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Government pledges meeting to discuss tackling ticket tout bots

By | Published on Thursday 3 November 2016

Ticket touts

Nigel Adams MP has withdrawn his proposed ticket touting amendment to the in-progress Digital Economy Bill after the government’s Minister For Digital And Culture, Matt Hancock, committed to instigate a meeting between “all interested parties” to discuss the issue at hand – the use of ticket-buying bots by touts – this side of Christmas. Hancock added that the government will then respond to the Waterson Review of the entire secondary ticketing market after that meeting has taken place.

As previously reported, Adams, the Conservative MP who heads up the All Party Parliamentary Group For Music, proposed his amendment to the Digital Economy Bill last month. It would have criminalised the use of the kind of software industrial-level touts use to buy up large numbers of tickets from primary sellers as they go on sale.

Somehow restricting the use of these so called ‘bots’ is the one bit of regulation that even some of the secondary ticketing sites – which generally advocate minimal regulation of the resale market – have in the past said they’d support. And indeed StubHub confirmed that support after Adams announced his proposal.

The proposed amendment was discussed by the Public Bill Committee in the House Of Commons earlier this week. Adams again recalled his trouble getting hold of Green Day tickets from the band’s primary seller, which quickly sold out as tickets at hiked up prices appeared on the secondary market.

The MPs on the committee were quick to sympathise with Adams while admitting that they too had heard of Green Day. Hancock, meanwhile, said he’d like to name-check Paul Simon, doing so by concocting some story about how he too had been a victim of the bloody piss-taking touts when trying to see Not Garfunkel sing some of his songs.

However, Hancock then noted that, in the aforementioned Waterson review, it said that the use of ticket touting bots may already be illegal under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, and that while those rules are clearly not being enforced, solving the bot problem may not actually require new law. To that end, he added, his boss – Culture Secretary Karen Bradley – wanted to review how the Computer Misuse Act 1990 might apply and could be better implemented. So the promised big meet up will discuss just that.

Plus, Hancock added: “A series of non-legislative work is also needed to tackle the problem. Today, we are announcing the new national cyber-security policy and that includes support, through the National Cyber Security Centre, for further action. The centre is in touch with ticketing organisations to enable this and I suggest that we also invite them to attend the meeting to see what progress can be made”. What a fun meeting it’ll be. If only Green Day and Paul Simon could be persuaded to attend.

The FanFair Alliance, which is lobbying hard on secondary ticketing of course, welcomed Hancock’s commitments. Its Campaign Manager, Adam Webb, said: “We fully support Nigel Adams MP in pursuing this issue. The abuse of software by touts to hack into ticketing sales and scalp inventory is a major bugbear for genuine fans and it is an issue where we need clarity in the law. However, as was also made clear by MPs at the committee and also by the minister, action against bots is not a silver bullet. To make the ticketing market function better for audiences, we also need proper enforcement of existing consumer law and regulation of the big four resale platforms”.

Elsewhere, it was the StubHub sponsored Q Awards last night. StubHub’s involvement in Q magazine’s annual back-slapping bash has proven rather controversial of course, it unfortunately coinciding with the newly organised anti-touting campaign within the artist community.

According to Music Week, some of the anti-touting artists amongst the winners at the event last night used the opportunity to diss secondary ticketing, if not actually targeting StubHub by name. Bastille’s Dan Smith was most forthright, declaring that: “Exploitative secondary ticketing is fucking bollocks – it’s shit for fans and it’s pretty shit for the bands as well”. Which would be a pretty good slogan for StubHub to adopt.

Jack Garratt, Bastille, PJ Harvey, The 1975, U2, James Bay, MIA, Meat Loaf, Ray Davies, Madness, The Charlatans, Blondie and Muse all took home Q gongs – the latter apparently the best act in the world today, which possibly damages the credibility of the whole event more than the sponsor. Though, in honour of Q’s big sponsorship deal, I expect every winner to now sell their gongs to the highest bidder on an auction website of their choice. Maybe StubHub owner eBay could even waive its fees.

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