Standard Note: SN/HA/4715
Last updated: 13 January 2011
Author: Philip Ward. Home Affairs Section
Section Home Affairs Section
This Note looks at the background to the deliberate resale of tickets for profit (―touting‖) and
considers moves to outlaw or restrict the practice. The Coalition Government has indicated
that, like its predecessor, it favours self-regulation of the industry and has no plans to
regulate the secondary market in ticket-selling through new legislation.
1 Legal background 2
2 The OFT study 5
3 The Code of Practice 6
4 The Westminster Hall debate, March 2007 7
5 The ticket touting summits 9
6 The Select Committee inquiry and Government response 10
7 The Westminster Hall debate, April 2008 13
8 The 2009 consultation 14
9 Developments since the 2010 General Election 16
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1 Legal background
There is no generally agreed definition of ―touting‖, but the term ―tout‖ is commonly
understood to be refer to someone who deliberately buys tickets to an event in order to resell
them at a profit.1
In Scotland, ticket touting in a public place is an offence under the Civic Government
(Scotland) Act 1982,2 but this offence requires an element of giving reasonable cause for
annoyance. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland ticket touting is not in itself an offence.
However, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 does prohibit any unauthorised
person from selling tickets for designated football matches.3 The Act came into force in
Under section 166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, it is a criminal offence
for an unauthorised person to tout tickets for football matches in public places, even if this is
done on a day other than that on which the match is being played. It is also an offence to
resell tickets in any way if this is done in the course of a trade or business - this seeks to
catch mail order resale of tickets. These provisions only apply to tickets for designated
football matches, i.e. those designated for the time being by orders made under section 1(1)
of the Football Offences Act 1991.4 Currently, designated matches for these purposes
include Football League, Premier League, European (UEFA) and international matches
played at major grounds.
Amendments within the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 updated ticket touting provisions
in connection with football to cover unauthorised internet ticket sales and other ticket touting
practices designed to circumvent prosecution under pre-existing provisions. Associated
secondary legislation,5 which came into force on 6 April 2007, reaffirms the policy of
designating all football matches in England and Wales where disorder might arise from a
failure to adequately segregate fans (which ticket touting can undermine). The accompanying
explanatory memorandum elaborates:
4.3 This instrument is being made to establish the specific criteria of a designated
association football match for the purposes of the football ticket touting legislation. The
instrument replicates the existing designation of a regulated football match for the
wider purposes of Part II of the Football Spectators Act 1989.
Subsections (6) to (8) of section 166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 make
provision for the Secretary of State to apply the section, with suitable modifications, to other
specified sporting events or categories of sporting events for which 6,000 or more tickets are
issued for sale.
One of the main measures of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006
involves a prohibition of street trading and outdoor advertising in the vicinity of Olympic
venues and of ticket touting in connection with Olympic events. Section 31 of the 2006 Act is
based on section 166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which deals with
Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Ticket touting, HC 202 2006-7, 10 January 2008, Ev 58
Under this legislation a person is unauthorised if not approved in writing to sell tickets for a match by the club
or by the organisers of the match.
The Football (Offences)(Designation of Football Matches) Order 1991, SI 1991/1565, as amended by SI
The Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order SI 2007/790
ticket touting primarily in relation to tickets for football matches. It creates a criminal offence
of touting tickets for the 2012 Olympic Games.6
On 3 April 2007, the Guardian published a report on a letter on ticket touting sent by five
sports governing bodies to the Secretary of State:
Britain's five biggest sports have signed a letter of complaint to the government
demanding they be given the same legal protection against ticket touts that will be
enjoyed by the London Olympics in 2012. The governing bodies of football, cricket,
tennis, and rugby league and union have asked the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, to
reform the "two-tier" system surrounding ticket sales in British sport. (…)
"The sports community is frustrated that the government has made it an offence for
tickets to be touted for the London 2012 Olympics," wrote David Collier, the chief
executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, citing the support of his counterpart
chief executives at the Football Association, Lawn Tennis Association, Rugby Football
League and Rugby Football Union.
"It is surely an anomaly for the Wimbledon tennis tournament to be staged in late June
2012 will have no ticket-touting protection, while the tennis tournament at the same
venue just eight weeks later in the 2012 Olympics will. (…)
"We would urge you to address this anomaly so that there is no two-tier status between
the Olympics and other major sporting events held in the UK. Set against the backdrop
of reduced funding for sport from the lottery due to the transfer of funds to the 2012
Olympic Games, you will see why we are keen to avert some of this downfall by
protecting our sports from the costs of addressing touting."
The comments reflect widespread concern in English sport regarding the huge boost
Olympic funding has received over grassroots initiatives. There is further discontent
that talks with government have been under way over the issue for more than 18
months without substantive progress. Jowell's Department of Culture, Media and Sport
is concerned that legislation would criminalise ordinary fans wishing to resell tickets for
events they are unable to attend.
In addition to specific legislation on touting, persons who engage in ticket touting for any type
of event are in any case subject to other existing criminal law relating to activities such as
theft, deception, obstruction or threatening behaviour. For example, if forged tickets are sold,
the seller could be found guilty of the criminal offence of theft or deception. In London and
some other areas there are additional controls on street trading.
Where consumers have been defrauded by some forms of online trading, enforcement
authorities such as the Trading Standards Services can take action against offenders where
appropriate. In addition, the Companies Investigations Branch in the Department for
Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) wound up three companies that traded
illegally in the secondary market in the past year and other investigations are ongoing.7
Consumer protection law was strengthened through the Consumer Protection from Unfair
Trading Regulations 2008.8 These prohibit unfair commercial practices and apply to the
ticketing market place.9
London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 Explanatory Notes
Dept for Culture, Media and Sport, Consultation on ticketing and ticket touting, 2009, p11
See Library Standard Note SN/HA/4678 for an overview of the Regulations
In certain circumstances, ticket touts may also be subject to the Price Indications (Resale of
Tickets) Regulations 1994.10 The Regulations do not prohibit any method of ticket resale or
place any controls on the level of the price which may be charged for a ticket. Their aim is
simply to ensure that the consumer is given sufficient information about the quality of a ticket
before deciding whether to buy it.
The Price Indications (Resale of Tickets) Regulations 1994 require a resale ticket seller to
disclose specified information about a ticket before making a sale. The Regulations were
made under Part III of the Consumer Protection Act 1987, which makes it an offence for a
trader to give a misleading indication of the price at which goods and services are available.
The Regulations came into force on 20 February 1995 and apply in England, Scotland and
Wales.11 Briefly, the Regulations apply where:
a person is prepared, or may be prepared, to supply a ticket by way of resale;
that person is acting in the course of a business;
the ticket is for an entertainment event; and
the reseller gives to consumers an indication of the price at which the ticket, or the
ticket in combination with something else, is or will be available.
Under the Regulations ―entertainment‖ includes any gathering, amusement, exhibition,
performance, game, sport or trial of skill or other similar event. The scope of this definition is
deliberately wide to cover, for instance, theatre performances, pop concerts, art exhibitions,
and sporting contests (including such events held abroad if the ticket is purchased in the
The Regulations require that where a reseller gives a price indication, he must also give the
consumer, before any contract for the supply of a ticket is concluded between them:
in writing, except in telephone transactions, any information originally printed on the
ticket by the event‘s holder or promoter concerning its price and the rights it confers.
This must include any printed details about the location of any seat or space, but
information such as the date on which the ticket is valid would also be relevant;
orally for all transactions, details of the location of any seat or space which the
consumer will have the right to use, together with any information which the reseller
knows or might be expected to know about features of that seat or space which might
adversely affect the consumer‘s use or enjoyment of it, such as a restricted view.
The Regulations are enforced by local authority trading standards departments.
Contravening the Regulations is a criminal offence which carries a fine up to the statutory
maximum (£5,000) on summary conviction by a Magistrates‘ Court or an unlimited fine on
conviction on indictment by a Crown Court.
It should be noted that the 1994 Regulations do not apply to consumer-to-consumer
transactions. Accordingly, they do not apply to sales between consumers on internet auction
sites, a development which was barely foreseen when the Regulations were drafted.
The above is only a brief summary of some aspects of the relevant legislation. Further
information is available in Annex B of the OFT report Ticket agents in the UK (January 2005),
Interestingly, research by Campbell Keegan Ltd has suggested that the general public are
sceptical about the need for further legislation. One attitude is that small scale re-sale of
tickets enjoys a certain legitimacy and that ―educational and cultural/attitudinal change is
likely to be better received and more workable than legislative or ‗bureaucratic‘
manipulation.‖ A summary of this qualitative research, covering music as well as sporting
events, is available online.
2 The OFT study
On 17 June 2004 the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced12 a study focusing on: whether
the information provided to consumers buying tickets is accurate; whether the terms under
which consumers purchase tickets are fair; whether the way that primary ticket agents
compete with each other acts in the interests of consumers; whether consumers are
adequately protected in their dealings with secondary agents (including touts). Emerging
from this study was an OFT report, published on 26 January 2005, entitled Ticket agents in
the UK; this is available online together with an associated press release.
On secondary ticket agents, the OFT came up with the following conclusions:
7.42 Secondary agents can provide a useful function for consumers who need tickets
for events and are willing and able to pay premium prices. However, we have found
that while some traders are complying with the law there are those who need to do
more to meet their obligations to consumers. We have found evidence of a number of
secondary agents who deliberately mis-sell or defraud consumers who are unaware of
their rights. This activity clearly breaches existing regulations, in particular the Price
7.43 We have also found evidence during the course of this study of non-compliance
by ticket agents, both primary and secondary, with a range of other consumer
protection legislation, most typically the Distance Selling Regulations and the Unfair
Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.
7.44 We will work closely with enforcement partners to ensure compliance with
consumer protection legislation by secondary agents and discuss with other relevant
bodies how best to inform overseas tourists, who appear particularly vulnerable to the
practices of some secondary agents, of the key issues to consider when buying tickets.
7.45 We also recognise the benefits of highlighting consumer awareness of these
activities. We support consumer education campaigns such as Westminster TSD‘s
[Trading Standards Departments] and hope that this report will help raise consumer
awareness of the questions they should ask when buying tickets.
So far as more explicit recommendations were concerned, the OFT focused more on price
information and unfair contracts. The press release accompanying the report put it like this:
Parallel regulations have been made in Northern Ireland under Article 19 of the Consumer Protection (Northern
Ireland) Order 1987. These are the Price Indications (Resale of Tickets) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995
(S.R. 1995/No.258), which came into force on 24 July 1995.
OFT press notice PN 95/04
The OFT therefore believes improved industry guidance on price information is needed
and, in agreement with the Advertising Standards Authority, recommends:
the Committee for Advertising Practice amends its guidance so all non-
broadcast event advertising is required to include the face value of the ticket,
and also indicating that additional fees may apply. These could vary
depending on the sales channel and ticket seller used,
event advertising indicates where tickets can be bought at face value,
all information relating to price be displayed in a clear and readable form,
event advertisers follow the amended guidance.
The OFT study found that the contracts provided to some consumers contained potentially
unfair terms, for example in relation to refunds. OFT guidance on unfair terms in consumer
entertainment contracts was issued to industry in 2003.13 Its January 2005 report
recommended that the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) produce model terms
for its members. Subsequently, the STAR Council met the OFT Contract Regulation Unit and
created a cross-industry working group to draft the terms,14 taking the existing STAR Code of
Practice as the starting point.
3 The Code of Practice
A Statement of Principles – Primary and Secondary Ticket Selling in the UK (DCMS, April
2006) holds that:
As a minimum, any firm or individual involved in the selling or reselling of tickets must
adhere to current regulations, legislation and guidelines. Any firm deviating from the
law will be dealt with by the relevant enforcement agencies to ensure the ticket buying
public is protected from exploitative practices.
Background to the statement of principles, which is available online, appeared in the
following written answer:
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport which
event organisers of music festivals in the summer of 2006 have signed up to her
Department's code of practice on ticket touting; and if she will make a statement.
Mr. Woodward: DCMS have been working with many of the organisers of summer
music festivals including those representing the organisers of T in the Park, the
Reading and Leeds festivals and the V festival as well as other representatives
covering music, sport and the arts as well as secondary sellers and EBay.
All of these parties were involved in the production of the statement of principles,
(copies of which I have now placed in the Libraries of both Houses) which was first
presented at a meeting hosted by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in April.
The statement of principles sets out the broad guidelines which we expected all parties
involved in the commercial selling of tickets to follow. Since that meeting DCMS
officials have had continued meetings with these representatives to aid their sectors in
the production of sector specific codes of practice, which puts the rights of the
consumer at the forefront.
OFT press notice 172/03, 18 December 2003
STAR Annual Report and Financial Statements 2004-05
Our principle in taking this forward must be to find a solution that protects fans and
ensures that our creative, cultural and sporting industries are able to realise legitimate
The statement of principles mentioned that ―in due course, the principles will be backed up
by sector specific codes of practice like the STAR [Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers]
terms currently being consulted on.‖ The principles themselves cover terms and conditions, a
returns policy, ticket allocation and distribution, information for purchasers as well as internet
sales and a proscription on ―futures selling‖; the latter is a reference to the sale of tickets in
advance either of the event being confirmed or of official or public sales. Finally, the
statement or principles summarised the role of the DCMS:
DCMS will continue to coordinate a cross-governmental response to this issue, and
work with all relevant industry stakeholders to tackle the issue of ticket touting. DCMS
will be undertaking a review of the issue within six to nine months. In particular, DCMS
Work with other Government Departments and Trading Standards to ensure
that the Penalties Review currently being undertaken by the Better Regulation
Executive includes a review of current ticket touting penalties.
Work with other departments, consumer protection enforcement agencies to
simplify or strengthen current legislation in this area to aid with enforcement
Ensure ticket selling and touting issues will be addressed under the Unfair
Commercial Practices Directive to be implemented in 2007.
At a summit on 17 July 2006, the former Government pledged, according to a written answer,
―to continue working with the industry and OFT to draw up an overarching code of practice
for both primary and secondary ticket sellers.‖16 In practice, the code (or codes) would be
produced by the industry within the framework of the above-mentioned DCMS/industry
statement of principles.17
In 2009, STAR published Model Terms and Conditions for the sale of entertainment tickets
with the intention of establishing an industry standard. An updated Code of Practice was
published in April 2010.18
4 The Westminster Hall debate, March 2007
On 27 March 2007 there was a half-hour Westminster Hall debate on ―Ticket Touting‖
introduced by John Robertson.19 Mr Robertson began by lamenting that ―there is no
Government policy on ticket touting‖. He went on to draw attention to online sites such as
eBay and frontrowtickets.com which ―offer easy methods of buying and selling tickets at
grossly inflated prices, but no laws deem that to be illegal‖. He cited the example of tickets
for the 2005 Wimbledon tennis men‘s final, priced at £1,650 per pair. While he had no issue
with people who genuinely have to sell their tickets (at the original price) due to a clash of
commitments, in his view ―those who fleece people to line their own wallets should face the
HC Deb 17 July 2006 c106W
HC Deb 24 July 2006 c 966-7W
STAR, Tickets with confidence: code of practice, April 2010
HC Deb 27 March 2007 cc403-10WH
consequences‖. He commented that fans who buy tickets from touts receive none of the
consumer protection that applies when tickets are bought from the original event organiser.
He applauded the work being done by the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers:
The concert industry agreed to unite under the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers
so that all tickets would be sold exclusively by STAR member agencies. STAR will
agree to a clear refund policy, and those who can no longer use their ticket can inform
the agency and be refunded the money and the booking fee. The agency will then
resell the ticket. It has been almost three years since the Office of Fair Trading report
into ticketing. The OFT said that it would work with STAR to agree terms and
conditions, but they have still not been finalised. […]
The key principle that STAR‘s terms and conditions require the OFT to agree to is that
people cannot resell their ticket for commercial gain, and that is quite fair. The
Government must pursue the OFT to ensure that it concludes its deliberations and
rules that it is a breach of the terms and conditions to resell tickets for profit.
Citing the example of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, Mr
Robertson called for similar protections to be extended to all major sporting and cultural
events, commenting that, should the legal position regarding resale change, eBay has stated
that for all other sports it will review its policies to comply with new regulations. In Australia,
an amendment to the Major Sports Facilities Act 2001 had made ticket touting illegal,
resulting in successful prosecutions. Although artists, promoters and sporting associations
had tried their own methods of targeting touts – with limited success - Mr Roberson saw no
alternative to Government intervention and legislation. He called on the Government
to conduct a public consultation into ticket touting, taking evidence from all involved,
from concert promoters to eBay and other websites, to individual music and sporting
fans. The industry has gone as far as it possibly can in self-regulation, something that
we do poorly in this country.
Replying for the (then) Government, Shaun Woodward pointed to surveys, including the one
recently conducted by his Department, which found that, while the public wanted touts to be
―dealt with‖, people also want to retain their right to resell tickets that they have legitimately
The trick is to maintain a balance that enables people to do that, therefore having a
secondary market in tickets, while making it extremely difficult for others to exploit
The message he took from these surveys was that the public want ―not a legislative answer
to this problem, but agreement by the industry to act‖. The Minister pointed to the
Government‘s initiative in convening a series of summits on this issue with a view to drawing
up codes of practice. A particular challenge, he recognised, came from the Internet:
Online sites are beginning to provide buyers with information about the price that they
are paying for their tickets and their location. Consumers buying on the internet have
faced the considerable problem of having no idea of the original price of the ticket that
they were buying or where it would be located. An agreement is now being drawn up
with the industry that that information must be provided when a ticket is put on the
He cited examples of successful promotional activities within the music industry – such as
the Glastonbury Festival and the Arctic Monkeys – where fans have to register their personal
details in order to apply for tickets and are issued with a personal identification number.
However, while not advocating it, he did not rule out legislation:
We look to the industry to see what can be done, but I am conscious that we might
have to introduce legislation. European directives to encourage fairer selling and
practices will be transposed later this year. The Secretary of State and I are aware of
hon. Members‘ concerns and we are making the industry address the problem.
However, the industry should be in no doubt that the Government are prepared to act if
its application of technology and available enforcement mechanisms ultimately fail the
5 The ticket touting summits
By 2006 the issue was moving up the political agenda, as evidenced by this written answer:
Mr. Simon: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps her
Department is taking to prevent ticket touting at sporting events; and if she will make a
Mr. Woodward: In the last few months we have brought together a wide range of
interested parties including from sports and from the primary and secondary ticketing
industry as well as internet auction sites to discuss how to clamp down on ticket touting
and provide ticket selling arrangements for the best interest of fans and the wider
public. The Secretary of State has chaired three meetings and a further one is planned
for December. In support of this my Department is undertaking research into consumer
and other stakeholder opinions and is liaising closely with the Department of Trade and
Industry and other public agencies to ensure that relevant legislation and other
measures provide as good a regime as possible for the elimination of touting and the
encouragement of good ticketing practice.
I will be reporting the outcome of this work as soon as possible next year.
The outcome of the fourth ticket touting summit was reported in a DCMS press notice of 8
February 2007, reproduced in full here:
Leading industry players in the ticketing market today came together with Culture
Secretary Tessa Jowell to discuss progress and further action to protect fans from
unscrupulous ticket touts.
Ms Jowell welcomed action by event organisers, box offices and internet auction sites
to protect consumers and improve the ticketing market place.
Their new measures include:
putting in place a new ticket exchange mechanism allowing fans to swap
tickets among themselves;
ensuring information such as the cost price and seat location if a ticket is being
sold on internet auction sites;
finalising terms and conditions for tickets which are fair both to the consumer
and the event organiser; and
putting in place a ―shop a tout‖ hotline.
HC Deb 9 October 2006 c46W
The Industry will also work with the Government to investigate whether there is
a case for a new specialised ticketing system to protect events of national
importance – events that affect the UK‘s reputation.
A new European law, which will come into force later this year, will also mean better
protection for consumers. The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive will ban unfair
practices in the ticket market and will require all ticket sellers to provide the consumer
with all relevant information – allowing the buyer to make an informed choice.
In addition, a DCMS-commissioned consumer survey has found that people who go to
sporting and music events do not want the resale of tickets to be banned. They feel
that this is not an issue that requires legislation. The Government will, therefore,
continue to work with the industry to draw up a very clear framework so that
consumers and the industry will together be in a position to beat organised touts.
Ms Jowell said:
―Exploitation and excessive profiteering by touts puts tickets out of the reach of real
fans – it is a corrosive force in entertainment. We are determined to protect consumers
―We want to address the problems faced by fans – paying through the nose for a ticket
with a poor view or handing over cash for a ticket that never existed. Progress has
been made but we‘re going to continue to work with the industry to cut off the
commercial opportunities for ticket touts and stamp out unfair practices.
―But it would be unfair if consumers were unable to sell their own tickets, for whatever
reason, and get their money back – we don‘t want to criminalise genuine fans.
―I will continue to investigate whether there is a case for putting in place a system to
protect events of national importance such as the Ashes and the Concert for Diana –
from the grasp of touts.
―I welcome the significant progress of the industry in pursuit of protecting the fans. The
measures it has put in place will improve the ticketing market place.‖
Notes to editors
The report Secondary Market for Tickets: Qualitative Research Summary is available
to view online.
Those attending the ticket touting summit at the Department for Culture, Media and
Sport in London included Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), Society of
London Theatre, SJM Concerts, Mean Fiddler Music Group, Rugby Football Union, FA
Premier League, The Football Association, See Tickets, Clear Channel Entertainment,
Westminster Trading Standards, Ebay and Seatwave.
It was the fourth ticket touting summit. The first one was held at DCMS in November
2005, the second in April 2006 and the third in July 2006. Attendees are expected to
reconvene before the end of the year to update ministers on progress.
6 The Select Committee inquiry and Government response
In May 2007 the Culture, Media and Sport Committee announced an inquiry into ticket
touting. The Committee invited evidence on the following issues in particular:
— The underlying causes of ticket touting, and its impact on performers, promoters
and the public;
— Whether or not resale of a ticket, at face value or at a higher value, should be
permitted in principle; and whether the acceptability or otherwise of resale depends on
the circumstances in which tickets are offered for resale;
— The impact of the Internet upon trade in tickets;
— Whether or not tickets' terms and conditions banning transfer and onward sale are
fair or enforceable;
— The merits of new approaches by ticket agents attempting to prevent transfer of
tickets, including wider use of personal ID; and
— Whether or not the existing offences of sale by an unauthorised person in a public
place of a ticket for a designated football match, or for events at the London 2012
Games, should be extended to cover other sporting or cultural events.
The Committee‘s report covered areas such as attitudes to secondary selling and the scale
and potential adverse effects of the secondary market. In evidence to the inquiry, promoters
and primary agents described a number of measures which they had introduced, and which
were designed either to reduce the demand for unauthorised selling by improving their own
services, or otherwise to prevent tickets going on to the secondary market . These included:
— keeping some tickets back, for sale closer to the day of the event;
— distributing tickets as close to the event as possible to reduce the opportunity for
fraudulent tickets to enter the market;
— adding extra days (or events) to satisfy increased demand for tickets;
— limiting the number of tickets sold to each purchaser or credit card or address;
— blocking multiple applications and automated bookings,
— blocking sales to known touts;
— making tickets available only to club members;
— improving the resale and exchange services available to consumers unable to
attend events for which they have bought tickets;
— "shop-a-tout" hotlines and ticket tout complaint lines;
— selling tickets subject to terms and conditions restricting transferability, often
backed by provisions for cancellation of tickets in the event of breach;
— working up model terms and conditions of sale to be adopted throughout the
— enforcing terms and conditions by various means which include turnstile checks,
monitoring internet auction sites, tracking down and cancelling touted tickets, refusing
entry to holders of cancelled tickets or ejecting them from venues, and injunctions;
— using advanced technology for enforcement, including electronic 'smart cards'
which act as season tickets, e-tickets which have to be redeemed at the entry point for
the event with ID checks and booking references, issuing tickets with the holder's
photograph, and bar-coding tickets.
Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Ticket touting, HC 202 2006-7, 10 January 2008, p7
Promoters told the Committee that ―these measures, and keeping one step ahead, took up a
huge amount of resources, as well as raising concern that the measures designed to combat
touting could also inconvenience and even alienate customers.‖22
The inquiry provides useful data on the impact of new technology on the ticketing market.
Witnesses reported that the Internet has significantly enhanced the business of primary
ticketing agents, that it has caused ticket sales to boom and that it has been partly
responsible for unparalleled growth in the industry for live music events over the last 5 years.
At the same time, the rapid growth of the Internet has brought a dramatic rise in the amount
of secondary selling. One witness, Seatwave, said that the Internet had disrupted traditional
business models, released the "stranglehold" which event organisers previously held over
the supply of tickets, and "democratised access for consumers". There have been
suggestions that consumer-to-consumer sales may now account for the bulk of tickets being
resold. The Committee heard that one of the consequences of this development was that the
reach of consumer protection measures (which apply to sales by traders) had become
uncertain because the distinction between consumers and traders had become blurred. In a
joint memorandum submitted by DCMS and the Department of Trade and Industry the former
Government recognised that the Internet had "unbalanced the arrangements around ticket
sales because the technology allows people to purchase a ticket at face value as soon as
tickets are released to then resell for a mark up back to fellow consumers minutes later".23
Evidence considered by the Committee suggested that the public had an ambivalent and
contradictory view of touting. Based on the research available, consumers' views seemed to
point in two directions, in that consumers did want a legitimate and unregulated secondary
market where they were able to buy and sell to one another but, at the same time, some
consumers did not want the markets to be exploited by touts, and considered that legislation
was needed to prevent resale of tickets for profit.24
In its report the Committee concluded that (further) regulation should be a last resort:
Although unauthorised reselling of tickets has been made a criminal offence in the
context of tickets for football matches and for Olympic events, those offences were
created as specific responses to particular circumstances, rather than to mark
disapproval in principle of secondary selling (whether or not for profit). To extend the
ban to other specific events would simply exacerbate the confusion inherent in the
existing two-tier system and would do nothing to address the complaints of the
organisers of other events. Any attempt to ban the secondary market outright would
also be a very serious step in that it would criminalise what has been a perfectly lawful
activity, which is evidently valued and freely made use of by many consumers, in order
to support the industries' endeavours to target particular audiences. We do not
consider that it would be either practicable or right to do so.
Responding to the report, the former Government26 broadly agreed with the Committee in
preferring voluntary agreements over legislative action:
The Government agrees with the Select Committee‘s conclusions that the secondary
sale of free tickets (such as those for charitable events and events which receive public
DCMS, Government response to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report on Ticket Touting, Cm
7346, April 2008
subsidy such as the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend) should be prevented. The
Government has already reached an agreement with leading operators including eBay
that sales of tickets for such events will be prevented in the future. Measures are
being developed to ensure that tickets for the Olympic Games are not resold which
would be in breach of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Act 2006. Legislative
controls on ticket resale for football is [sic] already in place to prevent public disorder.
Examples of events of national significance are expected to include large sporting
events such as the rugby and cricket world cups and Commonwealth Games. Other
events that might fall within this category are significant one-off public events like
A DCMS press notice in April 2008 summarised the former Government‘s intention to:
- push for a voluntary agreement that tickets for certain ‗crown jewel‘ events will not be
sold on the secondary market. This will be similar to the list of sporting events that
must be available to free to air television, and is likely to include sporting world cups
and other high profile events; and
- work with the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) to deliver a new code of
principles for the ticketing market that meets consumers‘ needs. This is likely to include
a limit on the number of tickets sold to each person; clear refund policies; improved
distribution, allocation and exchange arrangements; and fair terms and conditions.
7 The Westminster Hall debate, April 2008
The Select Committee‘s report and the former Government response to it were the subject of
a Westminster Hall debate on 24 April 2008. The Committee Chairman, John Whittingdale,
summarised the report‘s findings, drawing attention, among other things, to the proposal, fist
introduced by the Music Managers Forum, for the establishment of a resale rights society.
Following the precedent set by artists‘ resale right (introduced some years ago as a result of
EU legislation), such a collecting society would ensure that, where a ticket is resold for a
large amount in the secondary market, the owner of the original intellectual property right –
the performing artist or the sporting body organising the event – should get some benefit.29
In his contribution Don Foster (for the Liberal Democrats) accepted the principle, conceded
by Select Committee and Government alike, that ―there is an important role for a well-
organised secondary market that has proper consumer protection built into it‖. The ―genuine
fan with a genuine reason for not being able to go to an event‖ should have a means to
recoup the cost of their ticket. Rather, he argued, the problem is one of illegal activity: ―We
already have quite a lot of legislation to deal with many of the problems that concern our
constituents, yet there is no proper enforcement‖.30
Tobias Ellwood (for the Conservatives) spoke further about the need for enforcement,
commenting that over the last seven years there have been only 150 convictions relating to
ticket touting, something he found ―scandalous‖: ―If we make touting illegal, the law will have
to be enforced, because otherwise what is the point?‖ He said that his party welcomed the
DCMS press notice 037/08, Put the fans first, Burnham urges ticket sellers, 21 April 2008
HC Deb 24 April 2008 c505WH
HC Deb 24 April 2008 cc531-2WH
voluntary code of conduct and would be encouraging further research and better information
In his winding-up speech, the Minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, elaborated on the Government‘s
intention to ―work with the ticketing industry to establish a new code of principles that the
market can sign up to‖:
What might be in this code of principles? We want the industries to work with each
other to improve the systems needed to prevent exploitation of the ticket-buying public.
They should counter bad practices, such as misleading information, erroneous and
futures selling and preventing access. Such principles might also contain provisions on
the exchanges, returns and refunds, and controls on tickets, such as identity
requirements—the technology is there to have photos on tickets. Having said that, if
someone cannot attend an event, they should be able to sell or pass that ticket on or
get a refund from the primary market, particularly for sporting events. We also want
greater control at venues, greater use of fan and sports clubs networks to ensure that
people are not disadvantaged and innovative ticketing systems to increase access to
events. We will discuss those principles with STAR and the industry to ensure that
event owners can tell us what they believe will help us to build and sustain a loyal fan
base with fairly priced tickets. We want the code to help eliminate some of the
problems about which people feel aggrieved.
8 The 2009 consultation
In February 2009, following further discussions with interested parties, the former
Government announced a public consultation on the ticketing market, with a closing date of
15 May.33 The consultation sought views on various issues including:
whether the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) is an appropriate body for
overseeing a voluntary code of principles to which its members must adhere,
ensuring a high level of consumer protection; and
proposals for a voluntary agreement that tickets for certain ―crown jewel‖ events will
not be sold on the secondary market. This will be similar, but not necessarily,
identical to the list of sporting events that must be available to free to air television,
and could include sporting world cups and other high profile events.
An accompanying press notice elaborated:
STAR members could cooperate to ensure that sales of tickets for events considered
to be of outstanding national significance would be rigorously enforced. In this way
expensive resale of such tickets would be drastically reduced.
At the same time the Government wants to hear from consumers, events organisers
and ticket sellers about the success of innovative ways of preventing tickets being sold
in large numbers to touts. These might include individual names printed on tickets, the
use of matching ID to gain access to venues or the replacement of paper tickets
A further measure proposed today is to ask more football clubs to adopt official
exchange arrangements for fans who want to sell tickets they can no longer use.
HC Deb 24 April 2008 cc537-8WH
HC Deb 24 April 2008 cc543-4WH
Dept for Culture, Media and Sport, Consultation on ticketing and ticket touting, 2009
Under current public order legislation, unofficial resale of football tickets is illegal, but
official, club-sanctioned exchange systems are allowed.34
The press notice also had appendices including advice from Consumer Direct on ―avoiding
pitfalls when shopping for tickets‖ and examples of successful anti-touting measures such as
those adopted by the England and Wales Cricket Board, the All-England Lawn Tennis Club
and the promoters of the Led Zeppelin reunion concert at the O2.
Question 2 (on the secondary resale of tickets, which now takes place for the most part on
the internet) was phrased to indicate that the former Government remained sceptical of the
need for further legislation:
Q2a: Do you agree that it is inappropriate to introduce new regulations in this
This position was maintained in parliamentary exchanges on the subject:
9. Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): If he will introduce legislative proposals to tackle
ticket touts. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr.
Gerry Sutcliffe): The Government do not intend to introduce new regulation to tackle
ticket touting. Ticket touting is banned for football matches on public disorder grounds,
and for the Olympic Games in 2012 to meet International Olympic Committee bid
conditions. The Government have consistently taken the view that the consumer
interest comes first, and market-led measures to benefit consumers are a far better
option than the burden of legislation.
Chris Bryant: I thought that the Minister would say that, and I must say that I
profoundly and utterly disagree with him. The truth is that ticket touts are parasites who
prey on the legitimate interests of fans and the sporting and cultural achievements of
this country. As he says, ticket touting is illegal in relation to the Olympics and football.
Why should it be legal in relation to Wimbledon or big arts events? Let us make it
Mr. Sutcliffe: I have sympathy with my hon. Friend. As he knows, the Select
Committee on Culture, Media and Sport failed to reach a consensus on the issue. He
sits on the Committee—
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): No, he doesn‘t.
Mr. Sutcliffe: Well, he did; anyway, he has been vociferous in his support for making
ticket touting illegal. The consumer should come first. First, we want to work with the
governing bodies to see what the primary market can do to stop ticket touting.
Secondly, we want to work with the secondary market to see what safeguards can be
put in place in future. A market-led approach is better than a legislative one. 35
The Government response to the consultation appeared in February 2010.36 The response
confirmed that the former Government viewed regulation as a ―last resort‖. It was decided not
to go forward with the proposed system of voluntary restraint on the resale of tickets for
events of outstanding national significance, which was described in consultation responses
Dept for Culture, Media and Sport press notice 019/09, Sports Minister challenges industry to tackle ticket
touting, 19 February 2009
HC Deb 23 June 2008 vol 478 cc12-13
DCMS, Consultation on ticketing and ticket touting: summary of responses and Government response,
as ―confusing and unworkable‖. They urged as many organisations as possible to sign up to
the revised STAR code, perhaps backed up by a ―kite mark‖ demonstrating that the signatory
has met appropriate standards.
At the same time DCMS published the results of research commissioned by the Department
to investigate the overall scale of the ticket market in the UK and the proportion of tickets
sold on the secondary market.37 According to the researchers‘ ―informed estimate‖, the value
of the secondary market in tickets is ―something less than £1bn‖ a year: ―About 90 per cent of
this – perhaps more - would be re-sale by ‗consumer sellers‘ and the balance by professional
resellers (i.e., individuals making their living from the activity).‖38 This document concludes
with a list of ―issues meriting further analysis‖ and a summary of the business models of the
largest players in the secondary market: Viagogo, Seatwave, Get Me In!, Gumtree and eBay.
9 Developments since the 2010 General Election
The new Government considers its predecessor to have adopted the ―correct approach‖ on
14. Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab): What steps
he plans to take to reduce the level of ticket touting at major sporting and music
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and
Sport (Hugh Robertson): The Government have no plans to extend existing
legislation covering the resale of tickets. However, those protections are in place under
the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 and under most
legislation involving major sports events.
Mrs Hodgson: I am sure the Minister is aware that it is increasingly difficult for
genuine sports, music and theatre fans to buy tickets, especially at the last minute, and
even within days of tickets going on sale. He says that there is coverage for the
Olympics, but does he agree that this cover should be extended? Does he agree that
we should consider introducing legislation to tackle the practice of buying tickets in bulk
and selling them to people at huge profits, as that takes the price of tickets totally out of
some people's reach?
Hugh Robertson: The hon. Lady makes a fair point. Indeed, I looked at the issue in
view of quite a lot of the work that was bequeathed to us by the previous
Administration. There is a practical problem relating to the police. I am afraid that it is
very rare that ticket touts ever come to court, even when the police catch them,
because the amount of police time involved in bringing the prosecution makes that very
unlikely. I think that the previous Administration adopted the correct approach, which is
to encourage a much more vibrant secondary ticket sale market and much more
vibrant exchange market, so that fans who buy tickets but cannot attend the event can
readily exchange them.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Does the Minister agree with the Select Committee on
Culture, Media and Sport in the previous Parliament, which found that the secondary
market for tickets was perfectly legitimate, and with the Office of Fair Trading, which
found that it often works in the consumer's best interests?
Europe Economics, Analysis of the secondary sales market for tickets for sporting, cultural and other events,
Europe Economics, Analysis of the secondary sales market for tickets for sporting, cultural and other events,
September 2009, p28 (para 4.90)
Hugh Robertson: Broadly speaking, the answer to that is yes. 39
Ms Hodgson reiterated her argument in an Early Day Motion tabled in July:
PROHIBITION OF TICKET TOUTING
That this House believes that tickets for major sporting and cultural events should be
available to all customers at face value with all profits generated by ticket sales being
returned to the organisations, athletes, artists and venues involved in staging them;
and therefore supports the introduction of legislative proposals similar to those
introduced for the sale of Olympic tickets which would prohibit the resale of tickets at
prices greatly above face value denying unscrupulous vendors the chance to make
themselves a small fortune at the expense of genuine fans, as well as encouraging the
ongoing development of fan to fan ticket exchange sites.40
In November 2010 an investigation by the Sunday Times alleged that ―organisers of top
music and sporting events are ramping up prices by releasing tickets on websites used by
touts instead of selling them through their own box offices.‖ The article also claimed that, for
the most popular events, fans who spend hours trying to buy tickets on official websites find
themselves in unfair competition with ―professional touts with access to software that can
snap up the best tickets in fractions of a second‖.41
HC Deb 21 June 2010 cc12-13
EDM 492 2010-11 (46 signatures to date).
―Ticket giants help touts make a killing‖, Sunday Times, 14 November 2010, p1