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.
Notes for editors
- In June 2016, the CMA launched a compliance review of secondary ticketing websites. The review revealed concerns about information provision and compliance with consumer protection law across the sector as a whole, which prompted the CMA to launch an enforcement investigation in December 2016.
- The CMA has not reached a final view on whether the practices it is concerned about breach consumer protection law, and will listen to the websites’ responses to its concerns. If necessary the CMA will take action through the courts to enforce that law under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002. Ultimately, only a court can rule that a particular practice infringes the law.
- During the course of the investigation some secondary ticketing websites have already made changes to their practices in relation to the CMA’s areas of concern, which it welcomes. Where appropriate the CMA will seek commitments to ensure that changes already made are maintained as well as seeking any additional steps required to address its outstanding concerns.
- The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law. For CMA updates, follow us on Twitter @CMAgovuk, Flickr and LinkedIn and like our Facebook page.
- The key pieces of consumer protection legislation relevant to the CMA’s investigation are the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA), the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (CCRs), the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) and the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 (ECRs).
- As an enforcer under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002, the CMA cannot levy administrative fines but it can enforce the above legislation through the courts, and where appropriate, obtain additional measures to improve consumer choice, drive better compliance with the law, or obtain redress for consumers.
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