New laws will protect sports and music fans from being “ripped off” by unscrupulous ticket touts, in a victory for a long-running campaign by a North East MP.
But further measures may be needed to stop touts snapping up tickets seconds after they go on sale so that they can be sold on at inflated prices, said MP Sharon Hodgson.
Mrs Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, backed legislation that will be added to the Government’s Consumer Rights Bill to provide extra protection for fans.
The MP is co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on ticket abuse, which has been campaigning for a change in the law.
Legislation will oblige operators of websites selling tickets to report criminal activity such as fraud both to the police and to event organisers.
Anybody selling a ticket online will have to give buyers basic information, including the original value of the ticket, the seat number, and any restrictions relating to the person who can use the ticket.
If the ticket is being sold by a business - rather than by an ordinary fan who happens to have bought a ticket they can no longer use - they will have to make that clear to potential buyers.
And the legislation will require the Government to conduct a full review of what is known as the “secondary market” for tickets, to see what other measures are needed to protect consumers.
Government Ministers say the changes are designed to ensure fans know what they are buying and have some protection without destroying the market for the resale of tickets.
Speaking in the Commons, Mrs Hodgson welcomed the changes, but called for further action to prevent ticket touts using software to buy up tickets as soon as they go on sale.
Programmes known as “bots” allow people to purchase tickets in bulk from official websites much faster than fans - making it almost impossible to purchase a ticket at the standard price. They can then be sold on for enormous profits.
Mrs Hodgson said: “Secondary ticketing platforms can have hundreds if not thousands of tickets on their sites and ready to be sold within minutes of their first going on general release and in some cases even before they have gone on sale.
“How can that happen without sophisticated software, such as bots, harvesting them, without certain so-called power sellers working alongside the platforms to get tickets on their behalf or without inside trading, such as behind-the-scenes deals in which premium tickets are not sold on the primary market but given straight to the secondary market to be sold at huge mark-ups?”
She told MPs: “It is my long-standing belief that for a long time things have needed to change in the sector, as more and more fans are being ripped off and exploited by unscrupulous touts, and ordinary people are being priced out of seeing the artists, shows, or teams that they love.”
While the measures were supported by most Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs as well as Labour MPs, they were criticised by Tory backbencher Philip Davies, MP for Shipley in Yorkshire, who said that buying and selling tickets was simply an example of the free market in action.
Speaking in the Commons, he complained: “Once upon a time the Conservative party used to believe in the free market. It appears to be an increasingly alien concept these days, but I am wedded to the idea and I always thought it was what the Conservative party believed in.
“I am talking about the idea that if someone owned some property, they were free to sell it on to somebody at a price they were happy to sell it for and others were happy to pay. That is the whole essence of the free market.”