Outside of Broadway theatre showing Hamilton

Touts to face unlimited fines for using ticket-snatching bots

Image credit: Dreamstime

A law banning ticket touting bots has come into force today in the UK; touts found automatically buying up event tickets will face unlimited fines.

Ticket touting refers to the practice of buying primary tickets, then selling them privately - almost always at an inflated price. Once touts have acquired tickets for hyped and sold-out events, the tickets often appear on online resale web sites for many times their original value. The practice has been widely condemned for needlessly pricing fans out of events such as concerts, festivals, plays and sports matches.

Already, it is illegal to resell tickets for football matches in the UK, although this legislation will widen government regulation to all ticketed events.

Although ticket reselling will not be entirely outlawed, touts will be banned from using software to automate the buying of tickets for events. Touts found using bots – which quickly claim large numbers of tickets for popular events, causing them to sell out even faster – will face unlimited fines.

“Fans deserve the chance to see their favourite artists at a fair price. Too often they have been priced out of the market due to unscrupulous touts buying up huge batches of tickets and selling them on at ridiculous prices,” said Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries. In May, James warned against buying tickets from resale website Viagogo, which is under investigation in the UK for misleading advertising, and which is subject of a criminal complaint filed by FIFA for unauthorised selling of Football World Cup tickets.

“From today, I am pleased to say that we have successfully banned the bots. We are giving the power back to consumers to help to make 2018 a great year for Britain’s booming events scene.”

Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the Music Managers’ Forum, said: “The new changes to the law including banning bots will help increase the chances of tickets getting into the hands of fans.”

“The entire market is now shifting with the increasing ability to enforce artists’ terms and conditions and provide face-value resale options which are fan-friendly. These changes have the potential to have a global impact and the US is now looking to UK consumer law to help clean up its own ticketing market.”

Some event organisers have taken it upon themselves to prevent ticket reselling. Organisers for Ed Sheeran’s 2018 international tour made headlines when they cancelled and helped to refund more than 10,000 resold tickets from known touts. Only four tickets could be bought per person and all concertgoers were required to show ID which matched the names printed on the tickets on arrival at the venue. The Ed Sheeran tour was also one of the high-profile events featured on the Twickets site, which enables fan-to-fan direct resale of unwanted tickets at face value only.

Similarly strict policing of tickets has been adopted for the Glastonbury festival and for historical hip-hop musical Hamilton in London’s West End, both of which can expect to sell out in minutes, making them top targets for ticket touts. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and original star of Hamilton, began lobbying US lawmakers to take action against ticket touting after it emerged that 20,000 tickets for performances during his run in the lead role had been snapped by up bots for resale. Hours after tickets for the show’s West End opening were made available for early sale, tickets were available for resale at prices approaching £3,000.

Other artists taking preventative measures against touts in order to prevent fans being priced out of their shows include the Arctic Monkeys, Iron Maiden and Pixies.

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