Industry News

Race is on to pass Digital Economy Bill ahead of election

Plans to crack down on ticket scalping in the UK could be dashed if the Digital Economy Bill is not passed in the next week.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s surprise decision to call a General Election last week means that progress of the bill could be in doubt if it is not passed ahead of May 3, when Parliament is dissolved.

The Digital Economy Bill returns to the House of Commons tomorrow (Wednesday), when MPs will consider amendments suggested by the House of Lords after it passed its third reading at the start of April. The bill is now at ‘ping pong’ stage, at which legislation may go back and forth between each House until both reach agreement on the exact wording.

One amendment put forward by Lord Moynihan would extend obligations in the existing Consumer Rights Act, notably that any tickets being resold would have to include a reference or booking number and any specific conditions attached to resale.

The bill would also introduce tougher penalties for the use of bots in bulk-buying tickets, with unlimited fines available to courts.

FanFair Alliance, the pressure group that wants to force changes in the UK’s secondary ticketing market, is hopeful that the bill will receive Royal Assent before the deadline.

“This bill includes two important amendments that, if they become law, should make life harder for touts and inject some real transparency into the ticket resale market,” Adam Webb, of FanFair Alliance, told The Ticketing Business.

“Firstly, are the measures to criminalise misuse of software to bulk-buy tickets, that Government has already agreed to. And secondly, a tweak to existing consumer legislation that would require secondary sites to list an original booking reference and any conditions of resale whenever a ticket is offered for resale.

“At the moment, users of these platforms can never be sure whether a ticket actually exists or whether there are specific terms and conditions around it’s resale, so this kind of information is absolutely vital. If the amendments get through, it would be a real victory for genuine fans.”

Ministers last month 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.

In the ‘wash up’ period just ahead of the dissolution of Parliament, sources suggest the Digital Economy Bill is likely to require less compromise than some other legislation. However, Louise Haigh, Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy, said on Twitter last week that while negotiations were underway, there was “lots of parliamentary business to get through”.