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STAR chief says CMA is “frustrated” by limited powers

Jonathan Brown, chief executive of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), believes the recent report from the UK Competition Markets Authority (CMA) shows that the body is “frustrated” by its limited powers to protect consumers. 

The recent report on the secondary ticketing market proposed a number of recommended changes, including a ban on platforms that allow resellers to sell more tickets for an event than they can legally buy from the primary market and a new licensing system that would allow a regulator to act swiftly.

The report also said that platforms should be held accountable for incorrect information about tickets that are listed for sale on their websites, with significant sanctions proposed.

Brown told TheTicketingBusiness.com: “There have been considerable improvements in the uncapped secondary ticket market in recent years following the campaigning work of FanFair Alliance and the enforcement work of the CMA. 

“The CMA’s recent appeal to Government for changes to the law clearly suggest that they are frustrated that their powers are too limited to be able to do what they consider is required to protect consumers on the issues they have highlighted.”

He added: “Perhaps this frustration goes further than just secondary ticketing, but it does at least provide a good example to the Government.” 

The CMA has also made it clear that the current approach to enforcement within the ticketing sector is expensive, as well as time consuming. 

Not all of the enforcement bodies – such as the CMA, Trading Standards and the Police – have the same powers to protect consumers. 

The report states: “The CMA has used its civil enforcement powers under the consumer protection regime to secure measures aimed at ensuring that secondary ticket platforms gather and display key information about tickets to consumers. 

“However, the CMA is unable to take punitive civil enforcement action against secondary ticket sellers that fail to provide accurate information about the tickets that they sell because it does not have the powers to fine traders under the Consumer Rights Act (or any other provisions of consumer law). 

It adds: “Further, the CMA does not have the powers to investigate the illegal procurement of tickets by sellers under the Fraud Act 2006 or the Breaching of Limits on Ticket Sales Regulations 2018.”

The report goes on to highlight how Police are unlikely to have the resources to look into unscrupulous ticket resellers. It states: “Their most recent notable investigation into the sector was in respect of unlawful ticket sales for the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games. We understand it is currently unlikely that they will dedicate further resources to addressing compliance in the events ticket sector in the near term.” 

However, Brown noted that the attention on uncapped resale challenges has led to other improvements in different areas. The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated changes when it came to reselling tickets, with the use of e-tickets leading to easier transfers if the consumer can no longer attend the event. 

He explained: “The attention that was focused on uncapped resale also initiated improvements in capped resale, with most major ticket agents now offering their own resale facilities in addition to existing capped resale platforms such as Twickets.

“This provision and the pandemic-accelerated increase in the use of e-tickets provide customers with the means of reselling tickets they can no longer use and increases the ability of event organisers to decide and implement policies to restrict unauthorised and uncapped resale.” 

While the CMA expects the Government to consider its proposals and respond in due course, Brown has offered advice for those wanting to buy tickets online and from primary or secondary resellers. He added: “Buying from a member of STAR provides ticket buyers with the confidence they are buying from an authorised and reputable source which is backed up by an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution service – whether for primary or secondary tickets. 

“There are of course all sorts of other things that customers can do to protect themselves, such as taking the time to research who they are buying from and not buying from random people on social media, but the simplest thing they can do is to look for the STAR.”

Images: NordWood Themes on Unsplash (middle) Yvette de Wit on Unsplash (top)