Still Understanding Secondary Ticketing

The UK’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee held a hearing on ticket abuse Nov. 15, with the main outcome being that the government needs to do more to address the problem. 
Culture, Media and Sport Committee

Present at the hearing were Josh Franceschi (You Me At Six), Ian McAndrew (Wildlife Entertainment), Annabella Coldrick (Music Managers Forum), Chris Edmonds (Chairman, Ticketmaster UK), Alasdair McGowan (Head of Public Affairs/Government Relations eBay), Paul Peak (Head of Legal Europe, StubHub), Jonathan Brown (Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers), Professor Michael Waterson, and Reg Walker (Iridium Consultancy).

While the live professionals like Franceschi, McAndrew and Coldrick pointed out the problems the secondary market creates, the operators of secondary sites responded with the usual remarks: they are just a platform, not legally obliged to persecute their users, and that touts would simply move to third-party, offshore sites if the likes of StubHub and eBay weren’t around. When MP Nigel Huddleston pointed out that secondary sites were essentially a free market that left people with the choice of buying or not, Coldrick responded that one couldn’t really speak of a free market in the first place.

Lack of transparency and incomplete ticket information makes it impossible for customers to actually know what or from whom they were buying. Huddleston asked: “eBay owns StubHub, and Ticketmaster also owns two secondary ticketing organizations. Doesn’t that just smell odd?” McAndrew replied that the relationship between primary and secondary sellers “does concern us. What we commonly see are primary tickets still available to be purchased, but people buying tickets at inflated prices from the secondary marketplace. And it’s caused by this confusion, and it’s caused by the linkage between the two partners.”

When Huddleston wanted to know whether it would be enough to demand moral and ethical behavior from the operators of secondary sites or whether legislation was needed, McAndrew pointed out that, almost a decade ago, a committee was held on the same issue.

“The last committee meeting on this subject almost nine years ago highlighted maybe the same problems. But in that time the problem’s got worse,” McAndrew said. “The suggestion that we’ll get our own house in order, I think, seems an unlikely, unreasonable expectation. And for that reason, I’m afraid I think there’s requirement to have legislation in order to put the house in order.”

After several hearings, an extensive ticketing report compiled by Prof. Waterson and extensive media coverage of the secondary ticketing phenomenon, government should act in a meaningful way if it does not want to be accused of paying nothing but lip service. The committee released a statement the day after the hearing, saying “a fuller investigation of the whole area of ticketing is needed.”

In the wake of the hearing, Gigantic, one of the UK’s large ticket agencies, announced a partnership with Twickets, the resale platform used by Adele to allow the resale of tickets only at face value. Another UK agency and Twickets partner, The Ticket Factory, issued a statement by its MD, Stuart Cain: “At The Ticket Factory, we’re fighting a war with touts on a daily basis and have invested significant resource into trying to combat the issue.

“We need to shine a light on this faceless, largely unaccountable sector, which leaves fans no choice but to pay well over the odds when legitimate routes have been turned over.”

He pointed toward the FanFair Alliance as “a great step towards one coordinated voice across the industry … What we need now is action from government to take measures and commit resources to enforce existing legislation.”