The “malicious practices” of secondary sites are to come under tighter scrutiny after search engine Google announced a raft of restrictions.
The measures are intended protect the public from being deceived, exploited and pressured into buying tickets at inflated prices.
From January, resale platforms across the globe will no longer be able to imply on Google they are the primary or official seller of tickets, and must make it clear they are a resale facility.
Sites will also need to be certified with Google before they can use its AdWords function, which allows companies to pay to top its search listings.
Resellers will have to inform customers that the ticket price listed may be higher than face-value, and include a breakdown of booking fees and taxes before payment is taken. The face value price of tickets will need to be displayed from March.
“These secondary sellers can no longer rely on any impression of legitimacy their online presence was giving, whilst the requirement for transparency on pricing can only be a good thing for concert-goers,” Ed Sheeran’s manager and anti-touting campaigner Stuart Camp tells Audience.
“Hopefully we are now one step closer to ending these malicious practices”
Tickets to see Sheeran have regularly attracted the attention of resellers using sites such as Viagogo, eBay-owned Stubhub and Ticketmaster’s Get Me In and Seatwave.
“There is more that can be done to hold these people to account, but I applaud this move,” says Camp, who is basd at Rocket Management in the UK.
There has been growing resentment towards secondary sites which allow touts to exploit genuine fans across the world, with legislation being introduced to cap resale markups in Australia and Canada, Italy investigating alleged market abuse (see Audience issue 211) and complaints of misleading advertising from Spanish consumer rights group FACUA.
“I wholeheartedly welcome Google’s move to prevent secondary ticket sellers from masquerading as official sites and misleading fans,” says Neo Sala, CEO of Spanish promoter Doctor Music.
“We have been fighting for greater clarity and tougher regulation for some time, and hopefully we are now one step closer to ending these malicious practices that are harming fans and the industry.”
Head of Live Nation Belgium Herman Schueremans adds, “Google finally gets it, and starts thinking long-term and as a decent supplier of correct information to the people.”
In France the country’s competition authority Autorite de la Concurrence is pressuring Viagogo to stop it breaching its consumer code with “deceptive marketing”, while the Swiss consumer watchdog is taking civil action against Viagogo (see Audience issue 214), in a bid to make it treat its customers fairly.
In the UK the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced that law breaking resale sites breaching the Consumer Rights Act will face enforcement action and fines of up to £5,000 ($6,600) per ticket infringement.
“I want there to be some fines and I want to them be big, not just a few thousands,” says co-chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse Sharon Hodgson MP. “These people are ripping others off.”
The CMA’s investigation has also been widened to include event organisers selling directly through secondary sites, and it is understood the tax authority HMRC is to audit resale site users, many of whom are thought to be committing VAT (sales tax) fraud.
When contacted by Audience, Stubhub said it was still “evaluating” Google’s new policy, while Ticketmaster declined to comment.