Sports fans who buy tickets from secondary ticket sites such as StubHub will benefit from greater protection after the Competition and Markets Authority (‘CMA’) brought in new measures to improve clarity and information provided. The changes, while much stricter, are still limited and some ticketing sites will still be exempt from the new rules. The secondary ticket sector is one which has developed at a quick pace and the CMA are keen to ensure customers are confident in what they are purchasing and can prevent the sector becoming populated with rogue sellers.
The new rules are designed to ensure that customers are purchasing tickets in the knowledge of the full conditions of that particular ticket and how much the ticket originally cost. Secondary ticket platforms now must inform the customer whether the ticket carries any age restrictions and if the view is limited in any way. This may be of particular note to grounds such as Tottenham Hotspurs’ White Hart Lane where seats which have restricted viewing are available to be bought. The occurrence of age restrictions at sporting events will in practice be very rare and it is worth noting that this rule is designed more for music events where age restrictions on shows are much more commonplace.
An important consideration for most customers when buying multiple tickets is that they are seated next each other. On a practical level this is hard to achieve when buying from secondary ticketing websites due to the fact many tickets are sold individually despite the ability to purchase more than one ticket per transaction. In practice it was common for a customer to place an order for two tickets, pay for them in one transaction but for the two tickets to be at opposite sides of the stadium. The new changes now ensure that when multiple tickets are bought it is made clear whether or not these seats are next to each other. Undoubtedly this is a confidence booster for parties of families who may have been wary of buying tickets from an external site before now.
Perhaps one of the more vital areas to the new rules is regarding charges and pricing. Customers will now be able to see exactly how much the original ticket cost allowing for more informed decisions. Customers will also now benefit from being informed of any additional ‘hidden’ charges that come with the ticket they are buying.
As highlighted earlier, the new changes do have limitations. Currently the rules apply only to four secondary ticket platforms: ‘StubHub’, ‘Seatwave’, ‘Viagogo’ and ‘Get Me In!’. These four platforms are some of the largest in the UK and came to an agreement with the CMA over tightening regulations. Other ticketing resellers are unaffected by these changes and can operate as they have done before. The CMA have however made it clear that they will be writing to all other major companies in the industry to remind them of their current obligations to customers and the expectations the CMA have of them.
Legal obligations in the future
The CMA has made clear that changes will not stop here. The Consumer Rights Bill will mean that secondary ticket platforms will have a legal duty to report criminal activity that occurs on their sites. Furthermore any site which does not provide the information discussed above will face legal punishment. A fine of up to £5,000 could be imposed on a company who fails to abide by the legislation.
The Consumer Rights Bill is still in the House of Lords and as such may not become law for a little while longer yet. Concerns have been raised in the Lords over whether £5,000 is too lenient of a fine.