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MP hopes to ban ticket touting bots through Digital Economy Bill

By | Published on Thursday 20 October 2016

Nigel Adams MP

Nigel Adams, the Conservative MP who heads up the All Party Parliamentary Group For Music, has proposed an amendment to the in-the-works Digital Economy Bill that would criminalise the use of the kind of software currently employed by some touts to buy up large quantities of tickets from the primary sites to resell on the secondary market.

Somehow restricting use of the 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. Adams has cited anti-bot measures taken in New York as informing his decision to try and introduce an extra bit of secondary ticketing regulation through this new generic batch of digital economy legislation.

With his proposed amendment to be discussed in Parliament later this month, Adams raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday, urging ministers to consider his proposals. He told the PM: “A few weeks ago I thought that I had successfully bought four tickets online for one of my favourite bands, Green Day, only to be told that the tickets were unavailable and the gig was sold out, but within minutes I could buy the tickets on another site, for twice the price. It turns out that the ticket site had been the victim of a computerised attack by organised touts who then resell tickets at inflated prices”.

He continued: “Will the Prime Minister ask her ministers to give close consideration to my amendment to the Digital Economy Bill that would make the computerised harvesting of tickets for resale an offence? Similar legislation exists elsewhere, and it would go a long way towards protecting consumers and genuine music fans”.

The Minister most Prime, your good mate Tezza May, then responded: “I thank my honourable friend for raising that issue. I am sure that he is not the only member of the house who has had that experience, and he is certainly not the only person who has been affected, as members will know from their constituency mailbags”.

Noting the recent government review of secondary ticketing, May continued: “The Consumer Rights Act 2015 introduced a review of online ticket sales. Professor Mike Waterson’s independent report on online secondary ticketing makes a number of recommendations, including some whereby the industry itself could better protect itself from the problem. The government will look very carefully at those recommendations to see what can be done to address the issue”.

Which is all lovely. Though May’s honing in on the Waterson recommendations that involve the industry itself doing more, rather than government ramping up statutory regulations or doing more to enforce existing rules, might suggest that her government will ultimately carefully decide to remain hands-off in this domain, beyond angrily agreeing that “something must be done”. Adams should tell the PM that he wants to protect the touts’ human right to use bots, then she’d have it banned within the week.