The UK government has formally responded to the CMA’s call for greater regulation of the secondary ticketing market, announcing this month that it will not be implementing the recommendations in the CMA’s 2021 secondary ticketing report.
Background: the CMA’s Recommendations
“Secondary ticketing platforms” are online platforms that allow secondary sellers (or resellers) to resell tickets for sporting, recreational and cultural events that they have initially acquired on the primary ticketing market. This is distinct from the primary ticketing market, where tickets are bought directly from the venue or an agent appointed by the event organiser.
Back in August 2021, the Competition and Markets Authority (the CMA) published a paper setting out its concerns about compliance with the law in the online secondary ticketing market. Of particular concern to the CMA were the practices of resellers in the uncapped secondary ticketing market, where tickets are resold to buyers at any price the seller chooses.
To increase consumer protection in this market, the CMA recommended:
- banning secondary ticketing platforms from advertising more tickets for an event than they are permitted to buy from the primary market;
- imposing a specific duty on secondary ticketing websites to check evidence from the seller that the tickets have been obtained legally and within ticket limits; and
- creating a single lead enforcement entity, which has widespread powers to tackle non-compliance in the sector.
On 10 May 2023, the UK government responded to the CMA’s recommendation and confirmed that it does not currently intend to introduce new regulations to police the uncapped secondary ticketing sector. The government said:
“The additional costs that would fall on ticket buyers (as regulatory costs would be passed on) are not justified by the degree of harm set out in your report. This is especially the case when the government is already proposing to give the CMA additional administrative powers to protect consumers which the CMA could deploy in the secondary ticketing market”.
Here, the government is referring to the recent introduction of the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill (the DMCC Bill) on 25 April 2023. The DMCC Bill aims to establish a Digital Markets Unit within the CMA, which will give it the tools to proactively drive more dynamic markets and prevent harmful practices that hold back innovation and growth.
With this in mind, the government’s reluctance to introduce further legislation in this area is more understandable as further regulation would place greater obligations on secondary ticketing sites and sellers than those applicable to other platforms and goods.
The government’s rejection of the CMA’s proposals marks an unwillingness to introduce further regulation of the secondary ticketing market. Nonetheless, given the CMA’s increasing scrutiny of uncapped secondary ticketing platforms, as well as the recent introduction of the DMCC Bill, online ticket resellers should remain vigilant in their compliance in this evolving sector.