Digital Economy Bill - Committee (4th Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:00 pm on 8th February 2017.

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Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat 10:00 pm, 8th February 2017

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Moynihan. I shall speak to Amendment 231 and express my support for Amendments 230 and 233B to 233E. Despite the lateness of the hour, I hope that the Minister will not mind my adding my tribute to the late Baroness Heyhoe Flint. She will be greatly missed, and it was moving to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, had to say. In a sense it is a complete loss not to have her here today to speak to these amendments because we know that she would make a passionate case for all of them, so we are here to help move forward this campaign. I am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse. Together with other noble Lords, I debated these matters on the Consumer Rights Bill and I feel strongly that we must move on from where we are today. I want to make a few comments in connection with the amendments for that reason.

The market in ticket resale is some £1 billion per annum across music, sports, theatre and comedy, and it is a very lucrative business. There is increasing evidence that it is a market manipulated by touts. We have listened to the egregious examples given by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. Fans who want to buy tickets for the events that are most highly in demand are systematically directed towards platforms like viagogo, StubHub, Get Me In and Seatwave, where scalpers and bot users are able to operate anonymously and bulk-sell inventory at hyped-up prices. Another example to add to those already given is the latest in a long line of victims: Ed Sheeran fans attempting to buy tickets last week for his upcoming UK arena shows. I looked at the ticket listings for his concert at the O2 on 2 May and counted almost 1,500 tickets for sale across Get Me In, Seatwave, StubHub and viagogo, all for prices way over face value, with service fees in excess of 20%.

Ed Sheeran has publicly condemned ticket touts and before these shows went on sale he carefully communicated to his audience to buy only from authorised ticket agents. He also appointed a resale agent to enable fans to transfer tickets at face value, yet touts still infiltrated the sale. No wonder people are so angry: they feel the system is rigged. An industry campaign, the FanFair Alliance, is fast gathering support, and I am very grateful to it for helping brief us all for this debate. Fans themselves are petitioning the Government. More than 33,000 have signed a parliamentary petition in the last week, begging politicians to tackle this issue. Of course, we have debated this in Parliament. The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee held a short inquiry which came to the conclusion late last year that action was needed. The committee chair has described ticket touting as “a national scandal” and a massive racket which is making people in the industry millions, while exploiting genuine fans who just want to pay a fair price to attend live events.

The noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Stevenson, mentioned the report undertaken for the Government by Professor Michael Waterson, which raised major concerns. He made nine recommendations to the Government, yet here we are eight months later and despite some encouraging words in the other place, particularly about bots, the Government have yet to respond. Legislation, even the inadequate legislation we managed to get the Government to agree to on the Consumer Rights Bill, is still not being enforced. All the secondary ticketing sites that I mentioned still operate without a shred of transparency. How many more members of the public will be ripped off before the Government decide to take action? There is clearly an urgent need for government intervention in this market, to push forward the handful of decisive actions which are all reflected in the range of amendments being tabled today.

We know that the amendment on bots is similar to the one put forward in the House of Commons, and I want to add the name of Sharon Hodgson to that of Nigel Adams, because she has played a major role in the campaign in the other place.