts could be taken to court after a year-long investigation by the UK competition regulator uncovered “widespread concerns” about breaches of consumer law.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also vowed to widen the scope of its investigation to include the controversial sales tactics used by ticket resale websites, such as StubHub and Viagogo.

It promised to take action against one unnamed resale site, which could be fined for failing to comply with a demand that it provide information to buyers about their tickets.

Any websites that do not comply with the CMA’s demands could be taken to court to force them to abide by consumer protection laws, the regulator said, as it promised to use the “full range of our powers”.

The watchdog opened its investigation last year in the face of mounting pressure from the music industry and fans’ groups about the grip wielded by touts on the most in-demand events.

In an update on its progress, the CMA said it would demand that resale companies make clear if tickets have terms and conditions attached that could see buyers denied entry.

Ticket firms will also be told to make clear who is selling the tickets, which could lead to some of the UK’s biggest professional touts having to provide more detail about their identities.

Customers will also have to be told exactly where in a venue they will be seated.

“We are putting our concerns to these websites and will be requiring the changes necessary to tackle them,” said the CMA’s chief executive, Andrea Coscelli.

“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 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 watchdog will also widen the scope of its probe after uncovering new evidence during the course of its investigation.

This will include looking into the use of pressure selling, to see if “claims made about the availability and popularity of tickets create a misleading impression or rush customers into making a buying decision”.

Officials will look at the difficulty faced by customers in getting their money back under a website’s guarantee, after the Guardian revealed that Viagogo customers struggled to get refunds after being overcharged.

The CMA also promised to investigate “speculative selling”, where websites advertise tickets they do not yet own and may not able to supply.

It will look at concerns that organisers of sporting events are channelling tickets directly on to secondary sites rather than offering them at face value via primary ticket sales.

The CMA’s update on its progress comes just weeks after the Guardian revealed that officials had raided the offices of StubHub and Viagogo, seizing evidence about the income of top touts charging large mark-ups for tickets.

Coscelli 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 resell 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 have bought their ticket from or exactly what seat at the venue they’re getting for their money.”

In addition, National Trading Standards will examine how major touts are acquiring their tickets, amid concerns that they may be breaking the law to harvest them.

The Guardian revealed earlier this month that one of the world’s biggest touts, who set up an offshore business to avoid tax, enjoyed a close relationship with StubHub that he believed could help him trade tickets.