New music industry push for EU to take on secondary ticket marketplaces

A year after Europe-wide regulations came into effect that have outlawed the use of bots to bulk-buy tickets, a broad cross-section of Europe’s music industry, represented by The Face-Value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) lobby group, has just published a fresh set of detailed recommendations for the future of online ticket resale.

FEAT’s recommendations to the European Union include:

  • Clear liability rules for ticket resale marketplaces, making sure they are held responsible for allowing or encouraging illegal activity
  • Verification processes that require marketplaces to vet sellers and their tickets to prevent illegal or speculative sales
  • Transparency measures that ensure marketplaces clearly provide fans with all the essential information: including details of the ticket (such as its face value), the seller’s identity, and relevant details about the site’s own business practices
  • Efficient reporting and takedown for tickets that are not permitted to be resold. If site users spot listings that are illegal, speculative or invalid then they should have a simple system of reporting, which sites should act on in a timely and effective manner
  • Rules must apply to all marketplaces selling to EU customers or tickets to EU events, even if the business is based in a non-EU country [such as Viagogo which is a Swiss company], to prevent sites evading the law
  • Establishment of a new EU watchdog to enforce the rules, and keep consumers and advertising platforms aware of marketplaces’ behaviour, via a public performance rating

FEAT’s proposed legislative proposal is backed by the International Federation of Musicians (FIM), Pearle - Live Performance Europe, the European Music Managers Alliance (EMMA), Spain's Association of Music Promoters (APM), German event promoters’ association BDKV, campaigning group Victim Of Viagogo and the Association for Electronic Music.  They are also broadly supported by Professor Michael Waterson, who authored the Waterson Report into secondary ticketing on behalf of the UK government in 2016.

Television New Zealand’s 1 News reports that Viagogo was the most complained about company in the country in 2018 and refused to accept court documentation in English, demanding it be translated into French first.

The joint action follows the launch of the Digital Services Act (DSA), announced by the European Commission earlier this year. Recommendations include clear liability for online marketplaces, verification processes to vet sellers and their tickets, more transparency measures for online marketplaces, better reporting and take-down for tickets not permitted for resale, oversight and enforcement and public performance rating.

Although one might question the EU’s ability to regulate the secondary market, last year saw the passing of the first ever EU anti-touting legislation, banning the use of bots to bulk-buy tickets and  forcing traders to declare if they are professionals.

This is a 25-minute video presentation but it’s a fascinating reveal about how ticketing bots work as revealed by a senior data researcher working for CBC Canada

Austrian MEP Hannes Heide, pictured below, who sits on the European Parliament’s Culture Committee, said: ‘Ticket resale platforms like Viagogo list and advertise mostly overpriced tickets for sporting or cultural events, usually being sold by commercial traders rather than consumers. They enable the sale of speculative tickets, which the seller does not even own, and sales that contravene the lawful terms and conditions of the ticket. This harms consumers, artists, event organisers and honest ticket sellers.

Austrian MEP Hannes Heide

‘In several countries, such as Austria, Viagogo has been legally obliged to disclose the identity of the ticket sellers, which enables defrauded consumers to take action against the seller. In addition, the platform must inform buyers of the ticket’s original face-value price and whether the tickets are personalised.

‘While this is a partial victory, it is not enough. The platforms must comply with all requirements of EU law and the authorities of the Member States must work together to ensure compliance.’

FEAT is a not-for-profit company formed in 2019 to promote face value resale and better resale practices.

FEAT campaign lead Katie O’Leary, pictured below, said: ‘So much has changed since the e-Commerce Directive came into effect in 2000, and European consumers are long overdue secondary ticketing marketplaces they can rely on. That can only happen through better regulation, enforcement and a public performance rating which will put the onus on marketplaces to make sure the tickets that they’re promoting - and profiting from - are accurately depicted, real, and guaranteed to gain fans entry into the event.  We welcome the result of this week’s plenary vote, which is a step in the right direction.’

FEAT campaign lead Katie O’Leary

Morten Gjelten, president of Pearle - Live Performance Europe, added: ‘The number of court cases within the EU dealing with illicit trade on online secondary ticketing platforms speaks for itself - we urgently need European wide legislation and enforcement when it comes to the reselling of cultural tickets much higher than face-value. Let's make an end to these unfair and detrimental practices which harm artists, live performance organisations and not least consumers.’

Per Kviman, chair of EMMA, said: ‘EU action is necessary through the digital services act to put the control of tickets back into the hands of those putting on the shows and creating powers to take down illegally listed tickets. As European managers, we back FEAT’s campaign.’

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Charlie Charters is a former rugby union official and sports marketing executive turned thriller writer whose debut book Bolt Action was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2010.
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