Bots users face ‘unlimited’ fines under new UK ticket rules

Ticket touts who use bots to snatch concert and sports tickets in bulk face unlimited fines in the UK under new government plans.

Ministers have agreed to implement recommendations put forward in a report by Professor Michael Waterson last year, and an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill means it will be illegal to use software to bypass limits on the maximum number of tickets that can be bought.

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) spokesman said the profiteering was “simply not fair”.

Under further amendments also initially put forward by the Waterson Report, primary ticket firms will be encouraged to report bot attacks to police, while operators must also introduce tougher anti-bot measures and there will be stronger enforcement of existing consumer rights laws.

Matt Hancock, Minister for Digital and Culture, said: “This profiteering is simply not fair, so we are acting to put fans first and improve the chances of seeing our favourite musicians and sports stars at a reasonable price.

“Ticket sellers also need to do more, by improving transparency and ensuring that they are acting in the best interests of consumers and help the market work for everyone.”

The government action comes after years of complaints from fans that they are being priced out of the market when tickets for major events become available. The sale of tickets for concerts featuring stars Ed Sheeran and Adele led to complaints in recent months, with tickets selling out almost immediately before being offered at inflated prices on secondary websites.

Jo Dipple, the chief executive of music industry representatives UK Music, welcomed the government’s plan.

“Massive profit is made by people who are taking value out of the music industry and putting tickets out of the reach of music fans,” she said.

“Banning bots is a step towards ensuring the ticketing market for live events works more fairly for gig-goers.”

The action against scalpers has also been welcomed by primary ticket agents such as The Ticket Factory, whose managing director, Stuart Cain, was hopeful that an era of “greater transparency” could result.

“Artists, ticket agents and promoters across the industry have really come together on this issue and united in the fight against touts and secondary sites,” said Cain in a statement. “For too long a lack of legislation has been allowing fans to be ripped off, while also diverting revenues from the creative economy.

“Now, with the government’s announcement that it will crack down on the use of bots to bulk-buy and will implement the recommendations laid out in the Waterson Report, it finally feels like the tide is turning.

“Essentially, anything that allows for greater transparency in the market and help to stop fans being conned is a positive. There’s still a way to go, but this is a promising first step when it comes to the industry finally cleaning up its act.”