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

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

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Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 10:15 pm, 8th February 2017

I am afraid I do not know what the timescale is. Obviously there will be a conclusion, but I do not know at the moment. I will find out and let the noble Lord know if it is possible to know that.

To add to the Act now while the investigation is under way would serve only to undermine it. We must allow the CMA to carry out its investigation without interfering with the law it seeks to enforce. To do so will simply provide further grounds for those being challenged to resist.

I also have some specific grounds on each of the individual amendments, but in view of the hour, if the noble Lord agrees, and in view of what I hope I will say to help him, if I omit those details on the individual ones we can move on. I understand the aim of these amendments—to ensure compliance with the Consumer Rights Act—but this is already under way and we must await the outcome.

On Amendment 230, concerning the use of ticketing bots, the offences set out in the Computer Misuse Act have broad application. Unauthorised use of a computerised ticketing system may give rise to breaches of that Act. We are of the view that it may also constitute an offence under the Fraud Act. Professor Waterson believed that such breaches need to be reported and investigated. He puts the onus on ticket vendors to guard against the harvesting of tickets by persons with no intention of attending the event. He called on the ticketing industry to do more to protect itself and, with government support, the new National Cyber Security Centre is in touch with ticketing organisations on cybersecurity.

Professor Waterson also stressed the importance of having an effective strategy that deters bot usage. For example, paperless options such as mobile phone ticketing, or a bank card doubling up as a ticket, can make it harder to carry out mass ticket purchasing. Notably, this strategy was employed for the sale of tickets to the musical “Hamilton” in London.

The Government understand the spirit in which these amendments are made and the Secretary of State recently held two round tables specifically on the issue of bots. While noting there are a number of industry-led solutions available, we recognise it is hugely frustrating for fans who miss out on tickets sold on the primary market only to see them disappear on the secondary ticketing market at sometimes hugely increased prices. That is why we will continue to reflect on what has been said by all noble Lords regarding the Government’s response to Professor Waterson’s report, which will be published very soon. Furthermore, we will continue to consider the specific issue of bots and whether there is scope for further government intervention in this area. I hope to be able to update your Lordships on this shorty. With that commitment, I hope noble Lords will feel able not to press their amendments.