9.10pm - Madam Deputy Speaker - Dame Eleanor Laing - Epping Forest - Conservative
Order. I am reluctant to reduce the time limit, but I am receiving appeals for me to try to get more people in, so I will reduce it to three minutes. However, not everyone will have a chance to speak this evening.
9.18pm - Mrs Sharon Hodgson - Washington and Sunderland West - Labour
I speak in this debate as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on ticket abuse, which I set up over 10 years ago.
The APPG shines a light on ticket abuse and campaigns to protect fans who are purchasing event tickets from being scammed and ripped off, often by the large-scale ticket touts that dominate resale sites such as Viagogo and StubHub. The APPG works with experts in the field such as FanFair Alliance, a music industry campaign, and the Iridium Consultancy to tackle industrial-scale ticket touting. I hope that when this legislation is reviewed in Committee, those organisations will be called on to share their expertise in this area.
Sadly, online ticket fraud is absolutely rife. Despite some regulatory and legislative improvements, not least in the Consumer Rights Act 2015, too many fans are still being scammed on a regular basis. The Bill, as it stands, includes a major loophole that means people will not be properly protected from online fraud. Search engines such as Google are not currently covered by the requirements on fraudulent advertising. A key issue in the ticketing market is how websites that allow fraudulent tickets to be sold often take out paid ads with Google that appear at the top of the search results. This gives the false impression to consumers that these sites are official ticket outlets. People mistakenly believe that only authorised ticket outlets can advertise on Google—people trust Google—and they are scammed as a result.
The Times reported last year that Google was taking advertising money from scam websites selling Premier League football tickets, even though the matches were taking place behind closed doors during lockdown—you couldn’t make it up. The Online Safety Bill needs to ensure that consumers are provided with much greater protection and that Google is forced to take greater responsibility for who it allows to advertise. If the Bill took action, online ticket fraud would be drastically reduced. With £2.3 billion lost to online fraud in the UK last year, it is very much needed.
It is also important to remember the human side of online fraud. Victims go through intense stress, as they are not only scammed out of their money but feel duped, stupid and humiliated. There cannot be a Member of this House who has not had to support a constituent devastated by online fraud. I have come across many stories, including one of an elderly couple who bought two tickets to see their favourite artist to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. When they arrived at the venue, they were turned away and told that they had been sold fake tickets.
I have a lot more to say, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I think you get the drift.
During a debate on a Statutory Instrument - Consumer Rights Act 2015 (Enforcement) (Amendment) Order 2019 - Sharon called for further funding for enforcement agencies with a particular focus on the secondary ticket market.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West):
I am going to speak about something slightly different, which is what I think should be in the statutory instrument. As Members probably know—if they do not, it is probably because I have not banged on about it enough—I chair the all-party parliamentary group on ticket abuse, in which capacity I wish to speak today. I feel strongly that with this SI the Government have missed a great opportunity to address some concerns that have been expressed to me over the years.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 refers explicitly to secondary ticketing. Despite that important legislation, fans continue to be ripped off by secondary ticket touts who sell tickets for huge profits to genuine fans. Some touts do this regardless of whether the ticket actually exists, and without any regard for existing legislation. This leaves people out of pocket, frustrated, disappointed and unable to attend an event that they have saved for and looked forward to. The 2015 Act exists to protect consumers, which is what we are discussing, but it is failing to do so because of insufficient enforcement. Without sufficient enforcement, it becomes a moot Act, if there can be such a thing. That is why I wish to make the case today for more funding for our enforcement agencies, as I believe that enforcement is a significant aspect of the 2015 Act that is missing from this SI. I hope the Government will consider rectifying that.
National trading standards
“delivers national and regional consumer protection enforcement…Its purpose is to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate businesses by tackling serious national and regional consumer protection issues and organised criminality and by providing a ‘safety net’ to limit unsafe consumer goods entering the UK”.
To perform this huge task, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy provides national trading standards and Trading Standards Scotland with just £14 million. With that small amount of funding, trading standards is expected to protect consumers from scams and cyber-crime and to protect UK borders and public safety. Does the Minister agree that £14 million per year for this huge responsibility, which requires investigation, prevention, safeguarding and enforcement, is really not enough to fulfil the task to any acceptable level, and that it must—I know it does—leave NTS officers continually frustrated and overworked? Has the Minister made any assessment of how much funding NTS needs to fulfil its role to the highest standard?
The 2015 Act makes it clear that sellers must provide seat, row and block numbers, as well as the unique ticket ID number, if the event organisers insist on it, yet there are still examples of secondary ticketing sites that do not supply this information. Touts are therefore still able to operate illegally and rip off genuine fans without any serious implications. The legislation exists—we are talking about it—but despite a long-running Competition and Markets Authority investigation, enforcement is still lacking. That means it is up to organisers, venues and promoters to monitor secondary ticket touts, cancel tickets when necessary, and respond to disappointed fans who are denied access with invalid tickets. Such expectations are unreasonable for organisers, venues and promoters. At a recent meeting of the all-party group, an event organiser said:
“We don’t want to be the enforcers, but if agencies aren’t there then we have to step in.”
Does the Minister agree that this is not an acceptable expectation for organisers, venues and promoters?
As the House knows, I have been working on this issue for a long time now, and I am convinced that ticket touts will continue to operate outside the law until there is a sustainably funded agency to ensure that the existing legislation—this legislation—is enforced. That is why the SI is deficient. Recently, we saw two English teams fly to Madrid for the champions league final. I have to admit that I am not a fan of either team—I do not know whether you are, Madam Deputy Speaker—but many fans flew over, too, paying out for their flights, transfers and accommodation, on top of as much as £5,000 per ticket, going up in some cases to £10,000 per ticket, only to be told, just hours before the game, that the tickets they had purchased from secondary ticket sites did not exist and were cancelled. I can only imagine the sheer disappointment, anger and frustration that those fans went through, even though the 2015 Act should have made it impossible for that to happen. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence: it is something I hear about all too often from the excellent campaign groups Victim of Viagogo and the FanFair Alliance.
If the Government want to protect consumers—which is what we are here to do—they must invest in our enforcement agencies to ensure that the existing legislation is totally adhered to. I know that what I have talked about is slightly outwith the scope of the SI, and I am so grateful for the House’s indulgence and to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to talk about the funding of national trading standards, but I hope the Minister has heard what I have had to say, even though I have sneaked it in as I have done, and will look into the issue as soon as possible.
In her capacity as Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ticket Abuse, Sharon has come out in support of the launch of FanFair Alliance.
FanFair Alliance is a campaign group which unites music businesses, artists and fans against abuses in the secondary ticketing market.
At a launch in Central London, FanFair Alliance brought together interested parties, including managers of bands such as Arctic Monkeys, One Direction and Mumford and Sons, along with music trade bodies including Music Managers Forum, to urge the Government to take four pragmatic steps that would ensure the fraudulent activity of touts is stopped and face value tickets are put into the hands of fans.
These four steps include:
- Enforcement - especially of legislation such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
- Transparency - where fans know who they are buying from.
- Responsibility – where secondary platforms are showing corporate responsibility towards consumer protection legislation.
- Supply – to address the abuse of technology, such as ‘bots’, which harvests tickets and stops fans from getting tickets.
Fans can sign up to the campaign by visiting the website here: www.fanfairalliance.org to share their experiences and stories and follow them on social media at @FanFairAlliance or www.facebook.com/FanFairAlliance
Following the launch of FanFair Alliance, Sharon said:
“For too long fans have been ripped off by ticket touts and the Government have continually failed to offer support to fans to put them first, through ensuring legislation is properly implemented and has the teeth to protect fans from the abuses seen in the secondary market.
“The launch of FanFair Alliance so soon after the publication of the Waterson Review which called on the Government to do more in this area, is welcome news and will provide fans with a way to voice their concerns with the secondary market. I hope many fans will sign up to this campaign by visiting their website.
“I look forward to working closely with FanFair Alliance to ensure Parliament can help voice the concerns of fans with Government and in order that fans are put first once and for all.”
Sign the Government petition here >
(From CMA website) "The CMA is reviewing the compliance of 4 secondary ticket platforms with their undertakings and other legal obligations."
Sharon Hodgson, Co-Chair of the APPG on Ticket Abuse welcomes recommendation for an investigation by Police and National Trading Standards into compliance of the law by the secondary ticketing market.
This week Sharon Hodgson MP met with Business, Innovation and Skills Minister Nick Boles MP, as a part of a delegation pressing the Government to do more to clamp down on ticket touting and counterfeiting in the secondary ticketing market.
(NB - For latest news about this campaign visit the putfansfirst intro page)
Sharon has been leading a campaign in Parliament for regulation of the secondary ticketing market to protect fans from the worst practices of ticket touts.
In 2010, Sharon tabled a Private Member’s Bill - the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2010/12 - calling for mark-ups on tickets (which were being re-sold against the expressed wishes of the event organiser) of no more than 10%; this Bill was filibustered by (some then) Tory backbenchers (including David Nuttall, Philip Davies and Sajid Javid - former Secretary of State for Culture) when it was debated in the House of Commons, so subsequently fell at the end of the Parliamentary session. Sharon's speech introducing the Bill can be read on Hansard here.
Since Sharon's Bill, the problems of the secondary ticketing market have been highlighted by a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, The Great Ticket Scandal, in early 2012 (videos below*), and a report from the Metropolitan Police, Ticket Crime: Problem Profile, which:
- Found that: “due to the surreptitious way that large numbers of ‘primary’ tickets are diverted straight onto secondary ticket websites, members of the public have little choice but to try to source tickets on the secondary ticket market.”
- Concluded that: “the lack of legislation outlawing the unauthorised resale of tickets and the absence of regulation of the primary and secondary ticket market encourages unscrupulous practices, a lack of transparency and fraud.”
- Recommended that: “consideration must be given to introducing legislation to govern the unauthorised sale of event tickets. The lack of legislation in this area enables fraud and places the public at risk of economic crime” and “the primary and secondary ticket market require regulation to ensure transparency, allowing consumers to understand who they are buying from and affording them better protection from ticket crime.
Sharon is now Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, which recently published a report making a number of recommendations to improve the market for fans and reduce the incidence of fraud and exploitation. The APPG have discussed their report with Ministers, and will continue to press the Government to incorporate some of these recommended changes within the Consumer Rights Bill, which is currently before Parliament.
Get involved appgticketabuse
Update 12.01.2015: Read Sharon's speech in the Consumer Rights Debate here. Unfortunately the Government voted against the Lords' Amendments which would have brought transparency into the secondary ticketing platforms market.
Sharon has also lobbied the relevant Shadow Ministers within the Labour Party to secure an assurance that if the present Government fail to act to protect fans, a future Labour Government will do so; the Labour frontbench have already tabled amendments to the Consumer Rights Bill along the lines of those called for by Sharon and the APPG.
You can view the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary in 4 parts here:
*Update May 2016 - We can't show you these here now as "The YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement."
Contact Channel 4 Dispatches if you would like to see this programme.
For more info on the new #putfansfirst campaign intro page - visit this page: http://www.sharonhodgson.org/ticket_touts_campaign
Sharon pressed the Prime Minister to take the side of ordinary fans who are being ripped off by touts, rather than his new Culture Secretary who once praised touts as "classic entrepreneurs".