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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 8th February 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of The Earl of Glasgow The Earl of Glasgow Liberal Democrat 10:15 pm, 8th February 2017

My Lords, I support Amendments 230 and 231, to which my noble friends Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Foster of Bath have put their names. I am very aware of the time, so I am going to be very brief. Most of what I wanted to say has already been said. The intention of the two amendments, as I understand them, is to help prevent fans who are keen to attend a concert, sporting event or popular West End show from being misled or ripped off when they buy their tickets from a secondary market on the internet.

The first choice, of course, is to buy tickets directly from the theatre, sporting venue or event organiser. This is known as the primary market, where people pay the advertised price and there should be no problem. But if someone has trouble getting tickets from a primary source they may find themselves resorting to one of the secondary market websites—StubHub and viagogo are two of the best known. The buyer is now in a sort of digital marketplace where buying and selling is the name of the game. If they are lucky they may find what they are looking for but still have to pay considerably more than the face value of the tickets. If they are very lucky, close to the date of the event, they may even have to pay less than the original price. None the less, they have entered a world where fraudsters and touts thrive.

Tickets for popular events may already have been bought up by groups that are only out to make a profit by reselling them. Sometimes many of the tickets have already been hoovered up by bots and offered at an extortionate price. Of course people can always refuse to buy them, but there are those who are want a ticket at any price. Mark McLaren of FanFair has stated that online event ticketing started as a great idea, has grown into a very big business and has now become no less than a racket.

These important amendments attempt to contain and control that racket. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 addresses the issue and tries to regulate those practices, but as my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones said, we seem to be having trouble in enforcing the law. One of the problems is that many of the secondary ticket websites are registered abroad. The recently commissioned Waterson report has made recommendations that should improve the situation, but even that report had to admit that this is a very complex issue, with a lot of potential loopholes. If my noble friend’s amendments can be agreed, that would be an important step in the right direction.