Receiver Hopes Ticket Tout’s A Test Case

The official receiver appointed to wind up Ticket Tout hopes the Internet trader’s bankruptcy may help persuade culture secretary Tessa Jowell to introduce laws to curb the secondary market.

"Hopefully, your industry may be willing to use this as a case study to strengthen the case for regulation," Lane Bednash told Pollstar after the office he set up to deal with fan complaints was swamped with calls within a matter of days.

Bednash, who’s investigating Ticket Tout’s affairs with Valentine & Co. colleague Mark Reynolds, said the company’s debts might be more than the £1.5 million he originally estimated.

"We had received over 9,000 calls by Wednesday lunchtime [March 14th], since opening on Friday morning; 1,825 were dealt with by the call centre. Of that 1,825, at least 500 calls were from new creditors that we hadn’t been informed of by the director – the list grows, as does the aggregate quantum of customer claims," he explained.

"I was only appointed as administrator a week ago, but even in that short time I’d have to say that I’ve never seen a business in so much need of regulation."

After spending a year consulting with the live music industry, sport organisations and associated ticketing businesses, Jowell determined fans don’t want the government to "over intervene," despite calls for action from Tory opposition MPs and one from her own ranks.

John Robertson, the Labour MP for Glasgow North West, told the House of Commons it was time the government did something about secondary selling and made sure "the people who do it end up in jails."

At press time, Pollstar was waiting to hear if the collapse of Ticket Tout (and Bednash’s comments) would cause Jowell’s department for culture, media and sport to reconsider.

Bednash is investigating the links between the bankrupt tout and GetMeTickets, another Internet site that went bust a year ago.

Ticket Tout managing director Caroline Beale worked for GetMeTickets boss Michael Rangos, but she’s categorically denied that he had any connection with her new and now bankrupt company.

Ticket Tout was incorporated at Companies House February 13, 2006, within days of GetMeTickets going bust. But at the time, Beale sent Pollstar a statement warning that she’d "pursue legally any untrue allegations that portray our company [Ticket Tout Ltd.] in a negative way."

She failed to respond to subsequent e-mails asking more detailed questions on the matter.

The Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) shut down GetMeTickets because it wasn’t in the public interest for the company to continue trading.

It raided the company’s London offices, seized assets and company records and found it didn’t have sufficient stock to supply all the customers who ordered and paid for tickets.

Rangos and his secondary market ticketing businesses have twice been investigated by the BBC’s Watchdog programme.

Bednash is concerned that "the Ticket Tout business" is already being carried on elsewhere under a new name. He said that unless something is done to stamp out this practice, it will inevitably happen again.

U.K. concert promoters including Rob Ballantine (SJM Concerts), Geoff Ellis (DF Concerts) and Stuart Galbraith (Live Nation) are already annoyed that Jowell spent a year consulting with the industry and then chose to ignore most of what it was telling her.

Geoff Huckstep, chairman of the National Arenas’ Association, said the collapse of Ticket Tout "comes as no real surprise."

"This is just another example of unauthorised ‘secondary ticket’ agents fleecing the public and it is why the live music industry is imploring Tessa Jowell to take positive action by implementing the code of practice agreed by all the parties involved in the ticket touting summit meetings – including eBay," Huckstep said.

"If she enforced the protocol it would eliminate the majority of the problems associated with the unofficial market that members of the NAA experience at virtually every gig, such as touts not turning up at venues to meet their buyers, tickets sold at a premium, such as ‘front row’ but in less attractive sections, forged tickets and so on.

"Our advice to concertgoers is don’t take the risk. Buy your tickets from the venue or through the official ticket sales sources as advertised on the publicity material for the show."

With Ticket Tout debts nudging past the £1.5 million mark, and the number of out-of-pocket fans rising on a daily basis, Bednash will also be looking into where the money went. The company isn’t in a financial position to supply the tickets it’s already sold and been paid for.

"According to representations from the director, the tickets have not been issued or delivered to Ticket Tout as most of the claims relate to future events where the tickets have yet to be released from the promoters and box offices," he explained.