The festive period wasn't only a busy time for event organisers - the spotlight has also been shone on the secondary ticketing market, first by the Competition & Markets Authority and then by DCMS. Whilst consultation is ongoing, useful guidance has been issued of which event organisers should be aware.
During the course of 2017, the CMA investigated how unfair terms law under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies to ticketing terms and conditions. The CMA's attention focused on resale restrictions. Whilst the CMA recognises there are legitimate reasons for restricting a consumer's right to resell a ticket, the CMA's view is that such restrictions should continue to be subject to the fairness test.
Accordingly, the CMA has stated that any resale restrictions in ticketing terms and conditions "are more likely to be considered fair if there is a legitimate reason for restricting resale and any restrictions are necessary and proportionate for achieving that aim." Whilst the CMA does not currently intend to produce detailed guidance, it has indicated that the following steps should reduce the risk of the CMA taking enforcement action:
- full and clear disclosure of any resale restrictions upfront;
- putting in place arrangements for consumers to exchange, return and/or resell tickets;
- full refunds to be issued to any consumer whose ticket is voided; and
- putting in place arrangements that help to ensure that those people who have bought resold tickets, and have not been fully and clearly informed about these restrictions, will not lose out.
Event organisers should review their ticketing terms and conditions, and their ticketing processes more widely, in light of the CMA's statement.
Separate to the above, the government has recently published the draft Breaching Limits on Ticket Sales Regulations 2017. These draft regulations aim to prevent ticket touts from using automated software (known as 'bots') to avoid security measures and purchase more tickets than permitted by the event organiser, which can then be sold on to consumers at inflated prices. In fact, the draft regulations go so far as to create a criminal offence for such activity, provided certain conditions are fulfilled. One of these conditions is that the event organiser must impose a limit on the number of tickets available for sale to a purchaser. Event organisers would therefore benefit from including a sensible limit on the number of tickets that are made available to purchase to any single customer.
Neither the CMA's statement nor the draft Regulations are final. Nevertheless, it would be prudent for event organisers to review their ticketing terms and conditions in light of these changes.