MPs reject call for ban on web ticket toutsThey want refunds for ticket holders who can't go

10 January 2008

Ebay logo

Calls for a ban on internet ticket touts were rejected today by MPs, who said artists and promoters should instead be given a share of the profits.

An influential committee criticised the large sums being made by firms and individuals selling tickets for popular events online at huge mark-ups.

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee said eBay and other websites had to 'clean up their act' especially over the 'distasteful' sale of tickets for charity events.

Refunds

And it also called on promoters to provide refund systems so that fans who genuinely could not attend were not forced to recoup their money through other channels.

But its report concluded that legislation should remain 'a last resort' and encouraged moves towards negotiating a voluntary solution.

Some estimates suggest as many as 40% of tickets are now being sold on via the internet, making around £200 million a year - although the MPs said more evidence was needed of the true scale.

Touting

Dozens of the UK's best-known venues, events and promoters told the MPs touting 'marginalises fans, rips off consumers and damages every industry in the sector' and should be banned.

However, consumers' opinions are mixed on the issue and the committee itself was split right down the middle in a row over whether or not tickets should be treated like any other 'commodity'.

The report accepted that the demands for curbs were 'largely motivated' by concerns for genuine fans - pointing out the industry could simply raise its own prices if it wanted to boost profits.

Robbie Williams

However it concluded that a self-regulated secondary market could be a benefit to consumers and welcomed evidence that promoters would consider a deal if they got a cut of the sell-on price.

Stars such as Robbie Williams, the Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead, KT Tunstall and The Verve, have given their managers consent to back a levy system.

Calling for representatives of the secondary market to be brought into discussions, it said: 'A great deal of work needs to be done on the detail of how such a scheme might operate but, at the least, this initiative could lead to joint engagement towards a solution in which the convenience of the secondary market could continue while at the same time supporting the industries on which it relies. We commend it and strongly encourage all those involved to consider it seriously.'

Intervention

It continued: 'Regulatory intervention should be considered only as a very last resort.

'We have reservations about the criminal law being used as a way of supporting organisers' efforts to select the audiences for their events, essentially as an aid to their self-policing of touting.

'We are also concerned by the real risk that a convenient market, which some consumers have grown accustomed to use and trust, would be driven underground, to the detriment of consumers and stakeholders.'

eBay

The committee said it had found 'evidence of distasteful practice' by secondary sellers, singling out eBay for initially refusing to block sales of free tickets to last year's Concert for Diana.

Citing claims the site had also refused to remove 'false and misleading' offers of tickets for Led Zeppelin's charity concert last month, the committee concluded: 'This hardly suggests that eBay is 'standing up' for the consumer; an alternative interpretation is that eBay is not just a 'market place' but a frontline player concerned...with protecting its commercial interests'.

It called for an agreement to block the sale of tickets for charity events, those given out free to children and other groups such as the disabled and those purporting to be for events for which genuine tickets had not even yet gone on sale.

'As long as secondary sellers continue to indulge in dubious or suspect practices, there will inevitably be calls for legislation and we would encourage them to clean up their act by, at the very least, not advertising tickets which cannot possibly be in their or their customers' possession at the time,' the report said.

The MPs also called on the Office of Fair Trading to take court action to establish whether terms and conditions printed on tickets - notably those banning resale - were enforceable.

©The Press Association, All Rights Reserved