UK Kicks Off Secondary Ticketing Review

The UK government has officially begun its review of the secondary ticketing market by appointing Michael Waterson, a professor of economics at the University of Warwick, as chair.

The assignment was announced Oct. 13 by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. The UK government has been increasing its efforts to curb the secondary ticketing market, after more than 80 representatives of the live entertainment sector wrote an open letter demanding that politicians take a stand on “unscrupulous practices, a lack of transparency and fraud within the secondary market.” In February the House Of Lords passed legislation requiring ticket resellers like Viagogo, GetMeIn, Seatwave and StubHub to be more transparent by providing information to customers such as who they’re buying from, the face value of the ticket and the seat number.

It was clear then that this had only been the first step in a longer campaign. The Waterson appointment marks the next step. In the coming months he will consult a wide range of stakeholders, including event organizers, primary ticket sellers, the online resale industry, enforcement authorities and consumers. Javid reckons the first findings will be reported before June 2016. Opinions are divided on how to deal with the secondary ticketing market.

Free-market proponents think government intervention misses the point and only creates uncertainty for the customer.

Stefano Ficco, a senior consultant at Europe Economics, who produced a paper on the secondary ticket market several years ago for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, said: “While many might feel that more regulation of the secondary ticket market is an appropriate answer, economic principles indicate that this is often not the case. State intervention more often than not sees the black market thrive, as people move away from trusted online platforms and over to the unscrupulous touts, and consumer welfare to decrease.”

Appointing an economist to do the review of the secondary ticketing market may be seen as a compromise. Waterson’s research has previously focused on the economics of retailing, the development of competition in energy industries at retail and wholesale levels, and competition policy and consumer behavior.

“Now that a chair of the government’s ticket review is in place, it is imperative that a proper review of the entire market is carried out,” said MP Philip Davies. “As an economist, Professor Waterson will know that the regulations introduced in the Consumer Rights Act have done little to bring down prices, instead harming fans by making it easier for their tickets to be cancelled.

“The government needs to realise that needless intervention is not the answer and will only serve to drive many consumers away from safe online platforms and into the arms of street touts. Any regulations in this area therefore need to be carefully thought through and firmly guided by the available evidence.”