Campaigners are pushing for the introduction of clear rules that state the circumstances in which ticketing platforms are liable for illegal activities, as part of its recommendations to reduce unlawful reselling across the EU.
The Face-Value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT), which is a pan-European anti-touting campaign group, has responded to the launch of the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which is upgrading the rules of e-commerce across Europe and could alter the landscape for ticket resale.
The body, along with a host of European industry associations, is demanding clear liability for secondary ticketing marketplaces, ticket and seller verification obligations, increased transparency, and efficient reporting of tickets listed illegally.
The joint action, which follows over 50 court cases and initiatives to curb the problem across just 11 EU member states surveyed, comes after the European Parliament this week approved the DSA, which was announced by the European Commission in February to offer greater protection and create a level playing field for consumers buying online.
The proposals are backed by the International Federation of Musicians (FIM), Pearle, Live Performance Europe, the European Music Managers Alliance (EMMA), Spain’s Association of Music Promoters (APM), German event promoters’ association BDKV, campaigning group Victim of Viagogo and the global Association for Electronic Music.
They are also broadly supported by Professor Michael Waterson, economics professor at Warwick University, who led a watershed independent review into secondary ticketing on behalf of the UK government in 2016.
FEAT said in a statement: “With many fans, and of course the live industry, experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19, it has become more important than ever to regulate the dysfunctional secondary ticketing market so that, as shows resume at reduced capacity, fans are able to secure tickets at a fair price.”
The recommendations include introducing clear liability for online marketplaces, as FEAT states that “secondary ticketing marketplaces profit from illegal ticket selling, which they encourage through various promotional tactics and seller incentivisation. Yet they claim no responsibility, arguing that they just provide the platform, in the knowledge that they are unlikely to be held accountable.”
It says the DSA must bring in clear rules that state the circumstances in which platforms are liable, including when they advertise or promote tickets, provide misleading information or guarantees, incentivise illegal selling, and allow delisted tickets to reappear on their platform.
The group is also pushing for a verification process to vet sellers and their tickets to ensure sellers are listing tickets lawfully and to help prevent speculative sales.
Austrian MEP Hannes Heide, who sits on the European Parliament’s Culture Committee, supported the proposals: “Ticket resale platforms like Viagogo list and advertise mostly overpriced tickets for sporting or cultural events, usually being sold by commercial traders rather than consumers. They enable the sale of speculative tickets, which the seller does not even own, and sales that contravene the lawful terms and conditions of the ticket. This harms consumers, artists, event organisers and honest ticket sellers.
“In several countries, such as Austria, Viagogo has been legally obliged to disclose the identity of the ticket sellers, which enables defrauded consumers to take action against the seller. In addition, the platform must inform buyers of the ticket’s original face-value price and whether the tickets are personalised.
“While this is a partial victory, it is not enough. The platforms must comply with all requirements of EU law and the authorities of the Member States must work together to ensure compliance.”
Other proposals put forward by FEAT and other bodies include providing more transparency measures for online marketplaces, such as clearly displaying information about tickets listed, such as the identity of business sellers and the ticket’s face value.
It also calls for better reporting and take-down for tickets not permitted for resale and urges the EU to establish a European agency to share information and tackle illegal practices within the DSA, with the necessary tools and capacity to ensure the law is enforced. FEAT said this body would establish a code of conduct and benchmark the performance of online marketplaces in tackling illegal or invalid sales on their site, helping consumers make informed choices and advertising networks, such as Google, know when a marketplace breaches their policies.
If these rules are implemented, FEAT also wants to ensure that they are extended to platforms established outside but trading within the bloc, to offer consumers better protection and reduce the number of infringements.
FEAT campaign lead Katie O’Leary said: “So much has changed since the E-Commerce Directive came into effect in 2000, and European consumers are long overdue secondary ticketing marketplaces they can rely on. That can only happen through better regulation, enforcement and a public performance rating which will put the onus on marketplaces to make sure the tickets that they’re promoting — and profiting from — are accurately depicted, real, and guaranteed to gain fans entry into the event. We welcome the result of this week’s plenary vote, which is a step in the right direction.”
In April 2019, FEAT lobbied for the adoption of the first secondary ticketing law banning bots, which came into effect in December 2019 as part of the directive on better enforcement and modernisation of consumer protection rules, and has taken an active role in European discourse on ticketing.
Per Kviman, chair of EMMA, said: “The growth in ticket resale across Europe through sites like Viagogo and StubHub has undermined the ability of artists to sell their tickets to fans at a fair price they determine. Instead brokers/touts buy up large volumes of tickets to the most popular shows, falsely inflating prices and limiting access for consumers. EU action is necessary through the digital services act to put the control of tickets back into the hands of those putting on the shows and creating powers to take down illegally listed tickets. As European managers we back FEAT’s campaign”