CMA launches enforcement investigation into online secondary ticketing
19 Dec 2016 11:03 AM
The CMA has yesterday launched an enforcement investigation into suspected breaches of consumer protection law in the online secondary tickets market.
This follows concerns that people are not getting the full range of information required by law when buying tickets put up for resale.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will specifically look at if information is provided on who the seller is and any connections the seller may have with the platform or event organisers; whether there are any restrictions on the use of resold tickets which could result in the person being denied access to the event; and where a seat is located in the venue.
Andrea Coscelli, CMA Acting Chief Executive, 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.
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.
Earlier this year, the CMA carried out an initial review of the 4 main secondary ticketing websites to ensure they were complying with undertakings previously given to improve the information provided about tickets advertised on their sites.
This work concluded that one website was not fully complying with their undertaking and the CMA is actively pursuing this to ensure they meet their obligations in full. All other websites have changed their practices in line with their undertakings.
However, the review also revealed wider concerns about information provision and compliance with consumer protection law across the sector as a whole, which has prompted the action launched yesterday. In this enforcement investigation the CMA will 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, take enforcement action.
In addition, the CMA is also working with event organisers to help ensure that any terms used to restrict the resale of their tickets are fair for consumers.
Whilst carrying out its investigation, the CMA will continue to work with consumer enforcement partners to ensure that issues in the sector are tackled in the most effective way.
Notes for editors
In June 2016, the CMA launched a review of the compliance of the 4 main secondary ticketing platform websites – GET ME IN!, Seatwave, StubHub and viagogo. This examined the platforms’ compliance with the undertakings obtained from the platforms in 2015 (see note 2), as well as their compliance with the recently introduced consumer legislation (the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013) (see note 6).
On 5 March 2015 the CMA announced that it had received undertakings from 4 secondary ticket platforms (GET ME IN!, Seatwave, StubHub and viagogo) following an investigation under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. In their undertakings, the platforms agreed to improve the information provided to consumers about tickets advertised on their sites, including: restrictions on entry and view that may apply to the ticket; whether or not multiple seats that are listed together are located together; whether there are any additional charges not included in the listed ticket price; the face value of the ticket, which may be different from its price through the secondary ticketing platform; and a contact email address for buyers to use if something goes wrong.
The recent independent review of the secondary ticket market by Professor Michael Waterson, and information provided to the CMA by a number of stakeholders, raised concerns that certain information required by the law is not being provided to consumers using secondary ticketing platforms.
Professor Waterson’s review also recommended that the CMA should work with other consumer protection bodies and with the live events industry to develop best practice guidance on the application of unfair terms legislation to ticketing terms and conditions. The CMA has subsequently engaged in ongoing discussions with representatives of the live events industry and others about how unfair terms law applies to ticketing terms and conditions. These discussions will allow us to establish the most effective means to bring greater clarity for the industry.
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 Chapter 5 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA), the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (CCRs) and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). Chapter 5 of the CRA contains specific information requirements in relation to the sale of secondary tickets. Under the CCRs, businesses must give consumers certain specified information before they enter into contracts. The CPRs contain a general prohibition against unfair commercial practices and specific prohibitions against misleading actions, misleading omissions and aggressive commercial practices.
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. Ultimately, only a court can decide whether a particular practice infringes the law.
The CMA has not at this stage reached a view about whether consumer law has been breached.
Enquiries should be directed to Simon Belgard (020 3738 6472, firstname.lastname@example.org).