Mail Room: Secondary Ticketing

I often receive letters and emails from constituents about issues which affect them and others directly. A recent example of this has been the debate around the sale of tickets to music, sport and cultural events through online ‘fan-to-fan’ re-sale networks. This issue was recently the subject of a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary which uncovered some of the alleged shady deals which take place between event promoters and these online networks.

Below are two emails outlining my views on the subject which I have sent to constituents who contacted me about this. The first focuses on ticket touting generally:

Thank you for your recent email regarding secondary ticketing or ticket touting.

You express your concern surrounding this issue and mention your support for my colleague Sharon Hodgeson’s Private Members’ Bill on this subject, which was disappointingly talked out by a group of Conservative MPs in January.

It is worth stating that I find the system for Private Members Bills old fashioned and believe it should be radically overhauled because so many Bills have little realistic opportunity of being properly debated, let alone making it onto the statute book. Currently, a series of Fridays are allocated in the parliamentary calendar as days in which Private Members’ Business can be heard. For a number of reasons I find this to be wholly unsatisfactory, primarily as MPs typically spend Fridays in their constituencies in order to balance their interests in national policy initiatives with obligations to directly engage with and support those people whom they represent. I would favour alternative days being allocated for Private Members’ Bills, thereby allowing important issues such as this to be properly debated.  I would also hope that some of the absurd rules around the procedures for private members bills would then be abandoned, including the procedure whereby a bill can be talked out by only a few opponents.  Even where one may not agree with a proposed Bill it should not be treated in this fashion. I hope real progress can be made towards reform of this system in the near future.

Ticket touting is a lucrative business in the UK, generating millions of pounds each year by exploiting the passion of fans and the hard work of sportspeople, artists and others. The nature of touting also means that it operates outside of the tax framework, meaning that these touts indirectly exploit every single UK taxpayer. I welcome my colleague’s Bill which aims to tackle these problems by allowing event organisers to prevent their tickets being resold by unauthorised retailers for a price greater than 10% above the ticket’s face value. It will also require the Government to work with the entertainment and ticketing industries to try to establish a fairer system which would put fans looking for tickets in touch with other fans who just want their money back for tickets they can no longer use.

I am happy to lend my support to this Bill and hope that it can be reintroduced in the next session of Parliament which begins after the Queen’s Speech on 9th May.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me.

The second response focuses more specificlaly on the activities of online ‘fan-to-fan’ exchange websites:

I understand that you spoke to a member of staff in my Westminster office earlier regarding the issue of secondary ticketing.

In addition to the problem surrounding explicit ticket touting to which my previous email referred, you are right to raise concerns around the activities of online secondary ticketing operations. This issue has of course been highlighted recently by the Channel 4 Dispatches programme, The Great Ticket Scandal, which sought to shed light on the activities of websites such a viagogo. This programme emphasized the fact that many online businesses which claim to act as a vehicle for fan-to-fan ticket exchanges (or sales) are in fact far more involved in the ticket retail industry than they lead consumers to believe.

Event promoters actually give allocations of tickets to these secondary outfits in full knowledge that they will be sold at far above the face value. It was claimed in the Dispatches programme that the profits are then split 90/10, with the Promoter receiving the face value plus 90% of the excess profit that the secondary retailer makes. This would explain why tickets for many events appear to be sold out, or have very limited availability as soon as they go on sale. I was also concerned by the revelation that some secondary outlets use an intricate system of credit card registration to fool primary online retailers and mobilize their staff to purchase tickets directly from primary outlets such as Ticketmaster. Not only are genuine fans having to compete against each other to obtain tickets, but they are forced to battle with what appear to be professional buyers too.

I share your concern and am happy to lend my support to this campaign, including my colleague Sharon Hodgson’s Bill, which seeks to limit the amount of profit that can legally be made on tickets, thereby allowing genuine fan-to-fan exchange to take place but removing the profit-motive which feeds this immoral industry.

You may also wish to note that a Westminster Hall debate took place on this issue last Tuesday 13th March. You can view the full Hansard transcript of the debate here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201212/cmhansrd/cm120313/halltext/120313h0002.htm#12031356000001

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

I’m sure that many constituents have experienced the problems of trying to purchase tickets for events online and can identify with the concerns raised above. If you have any further comments on this issue then you can contact me at sheila.gilmore.mp@parliament.uk .

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