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We must crack down on ticket resale sites ripping-off fans

(Alamy)

3 min read

Around this time next year, Swifties from all four corners of the United Kingdom will live their Wildest Dreams as they descend on the Principality Stadium in my home city of Cardiff to welcome Taylor Swift, their very own Anti-Hero as she embarks on the European leg of The Eras Tour.

But among the scores of the singer-songwriter’s stans waiting anxiously in online queues in recent days for a chance to join them, ticket touts lay in wait for any opportunity to make quick cash from the hype.

Just over an hour after pre-sale tickets became available, the BBC reported that those touts were flogging their own for more than £3,300 on the ticket resale site Viagogo.

Sadly, this is something music fans will know All Too Well.

During Prime Minister’s Questions in March, I highlighted an investigation by BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours which exposed a secretive group of touts using queue-jumping software to buy Eurovision tickets and re-sell them at huge markups online.

Secondary ticketing sites have historically been reluctant to take the necessary steps to ensure their site enables transparent and ethical pricing for the resale of tickets

In response, the Prime Minister said that measures had been introduced to combat ticket touting. The reality, however, is very different.

The rip-off culture that plagues our live events sector risks fomenting Bad Blood between artists and their loyal fans. Acts including Ed Sheeran, Wolf Alice and the Arctic Monkeys have thrown their weight behind campaigns to address the issue. But very little progress has been made.

In 2010 my parliamentary colleague Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, introduced an unsuccessful Bill which sought to limit the inflation of ticket prices at resale far above their face value. She also chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, bringing together parliamentarians from across the political spectrum to explore solutions.

In August 2021, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority recommended in a report that the government implement a new licensing system for platforms selling secondary tickets. It said that this would enable sites to be fined, taken down, and for their right to operate in the sector to be withdrawn by a new enforcement body if they did not follow new, stricter rules.

When the government finally responded to the report in May of this year, nearly two years on, it refused to support those proposals. It said it “will not be seeking to introduce further specific regulation of the secondary ticket market at this time…”

Interestingly in Ireland, where legislation has been introduced on secondary sales, tickets for Taylor Swift’s Dublin gig do not appear to be listed on resale sites.

Secondary ticketing sites have historically been reluctant to take the necessary steps to ensure their site enables transparent and ethical pricing for the resale of tickets. Government action to occupy the Blank Space of regulation and leadership is long overdue.    

 

Kevin Brennan, Labour MP for Cardiff West and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music

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