After Clause 308 - Secondary ticketing facilities

Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill – in the House of Commons am 3:02 pm ar 21 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Pleidleisiau yn y ddadl hon

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) 3:02, 21 Mai 2024

I beg to move,

That this House
disagrees with the Lords in their Amendment and proposes Amendments (a) and (b) to the Bill in lieu of the Lords Amendment 104B.

The Bill will drive growth and deliver better outcomes for consumers across the UK. Both Houses have now reached agreement on digital markets measures relating to appeals, proportionality, the countervailing benefits exemption and guidance. However, the Bill returns to the House today as the need to agree on secondary ticketing remains outstanding.

Lords amendment 104B, tabled by Lord Moynihan, would introduce additional regulatory requirements on resale sites. In our view, new regulations should be considered only if they are necessary, proportionate and future-proof, and should not duplicate existing rules. Simply adding new rules and regulations that add little to what is already there is not the answer to the problems of the secondary ticketing market.

The first provision that the Lords seek to add to the Bill would require secondary ticketing platforms to obtain proof of purchase of the ticket from the reseller before listing the ticket for resale, but it is already a criminal offence—of unfair trading or fraud—for a reseller to offer for sale products that cannot be legally sold.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Ceidwadwyr, Bro Morgannwg

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work, as well as to Lord Moynihan, who has doggedly pursued this matter with the Government. My hon. Friend rightly points out that making additional regulations for the sake of it is not something that we as a Government would support, but can he tell me why the Competition and Markets Authority has prosecuted so few people under the current regulatory structure over recent years?

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

We believe that the problem is about enforcement, not regulations. The reason why the CMA has not prosecuted anybody is that it does not have the responsibility or the right to prosecute sellers on ticketing sites. It has jurisdiction over the platforms, but not the sellers. We are giving the CMA that opportunity and those powers, which we think will make a profound difference.

Secondly, the Lords amendment requires that the ticket’s face value and trader’s details be clearly visible to the consumer, but likewise, existing legislation already provides that traders must make that information clear and comprehensible. The amendment would also prevent resellers from selling more tickets than can be legally purchased from the primary market. We agree with the principle, but believe that to be unenforceable. Many sources on the primary market sell tickets, and each has their own ticket limit.

Photo of Sarah Olney Sarah Olney Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury)

The Bill could have such a significant impact in tackling the issues associated with secondary ticket sites, and could reduce instances of fraud and online scams. I do not understand why the Minister is so reluctant to commit to the recommendations made by the CMA. That is all we want implemented through the Lords amendment.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

The CMA report differs from the amendment proposed by the Lords. We believe that Lord Moynihan’s requirements relating to face value and the address of the trader are already covered. What is missing from the amendment is the ability to enforce regulations. There have been prosecutions only recently, a couple of months ago; there has been a four-year sentence and a £6 million confiscation order, so we are seeing prosecutions by National Trading Standards, but we believe that the CMA will have a more profound effect if it can tackle this issue.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Chair, International Trade Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee

My question is similar to that of Sarah Olney. I just do not understand why the Government do not get involved with this. From what I have read of the Lords debate and what Lord Moynihan said, that is exactly what happened for the London Olympics in 2012. Ireland has got rid of the secondary market because it thought it very corrosive indeed. I also understand that fans are frequently in tears outside venues such as the O2 because they have bought the wrong tickets from the secondary market. As the political wing of the very noble tartan army, I would not want fans to be unable to get into games at the Euros in the coming weeks because of irregularities in the secondary market. If that happens, will the Minister commit to coming back and changing tack?

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

The hon. Gentleman raises important points. Alongside what we are doing to give the CMA more enforcement powers, which we think are needed, we are also committing to a review of the primary and secondary market over the next nine months, in order to see what else can be done to ensure that the secondary ticketing process is fairer for consumers.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Chair, International Trade Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee

The Minister is generous in giving way, and I appreciate it. Has he spoken to his counterparts in Ireland about what they have done in this area, why they have done it, and what the effects have been? That might be instructive.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

Yes, we are aware of what is happening in Ireland, where there is a complete prohibition on secondary ticketing sales. Our concern about that is obvious: secondary sales are then just driven underground into a black market. That is what we have seen in Ireland. Indeed, tickets to see Taylor Swift in Dublin are available on the internet at exactly the same, or a similar, price as tickets to see her in the UK, so we do not think that is a solution. We are looking for a practical solution that works across the piece.

A person could purchase multiple tickets from different sources on the primary market and resell them on a platform. That would make it nearly impossible for either the platform or an enforcer to calculate what the total limit of tickets should be. We must avoid the trap of thinking that we are solving problems simply by adding words to legislation. We should not be tempted to devise legislation that cannot be implemented.

We believe that the solution lies not in more regulations, but in regulation—in other words, enforcement. This House has already radically strengthened the CMA’s enforcement powers in part 3 of the Bill. That strengthening applies to all consumer law, including on secondary ticketing. The CMA will have civil fining powers, and fines could total 10% of the global turnover of firms breaking consumer law. New powers will mean that the CMA can process many more cases even more quickly.

However, the Government appreciate the strength of feeling in both Houses on the issue of secondary ticketing. We have therefore tabled Government amendments to further strengthen the enforcement powers. Amendments (a) and (b) in lieu of Lords amendment 104B will give the CMA new powers, first to enforce existing rules against unfair buying-up of tickets using electronic bots, and secondly to enforce existing rules on the information that platforms and resellers must present to consumers. That is in addition to the Government’s previous commitment to review the primary and secondary ticketing markets. That review will allow us to gain a deep understanding of how tickets flow from the primary market to the secondary market. It will also include consideration of the timeliness and effectiveness of the information that must be provided to buyers, and of what reassurance is necessary for consumers to be confident that ticket offers are genuine.

Taken together, the CMA’s new enforcement powers and the upcoming Government review represent a clear strengthening of consumer protections. They will help to ensure that further steps can be taken in future, in the light of the good practice that has recently been emerging in the market.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Chair, International Trade Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee

I am again grateful to the Minister for giving way, but like Sarah Olney, I am still stumped as to why the Government are not the champion of the consumer—the small person or small family who face the disappointment of financial loss. I hear what the Minister says about laws being enforced—that could apply to any law—but laws also have a deterrent effect, and it would be quite useful to have that deterrent effect.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. I agree with him about the deterrent effect, but to me, that deterrent effect is delivered through enforcement and prosecutions, which are making it easier to deal with the platforms. As for the Lords amendment, information such as the seller’s address is already required under schedule 2 to the 2013 consumer contracts regulations, and the face value of the ticket must be displayed under clause 90(3)(c) of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, so that is already covered. It is enforcement that we need to improve.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Ceidwadwyr, Shipley

Does the Minister agree that the selling-on of tickets has always happened, and always will? It is important to reinforce existing safeguards, rather than making the secondary ticketing market unviable and pushing people into unregulated spaces where they get no protection at all. At the moment, they do get protection from most of the sites that sell tickets on the secondary market.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The concern is that we would simply drive people into a black market; that seems to have happened in Ireland. The CMA has said that capping prices, which is what the Opposition want, would not reduce the incentive to resell, for exactly the reasons my hon. Friend has pointed out, so through the Bill, we are taking the pragmatic step of increasing the enforcement of current regulations, while also looking at the wider picture, in the review, to see whether improvements can be made. We think that is the right balance.

In conclusion, I encourage this House to agree with the Government’s position on Lords amendment 104B, and accept the Government’s proposed amendments (a) and (b) in lieu. It is imperative that Royal Assent be achieved without further delay, so that the legislation can be implemented and the Bill’s benefits realised as quickly as possible.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

I beg to move manuscript amendment (a), leave out from “House” and insert

“agrees with the Lords in their Amendment”.

I confess that I am completely perplexed as to why the Government have adopted the attitude that they have taken today. The Bill could have gone through both Houses quite easily and have steamed ahead to Royal Assent if they had simply agreed to these very minor recommendations from the House of Lords. We do something very similar to what the amendment suggests in relation to Olympics tickets, partly because the Olympics’ organisers insist on such legislation for any Olympics, but we also do something very similar for sporting events. The question of why we do not do exactly the same for music, comedy and other events is legitimate.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

The Minister has only just sat down, but now he is intervening on me.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

I just wanted to address one of the points that the hon. Gentleman makes. He talks about the Olympics, for which there was a complete ban on resale. Is that what he is proposing?

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

No. If the Minister will listen for a few more minutes, I will get on to precisely what we recommend. Indeed, he may remember that in the last debate on this issue, I said very clearly that we do not intend to ban all resale. If somebody has a ticket that they bought themselves, not through a bot, but is unable to use it and wants to resell it, that should be a perfectly legitimate process, but the price should be capped at a sensible level—at something like 10% or 15% above the original cost.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Chair, Finance Committee (Commons), Chair, Finance Committee (Commons) 3:15, 21 Mai 2024

I just want to help the Minister correct the record. Through the Olympics legislation, we as a Parliament did not ban resale; we said that resale had to be authorised. I did not want him to have that wrong on the record.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

Indeed. I will come to authorised resale later, because it is a real problem with the way that the market operates. Fans are very unclear whether the ticket they have bought through the secondary market is authorised by the original vendor—that is, the venue or one of its authorised vendors—and therefore whether they will actually be admitted in the end. That is one of the problems: even when fans are paying very inflated prices, they are not certain that the ticket they are buying is a genuine ticket that will gain them admittance to the event they have paid for.

Over the years, Members have repeatedly given evidence—

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

I ask the hon. Gentleman to let me make a little progress. I am still on the first sentence of my speech.

Over the years, Members have repeatedly given evidence that the secondary ticket market is not working: with tickets advertised with no declaration as to whether they are real, or of their face value; websites that only declare the face value of a ticket at the very last stage, with a clock ticking away and the fan already hooked; fake tickets being sold, leaving consumers out of pocket and completely in the lurch; tickets sold without evidence of proof of purchase, or of the seller’s title to the tickets; and websites circumventing artists and venues’ policies on the resale of tickets.

Taylor Swift tickets with a face value of £75 are presently selling on Viagogo for £6,840. If a Foo Fighters fan from the Rhondda wanted to buy a ticket to see them at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, it would have cost them £95 direct from that stadium; on Viagogo today, that exact same ticket would cost them £395. If a child from the Rhondda who loves space and hopes to one day become an aeronautical engineer wanted to see “Tim Peake: Astronauts - The Quest to Explore Space” at Swansea Arena, they would have paid £48.75 face value; on Viagogo, they would have to find £134. This is about much more than just price gouging and ripping people off from their hard-earned money: it is robbing children of their chance to be inspired, to spark a creative idea, to see a career in our growing creative industries, or to learn from an expert. That is why I wish the Government were adopting the measure passed by the House of Lords.

Fans, the people who really create the value, are being excluded from live concerts. The UK’s secondary ticketing market is estimated to be worth £1 billion annually, but it is rife with fraud and scamming, which affects people every single day. I would not even mind if just some of the inflated price money went into the creative industries, and into training young people and providing them with a creative education, but not a single penny of it does. It is set to get worse, too: ticketing security expert Reg Walker has reported “a massive escalation” of harvesting using software. People who have long used bots to bulk-buy items such as iPhones are now turning to ticket touting because it is more profitable, and according to Reg Walker, there is a new generation of young, tech-savvy armchair touts

“smashing ticket systems to bits”.

It is a market that simply does not work, and Labour will fix it.

The Lords have given us a perfectly sensible measure. Their amendment establishes a legal requirement that secondary ticketing facilities must not permit a trade or business to list tickets without evidence of proof of purchase or evidence of title, a matter not mentioned by the Minister. It forbids a reseller from selling more tickets to an event than they can legally purchase on the primary market. It requires the face value of any ticket listed for resale, and the trader or business’s name and trading address, to be clearly visible in full on the first page on which a purchaser can view the ticket—I have had a bit of debate with the Minister about that proposal, so I will come on to the specifics later. It also requires the Government to lay before Parliament the outcomes of a review of the effect of these measures on the secondary ticketing market within nine months of Royal Assent. I cannot understand why any sane person would oppose such a measure, unless it was purely and simply for ideological reasons.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Chair, International Trade Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee

On such ideological reasons, the Conservative party claims to be the party of Adam Smith, but if we read “The Wealth of Nations”, we see that the behaviour of the rentier class is not exactly praised by Adam Smith, and this is pure rent seeking. As the hon. Gentleman said, this is taking a ticket at £75, charging 90 times that and doing nothing to add any value at all. This is rent seeking, and ideologically it should be opposed by the Conservative party.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

The hon. Member makes a very good point. Indeed, in the main the market is a good thing—it can operate to produce good and efficient outcomes in society—but in this case the market is not working, and where the market does not work, the state has to intervene.

I cannot understand why any sane person should oppose such a measure, but unfortunately the Government have. Their amendment (a) in lieu is a weak sock puppet of a concession. It does not strengthen the rules; it simply leaves them in place. It does not prevent tickets from being sold without evidence of proof of purchase or the seller’s title to the tickets. It does not limit the quantity of resale tickets to the original number limited by the seller or artist. It leaves in place the current system for showing the face value of a ticket, despite the fact that section 90(8) of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, in my view and in the view of everybody who has spoken to Members about this, is very opaque and open to interpretation—or, I would argue, open to deliberate misinterpretation by the secondary ticketing market.

For instance, Viagogo does not say “face value”, but has a little box that says “FV”, which is not explained anywhere on the website, and people have to click on that. If Viagogo genuinely wanted to be open and transparent, it would say “face value”, and put the price at the very beginning. StubHub is similarly advertising tickets for Taylor Swift on 21 June at £711, but nowhere on the first page does it give the face value. I note that, if someone goes on to the second page, it says $75 there, but I am told that that is not the actual cost of the ticket. Seatsnet has tickets for Murrayfield—for Taylor Swift again—selling at £1,294.79 or £1,092.15 each, and nowhere does it give the face value of the tickets. Interestingly, AEG Presents and AXS, which are managing the tickets for the concerts at Murrayfield, say that tickets are strictly not to be resold:

“Any tickets found to be purchased via re-sale on the non-official secondary market will not be valid for entry into the concerts.”

In other words, it is completely in doubt whether the tickets being sold at £711 or £1,294 are tickets that will actually gain admittance for an individual.

Photo of James Wild James Wild Ceidwadwyr, North West Norfolk

The hon. Gentleman referred to Viagogo, and I have just gone on to its website. He mentioned the “FV” symbol, but when I click on it, it tells me the face value of the ticket. Did I misunderstand the point he made?

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

Yes, the hon. Member did misunderstand the point I made. Why does it not just say “face value”, instead of “FV”, which would be perfectly simple? For that matter, why should people have to click on it? The point of the Lords amendment is very clear, and it is that people should know from the very first time they see the ticket what the face value of that ticket is. I am perfectly happy, if people want to be scammed, that they should be free to be scammed, but they should at least know from the very first point at which they seek to buy a ticket what the face value of the ticket is.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

I will give way to the hon. Member, although I am keen to move on.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Ceidwadwyr, Shipley

I am very grateful. As the hon. Gentleman was struggling so much with the previous intervention, I thought I would intervene and give him a way out. If he gets his way, all that will happen is that all of these tickets sold on the secondary market will be sold by spivs outside the location of an event. Why does the hon. Gentleman think that consumers will be better protected by spivs selling these tickets outside the event than by their being sold on official secondary ticket markets?

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

The secondary ticket market is the spivs: it is precisely the same set of people scamming the system and the public. They are taking advantage of people’s desire to get tickets, and thereby making the market simply not work in the interests of the creators of the art, the fans, or the stadiums and venues themselves. That is why we want to take action.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Chair, International Trade Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee

The hon. Gentleman is quite right about the market not working. The point that has been missed hugely by Conservative Members is that a finite number of tickets are going on sale, and this finite number is being gobbled up by the spivs, speculators and whoever online. He mentions the guys outside a venue, but they can only hold so many tickets. It is the scale of this, as I heard Mrs Hodgson say from a sedentary position. Without the Lords amendment that has been proposed, this is being allowed on an industrial scale. Why are the Government and the Conservative party willing to see people ripped off? It is just unbelievable.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

I rather agree with the idea that some Conservative Members actually want people to be ripped off, and maybe that is what we have seen for the last 14 years when we have seen taxes rise, but what we get for the taxes has diminished.

The Minister says that he wants to give more powers to the CMA to be able to enforce the action. The problem with that is that the CMA itself gave evidence that, when it tried to take Viagogo to court, it came up against inherent weaknesses in the existing consumer protection toolkit, and the Government are not adding anything to that consumer protection toolkit whatsoever. Indeed, they are deliberately voting down precisely what they said they wanted.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

No, the Minister will get to reply afterwards, I am sure. [Hon. Members: “Oh!”] So the Minister is begging. I will give way to his begging.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

I beg the hon. Member’s leave, but can I draw his attention to the comments of the CMA before the Bill Committee? One witness said exactly this in response to the point he has just raised:

“We think that many of the changes in the Bill will address those weaknesses directly by giving us civil fining powers for the first time.”––[Official Report, Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill Public Bill Committee, 13 June 2023;
c. 7, Q3.]

It is not right to say that the CMA is getting no more ability to oversee this regime.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

No, because I read that completely differently from the way the Minister does. If the Minister were right, why is it only at this stage that he has chosen to bring forward amendment (a) in lieu? Precisely as with every single step of the way on ticket touting that we have seen over the last 14 years, somebody moves an amendment in the House of Lords—quite often Lord Moynihan, wonderful man that he is—and the Government are dragged kicking and screaming to introduce sensible measures that have cross-party support, but that the Government object to for some bizarre ideological reasons.

Labour will strengthen the consumer rights legislation to protect fans from fraudulent ticket practices, restricting the resale of more tickets than permissible and ensuring anybody buying a ticket from the secondary market can see—clearly, easily, readily and absolutely unambiguously —what the original price of that ticket was and where it came from. All of this could have been done today if the Government had not rejected the Lords amendment, but supported Labour on the cross-party amendment from the Lords. However, they have put touts before fans, and profits before the public.

If Labour is given the chance to form a Government, we will also go further. We will restrict the resale of tickets at more than a small set percentage over the price the original purchaser paid for it. No more touts buying a £50 ticket and selling it on for £500; no more bulk buying of seats for Taylor Swift concerts that could go to a 13-year-old fan from Wigan, but instead go to a millionaire from the US. No more scalping of our creative industries and artists, who set reasonable prices for their tickets, only to find somebody else making money off their talent and hard work by reselling them at 10 times the price. Ministers say that the CMA will enforce more, but I doubt that anything will change as a result of anything the Government are intending to do with this measure.

Photo of Richard Thomson Richard Thomson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business)

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, much as I wish we were not here, because we would not need to be here if the Government had done the decent, sensible thing and accepted the Lords amendment.

We have heard stories in interventions and substantive contributions, and in past debates, about the effect of an under-regulated secondary market that leaves fans paying over the odds for tickets, and places experiences beyond the financial reach of families. There is also a high risk involved that tickets purchased that way will not even grant entry to the events, and I had hoped that by this stage the Government might have read the room, understood that, and decided to respond in a meaningful manner. Let us be in no doubt: the Government amendment does little other than add the Competition and Markets Authority to the list of bodies that are able to enforce the already existing and inadequate rules on secondary ticket sales. As just about all Opposition Members can see, even if Government Members cannot, the existing rules are not working as well as they are intended to work.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Chair, International Trade Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee 3:30, 21 Mai 2024

My hon. Friend makes a good point about the powers given to the CMA, and I wonder whether the Government can increase the ability to finance and give capacity to the CMA to deal with this sort of stuff, or is this just something that has been passed on in paper?

Photo of Richard Thomson Richard Thomson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business)

Perhaps the Minister will be able to deal with that question when he responds to the debate. Certainly the measure might bring a bit more resource, but it will also spread the resource for the CMA that little bit more thinly. The fact that the rules are not working as effectively as they need to has been evidenced in previous debates, when we have heard of obscure charging practices, of pressure to pay with countdown timers, and of the exorbitant end prices that often result.

The Government amendment is fine as far as it goes. It might bring a little more resource to the problem and a more strategic capability when tackling rule-breakers. I also gave two cheers when the Minister announced the promise of an inquiry at the tail end of the previous debate, but the Government are still not taking those practical measures that could be taken today with amendment 104B to clean up the marketplace for secondary ticketing.

Amendment 104B would involve measures such as a requirement to provide proof of purchase or evidence of title for the tickets for sale, which would forbid resellers from selling more tickets than they would legally have been able to purchase from the primary market. It would ensure that the face value and end price paid are clearly visible, along with the name and trading address of those doing the secondary vending. Crucially, it would also allow secondary legislation to be introduced, which could take account of and bring in anything from the inquiry that the Minister has announced, and it would compel the Secretary of State to have concluded that work within nine months. Contrary to what the Minister says, I believe that the measures in Lords amendment 104B are proportionate and add clearly to the existing Bill.

Lord amendment 104B is a bit like Lords amendment 104 which came before it. Indeed, it is almost the holy grail of amendments—it is popular, it does not cost anything, and more to the point it would be effective and do the right things in the right way for the right reasons. I do not think I am speaking out of turn when I say that hardly any Government in these isles, whether Labour in Wales, the SNP in Scotland or the Conservatives at UK level, are so overwhelmed with public support and good will at this time that they can afford to turn down good ideas when they are presented to them on a plate. It is therefore baffling that the Government would seek once again to steer these practical and effective measures off the road and into the ditch.

I will conclude my remarks by remarking on the “Dear Colleague” letter that was sent from the Minister yesterday, in which he expressed a clear desire to get the Bill on to the statue book without delay. Not a single Member of the House looking at the Bill in its totality would want it to be delayed, but we want it to go forward into legislation in as strong a form as it can be. That, for me, clearly means going forward in a way that can tackle the egregious abuses of people’s trust, and the reasonable expectations they have when they participate in the secondary ticketing market. Accepting the Lords amendment would allow everyone to do that, and I hope the Government will take heed of the genuine strength of view that exists on this matter, not just within this House or the other place, but outside and among the population at large, and that they will allow the Bill to progress as amended accordingly.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

I rise to support Lords Amendment 104B, which seeks to safeguard fans from the fraudulent abuse that is rife in the secondary ticketing market. Like my hon. Friend Sir Chris Bryant, I am really disappointed that the Government have repeatedly refused to accept the amendments to the Bill tabled by Lord Moynihan. In fact, for many years before that, they have failed to act as advised by my hon. Friend Mrs Hodgson and her colleagues on the all-party parliamentary group on ticket abuse, supported by FanFair Alliance.

The Lords amendment includes the minimum of protection that fans deserve. It would ensure that anyone reselling a ticket has to show evidence that they have bought the ticket in the first place. As we have been hearing, that is a big issue in the secondary market, where ticket touts often list tickets that they do not own. The Lords amendment also aims to stop touts from listing more tickets to an event than they can legally purchase from the primary market.

If the Minister looks at Viagogo’s listings for BBC Radio 1 upcoming Big Weekend, he will see that touts based in Germany are selling more than 10 times as many tickets as can legally be acquired. He has said that measures to do anything about that are unenforceable, but that should not be an excuse. We cannot be standing here in this House and saying that a law that we could pass is unenforceable—it is ridiculous.

Another important measure in the Lords amendment is provision for a review to be published within nine months of the Bill passing. That is an urgent issue, and the Government must be ambitious in acting to tackle it.

I point out again to the Minister that action to crack down on ticket touting has significant support from the music industry and fans. Regulating against exploitative secondary ticketing practices is part of the manifestos put forward by music industry bodies including Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment and UK Music.

Many promoters, artist managers, venues and musicians have been highly critical of the market as it currently operates and called on the Government for urgent action to tackle the problem, but it is not just a problem for the music industry; foremost, as we have heard, it is an issue for fans. It is now commonplace for fans to miss out on tickets to sporting and cultural events only to see those same tickets on sale on a secondary ticketing site for far more money than they can afford.

With about a third of UK ticket buyers in the lowest socioeconomic bands, those inflated prices are reinforcing inequalities. The price of a ticket can make a significant difference to social and cultural inclusion, in some cases enabling marginalised or disadvantaged groups the opportunity to access events.

It is important that many venues and artists now endeavour to widen access to tickets by through-ticket pricing to certain groups, but that approach is undermined when touts use software to restrict fans’ access to the primary market and then force them on to resale sites such as Viagogo, which charge prices at the top of what consumers can bear, as we have been hearing. For example—this is disgraceful—I have been told that touts will buy up discounted tickets intended for young people, for people in wheelchairs, for carers and for others, and sell them on at the going rate on the secondary market to increase their profit margins. That has a serious impact on those consumers, who are then refused entry at the door, as well as impacting on the venue or artists that had subsidised tickets, and on the people for whom the lower priced tickets had been intended and who can no longer afford to attend the show.

I have spoken about music so far, but touting also affects other live events such as sport. Most recently, we have seen Viagogo listing up to 100 tickets for the England versus Iceland friendly at Wembley on 7 June, despite the fact that listing football tickets is illegal on unauthorised platforms—including Viagogo’s platform—for reasons of the safety of fans. When The Guardian journalist Rob Davies highlighted the listings on social media, Viagogo took down the tickets straightaway. Resale platforms should not be waiting to be caught out before complying with the law, but that is what we are seeing.

Another example of a secondary resale site having to be pushed into acting by media coverage was a recent BBC “Watchdog” report that raised concerns that some customers have not been able to receive a refund from Viagogo after being sent invalid tickets. Beth from Salisbury told the programme that she had booked a trip to Singapore to see her husband’s favourite band Coldplay as a thank you to him for his unwavering support during her cancer treatment. The two tickets to the show were bought through Viagogo for £500, but when the tickets arrived, the piece of paper said

“this is not a valid ticket”.

When she tried to get a refund, she was refused, despite the fact that Viagogo has a guarantee, apparently. In fact, it only refunded Beth’s money for the faulty ticket after the BBC “Watchdog” report. Given the weight of evidence of market dysfunction, which we have heard here and in the other place, it is disappointing that the Minister insists that the Government are already doing enough. If that is the case, why not agree to the amendment and see what comes out in the review?

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Ceidwadwyr, Shipley

The hon. Lady is making a good argument for what the Minister said—ensuring better enforcement of existing regulations. That seems to be the thrust of her argument, and what the Government say that they are delivering.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

It is just not happening. As we heard the last time we debated this issue a few weeks ago, just six people have been convicted of ticketing fraud—four of them in the past week. The exploitative practices that my hon. Friend Sir Chris Bryant and I have talked about continue to be rife on resale platforms. The Minister must accept that this derisory and dismal record must not continue. Labour has committed to a range of strong measures to crack down on ticket touts and fix this broken system for fans. Will the Government start to accept the weight of evidence and do the same?

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Chair, Finance Committee (Commons), Chair, Finance Committee (Commons)

I am thrilled to follow my hon. Friend Barbara Keeley, who has done so much work on this matter in the past few years, especially since she took on the brief. She made an excellent speech.

Here we are again. I see that we have been joined by Sir Philip Davies, who back in 2011 did the terrible thing—he might not think it was, but I do—of talking out my private Member’s Bill, the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill. If it had been passed, we would not be here today, because we would have already fixed this broken market well over a decade ago. I welcome him to his place—I know he likes to keep an eye on his handiwork.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Chair, International Trade Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee

It is a great shame that the hon. Lady was not listened to 13 years ago, but I have a feeling that, unfortunately, after the Euros, with a political microscope on this issue, we will be back here an awful lot sooner than we think.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Chair, Finance Committee (Commons), Chair, Finance Committee (Commons)

Sadly, if amendment 104B is not accepted today, that might be the case.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in today’s debate, as short as it might be. I am sure that the Minister is aware that I am here in my capacity as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on ticket abuse, which has done some great work in this area. I support the Opposition’s manuscript amendment, and therefore support the revised Lords amendment 104B as it relates to the secondary ticketing market. As others have done, I thank the excellent Lord Moynihan for his continued efforts as co-chair of the all-party group to regulate black market resale sites such as Viagogo. He is right to do so, and I commend his tenacity and brilliant work over many years. I fully supported the original amendment 104, but I warmly welcome the difficult decision to reintroduce the amendment with some notable changes.

The Government’s reason for rejecting the original amendment was:

“Because protections for consumers in relation to secondary ticketing are adequately provided for under existing legislation.”

However, despite uncontrolled touting taking place on an industrial scale, with tickets resold through sites such as Viagogo, there has not been a single prosecution under the Breaching of Limits on Ticket Sales Regulations 2018, no convictions for using bots under the Digital Economy Act 2017, and only two major tout prosecutions, with six individual convictions, since 2017. I can hardly see how the Government can describe current legislation as adequate.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Chair, International Trade Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee

The hon. Lady mentioned Lord Moynihan. For context, it should be remembered that he was a sports Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Government. If a Thatcher Minister is anti-market—the charge made from the Conservative Benches against anyone who supports his amendment—either the world has gone topsy-turvy or the Tory party has gone so far to the right it has lost itself.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Chair, Finance Committee (Commons), Chair, Finance Committee (Commons)

The hon. Gentleman makes exactly the correct point. Lord Moynihan was a highly respected Minister, and he is hardly a lefty—or whatever it is that people call people like me.

While I welcome the Government’s somewhat muted attempts to enforce existing law with their amendments in lieu, fans are crying out for more concrete action. Common-sense amendment 104B seems timely, with the so-called “ticket queen” just last week sentenced to four years behind bars, but again, with just two cases prosecuted over six years and only six convictions and zero budget for more, this latest prosecution is not a success of the current regulations, but a damning indictment of their inadequacy.

Viagogo claims that “bad actors” such as the ticket queen

“go against all we stand for”.

Yet while British music lovers were conned and defrauded by these crooks—they are crooks, because they are now in jail—Viagogo and other secondary websites are likely to have made millions of pounds in service fees from their transactions, perhaps as much as £4 million by my calculations. And that is for only one group of touts who were permitted to list tens of thousands of tickets, no questions asked.

I fear that this dirty money is now being used to fuel a huge lobbying and public relations campaign that, I have to say, appears to have worked on some Government Ministers and some advisers. When they champion Viagogo’s rip-off business model at the Dispatch Box, they are regurgitating at length its bogus evidence and unsubstantiated claims about the impacts of our current pro-consumer legislation, which, as I have already said, is just not adequate. From the few convicted touts alone, the secondary ticketing market is receiving potentially tens of millions of pounds in—it has to be said—the proceeds of crime. Viagogo’s boss, who has no-showed multiple times at parliamentary inquiries, declined to answer whether Viagogo may have benefited, inadvertently or not, from the proceeds of those crimes, when asked in an interview recently by Rob Davies of The Guardian.

Had amendment 104, with its five uncontroversial measures, been in place at the time, it is unlikely that these crimes would have been committed in the first place. Three things would have occurred. First, the touts would have been allowed to re-sell only the same number of tickets they could buy in the primary market. Secondly, the secondary platform operators, Viagogo and Ticketmaster, would have needed to check the receipts of those tickets. Thirdly, ticket buyers would have been provided with far clearer information about who they were buying from, and would have likely reconsidered.

This past weekend, I was also made aware, again from the article in The Guardian by Rob Davies, which my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley and Eccles South also referred to, that Viagogo was listing 100 seats at Wembley for England’s 7 June friendly against Iceland. I remind the House that the resale of football tickets without permission from clubs or football governing bodies has been illegal in England and Wales since 1994. Viagogo has been asked how many football tickets it has sold over the years—not just recently, through what it called human error—how much it has made from such sales and whether it would donate that income to grassroots football charities. Its answer? Silence. The Government must be under no illusions: this is a thriving online black market that is scamming hard-working families. With the cost of living crisis ongoing, it is heartbreaking to see live events added to the pile of small luxuries being taken away by parasitic touts and Government inaction.

In a few weeks’ time, fans will be gathering for Taylor Swift’s first UK performance. I do not know whether any colleagues are going to see Taylor Swift, but the first concert is on 7 June in Edinburgh. I have already heard of single seats, with average to poor views, going on sale for up to £600 on secondary websites—many times their face value—and seats next to each other for upwards of £1,000 each.

While this will be an amazing night for many—I am sure that the Minister and his family will enjoy it—as will all the nights that follow, I have heard from industry specialists that they expect dozens of fans at each gig, perhaps more, to be heartbroken when they are turned away with invalid tickets bought from sites such as Viagogo. Many venues have now had to set up special services to deal with these victims of fake or invalid tickets bought online, because they know that it is going to happen. Lots of fans will already have shelled out hundreds of pounds for travel and accommodation, and some may not even receive a refund for their ticket, despite Viagogo’s so-called guarantee. This was the focus of the “Watchdog” section of the BBC’s “The One Show” recently, which I shared with the Minister just last week—I hope he had time to watch it. It is still not too late to fix this broken market, and I implore the Government to support the revised Lords amendment 104B. The Minister could change his mind when he gets to his feet.

In addition, despite the overwhelming evidence and the already damning findings of the excellent independent review produced by Professor Michael Waterson in 2016 following the enactment of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, Lords amendment 104B endorses yet another review of the secondary ticketing market, which the Government have previously called for, while maintaining some of the problems that Lords amendment 104 would have fixed.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Chair, International Trade Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, Chair, Energy Security and Net Zero Committee 3:45, 21 Mai 2024

The hon. Lady has touched on the industrial scale of this practice, and we have heard about touts outside venues. Families may be thinking of buying tickets, and committing themselves to travelling and spending money on hotels, and that is what is wrong. If that happens again, the Government should face those families and explain why it has happened.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Chair, Finance Committee (Commons), Chair, Finance Committee (Commons)

That is a very good point. As much as none of us wants to see any unhappy, devastated fans at any of these venues, we will probably have to face those images, in the emails from those fans, on our television screens and maybe on the front pages of newspapers. We have to be prepared for that, and I am sure that the Minister would be sad to see it.

If the Government are truly committed to another review, I know that Lord Moynihan—as we have heard, a highly respected Conservative Lord and a former Minister—has already been recommended to them as a possible chair. [Interruption.] I hope that the hon. Member for Shipley is agreeing with me. I hope he agrees that that would be a very fair and pragmatic selection. It is one that I would wholeheartedly support.

I will conclude. On two occasions the Lords, having listened to evidence and the stated views of the CMA, have voted through these amendments, but Ministers seem hellbent on ignoring the views of the other place. The Lords have sent a clear message to the Government, asking them to look at the facts and think again. I ask the Minister once again: will he finally side with fans, artists and athletes, support Lords amendment 104B today, and not let this be another opportunity wasted by the Conservative Government? As I said in our last debate on this matter, they should either start putting fans first, or move aside so that we can.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

With the leave of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will address the points that have been raised during the debate.

Sir Chris Bryant presented a cap on ticket prices as his solution to this problem, but that flies in the face of the evidence given by the CMA in its report. It said that such a measure would not significantly diminish the incentive, and the misconduct would therefore continue. However, it was good to hear the hon. Gentleman finally admit that the market is a good thing—that, coming from an Opposition Member, is a revelation.

There is a common factor between what was said by the hon. Gentleman and what was said by the other contributors to the debate. He said, for instance, that face value was not made sufficiently clear on the various secondary sites, but there is a key saying clearly what face value is on the first pages of the Viagogo and StubHub websites. All those points relate to one thing and one thing only, namely enforcement, because the requirements are there in the existing legislation. We are keen to bolster enforcement. He says that we are somehow kicking and screaming to do so with this amendment, despite the fact that this Government have unilaterally brought forward this legislation. Part 3 offers huge new powers that were not added through an amendment in the Commons or the Lords; they were on the face of the Bill from day one.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

The Minister knows that Taylor Swift tickets are being sold. The organisers of those concerts have said that tickets sold on unauthorised secondary ticket markets are not valid. Would he therefore encourage people to buy tickets only from authorised ticket vendors and not from those that are unauthorised, which include Viagogo?

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

I would certainly advise any consumer to comply with the rules set out by the primary market. It is quite clear that the primary markets can do a lot more about restricting secondary sales, and we have been quoted examples of that today, including the way the Olympics was run, the way that football matches are run and the way that Glastonbury is run. All those things have very tight controls on secondary markets, which is in the gift of the primary market.

Richard Thomson asked about resources, as did Angus Brendan MacNeil. The CMA’s budget is £122 million, so we feel that it has the necessary resources available to it. The fines and penalties can be kept by the CMA for its enforcement activities.

The hon. Members for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) and for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) made similar points about the inappropriate resale of tickets—for England football matches, for example—and refunds that have not been processed properly. Only six people have been prosecuted for abuse in this sector, and we want to see more. Prosecutions for the use of bots have not been brought forward, and the amendment allows the CMA to do that. All the concrete action that the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South calls for is about enforcement, not more regulations. I absolutely agree with that, and we want to ensure that there is more enforcement in this space.

It is of paramount importance that we get this Bill on to the statute book so that it can start delivering for businesses and consumers as soon as possible. I thank all who have helped to get to this place, including the Clerks, the officials in the Department and the Bill team. I thank them for their hard work on this legislation, and I hope that all Members will feel able to support our position.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Rhif adran 155 Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill: Consideration of Lords Message: manuscript amendment

Ie: 217 MPs

Na: 267 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw


Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw


The House divided: Ayes 217, Noes 268.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.


That this House disagrees with the Lords in their Amendment and proposes Amendments (a) and (b) to the Bill in lieu of the Lords Amendment 104B.