UK Government Formally Rejects CMA Proposal for Additional Secondary Ticketing Regulatory Action

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London, England. Photo Credit: Eva Dang

Back in August of 2021, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) called for “stronger laws to tackle illegal ticket resale” and published a comprehensive report on the secondary market. Now, the UK government has formally rejected the reform demands.

Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake, who serves as parliamentary under secretary of state within the Department of Business and Trade, just recently responded to the Competition and Markets Authority report “on behalf of the government.” For background, the CMA had recommended changes such as the establishment of “a new system of licensing for platforms that sell secondary tickets.”

“While it is clear that concerns about the sector remain, there are limits to what the CMA and other enforcers can do with their current powers,” CMA senior director for consumer protection George Lusty spelled out nearly two years ago. “With live music and sporting events starting back up we want the Government to take action to strengthen the current laws and introduce a licensing regime for secondary ticketing platforms.”

In explaining the decision to opt against pursuing the proposals, though, Hollinrake pointed to the unprecedented economic damage inflicted upon the entertainment sector by COVID-19 lockdown measures. “Events across the UK are only now beginning to proceed on a predictable basis and that has significantly impacted the volume of tickets coming to either the primary or secondary ticket markets,” he wrote on this front.

Similarly, Hollinrake expressed the belief that certain regulatory initiatives in the ticketing sphere – among them the CMA’s ordering Viagogo to offload StubHub operations outside North America and the 2020 prosecution of scalpers – had “only recently been taken.”

“How that affects the market including compliance with competition and consumer protection rules on the separate platforms would be a question for CMA monitoring, but its outcome remains to be seen,” the MP indicated of the regulatory steps involving Viagogo/StubHub.

Finally, in terms of the CMA’s requested “dedicated enforcer…funded by a levy on the secondary ticket market,” Hollinrake emphasized he’s “not convinced that the additional costs that would fall on ticket buyers (as regulatory costs would be passed on) are justified by the degree of harm set out in your report.”

“I feel it is too soon to conclude that the only way forward is further legislation focused on this market. … As you are aware, there are a number of improvements to other aspects of consumer law which we have now published in our response to the 2021 consultation,” the 59-year-old concluded. “These will be our priority in the immediate future, rather than changes to the secondary ticketing regime specifically.”

Last month, The Cure’s Robert Smith forced Ticketmaster to refund and cancel scalped tickets to his group’s tour, while this week brought with it a PROFECO-led class-action suit against the Live Nation-owned ticketing platform in Mexico.