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Secondary ticket sales: a boost for consumers and rights holders

17 April 2015

Sport, theatre and music fans looking to purchase tickets on the online secondary market have received two lots of good news recently.

Firstly, late amendments to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (the “Act”) which take effect on 27 May 2015 introduce requirements for those reselling tickets, and the marketplaces where such tickets are resold, to display important information about the ticket.

Secondly, the Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) has obtained undertakings from four of the largest secondary ticket platforms to also give extra information to buyers.

The £1 billion a year secondary ticket market is a hot political topic and has been the subject of formal investigation since 2013 by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse (the “APPG”) [1]. This short article examines the impact of the Act and the CMA undertakings and how these compare to the wide ranging recommendations made by the APPG.

Consumer Rights Act 2015

The Act beefs up the regulation of the secondary ticket market by introducing the following requirements into law:

  • persons reselling tickets for a recreational, sporting or cultural event through a secondary ticketing facility (“STF”) and the operator of the facility itself must ensure that a buyer is given information regarding: (a) the seat/row number or standing area; (b) any restriction which limits use of the ticket to particular persons (such as a youth audience); and (c) the ticket’s face value. In addition, where tickets are resold by event organisers or the operator of the SFT itself (or its employees, agents or members of its company group) a statement must be made informing the buyer of this [2]
  • an event organiser must not cancel a ticket nor blacklist the seller merely because the seller has re-sold a ticket or offered it for re-sale unless this right is included in the original ticket terms and conditions. However, such terms must be considered fair under Part 2 of the Act, or, for the period before Part 2 comes into force (expected 1 October 2015), under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 [3], and
  • STFs are under a duty to report criminal activity where it is aware that a person is using the facility in an illegal way [4].


In addition to the above, GET ME IN!, Seatwave, StubHub and viagogo have given undertakings to the CMA to provide certain information about tickets listed on their sites. Some of this replicates the requirements under the Act but in addition these companies have agreed to provide details of:

  • information on restrictions on entry and view that may apply to the ticket
  • whether multiple seats that are listed together are located together
  • any additional charges not included in the listed price, and
  • a contact email address for buyers to use if something goes wrong [5].


The Act confirms that the Government supports a secondary ticket market but recognises the need to protect both consumers and rights holders. Consumers will now be provided with greater information which should enable them to make more informed decisions. Rights holders have a means to identify the particular ticket being resold which will assist in identifying those who are reselling tickets in breach of the ticket’s terms and conditions.

It should also negate the need for rights holders to issue court proceedings to obtain Norwich Pharmacal orders against STFs in order to compel a disclosure of the identity of those reselling tickets (an approach adopted by the RFU against viagogo) [6]. This is an important development as it is only an offence for unauthorised persons to resell tickets to designated football matches, not tickets to other sporting events [7].

Therefore, rights holders in other sports must rely on enforcing their ticket terms and conditions (which typically restrict transfer or resale) to control how tickets to their events are resold. With some careful drafting to ensure ticketing terms are reasonable, these new provisions in the Act should allow rights holders to cancel tickets sold in breach of their terms (and perhaps re-issue them at their face value to happy fans).

These measures should impact on fraud but their broader impact is more limited. The Act does not apply to offline sales so cash exchanges in a stadium car park are not covered. It is also unclear whether these regulations will apply to corporate hospitality providers who advertise packages online, then complete the transaction over the phone [8].

Further, only 5 of the 17 APPG recommendations have been addressed by the Act or CMA. Whilst the ticket’s face value must be shown, there are no restrictions on profiteering (for example where large numbers of tickets are purchased using ‘bots’, and sold on the secondary market at inflated prices) [9].

This is clearly a concern for consumers who will continue to be out of pocket but rights holders may also take issue that they still have no statutory mechanism to enforce what they may consider are equitable pricing policies.

In addition, many of the recommendations aimed at benefiting consumers, such as reimbursement of costs associated with attending an event if a ticket is fraudulent, only paying sellers after the event and including in the list price all fees charged by the platform [10], are omitted from the Act and CMA undertakings. As part of the reforms the Secretary of State is obliged to review and report on consumer protection measures applying to the re-sale of tickets within 12 months so perhaps further protection for consumers will follow [11].

[1] APPG on Ticket Abuse: Secondary Market Investigation, Putting fans first, 2014. Prior to this, the Metropolitan Police Service set up a dedicated team called Operation Podium to (in part) investigate ticket crime relating the London Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012. One of its key recommendations was to introduce legislation to govern the unauthorised sale of event tickets.

[2] Consumer Rights Act 2015, section 90

[3] Consumer Rights Act 2015, section 91

[4] Consumer Rights Act 2015, section 92

[5] Competition and Markets Authority, ‘Ticket buyers benefit from CMA action’, 5 March 2015, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ticket-buyers-benefit-from-cma-action accessed on 8 April 2015

[6] Rugby Football Union v Consolidated Information Services Ltd (formerly Viagogo Ltd) (in liquidation) [2012] UKSC 55

[7] Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, Section 166

[8] Section 95(2) of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives the Secretary of State power to designate those who should be considered secondary ticketing facilities so perhaps clarity will follow.

[9] See for example the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill where a 10% above face value limit was suggested.

[10] Although it is acknowledged that this is a existing requirement under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008

[11] Consumer Rights Act 2015, section 94

This article was written by Paul Shapiro.

For more information please contact Paul on +44 (0)20 7203 5328 or paul.shapiro@crsblaw.com