The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) is a thorough overhaul of UK consumer protection law. While the majority of the CRA is expected to come into force on 1 October 2015, provisions dealing with secondary ticketing rules became effective on 27 May of this year.
When do the rules apply?
The rules (set out in Part 3, Chapter 5 of the CRA) are relevant to re-sellers of tickets and operators of secondary ticketing facilities (which may be a website, app or other online tool) and event organisers.
The provisions apply variously where a person re-sells (or in some cases offers to re-sell) a ticket for a recreational, sporting or cultural event in the UK through a secondary ticketing facility.
What are the new provisions?
- Where a ticket is re-sold through a secondary ticketing facility, the seller and each operator of the facility must provide the buyer with certain information prior to the re-sale including the precise location of the seat or standing area, the face value of the ticket and any restrictions on use of the ticket;
- where the seller is a secondary ticketing operator (or person or company connected with or acting on behalf of one) or the event organiser, this must be made clear to the buyer with an explanation of why the seller falls into this category;
- where a ticket is re-sold or offered for re-sale, the event organiser cannot cancel the ticket or blacklist the seller merely because the seller has re-sold or offered to re-sell the ticket unless the original terms of sale allow it to do so and provided those terms do not fall foul of applicable unfair contract terms rules;
- secondary ticketing operators are required to report any knowledge of an offence related to the re-selling of tickets through their facility to the police and to the event organiser (provided that doing so will not prejudice any criminal investigation);
- the Secretary of State must review consumer protection measures applying to secondary ticketing and publish a report within a year of the new provisions coming into force; and
- each person who contravenes the secondary ticketing provisions may be fined up to £5,000 per breach. It is up to the enforcer to decide what constitutes a breach and the size of any fine on a case by case basis. Fines may not be imposed if the enforcer is satisfied the breach was caused by circumstances beyond a person's control, for example where they took reasonable steps to ensure compliance but had been misled by a third party.
What does this mean for you?
The new provisions help clarify the previously murky waters of secondary ticketing and will hopefully create a greater distinction between the bona fide reselling platforms and the 'rogue traders'. Event organisers will still have discretion to blacklist or cancel in relation to tickets which have been illegally resold, provided their terms and conditions allow it and are fair. For punters, increased transparency requirements can only be beneficial, both in terms of helping them determine whether they are getting the real deal and in making sure they know what they are paying for. It is to be hoped that the new terms will also help prevent people being able to charge vast amounts over face value for resold tickets, particularly if event organisers cover this in their terms of sale. There's no guarantee though that people won't still be able to spend £500 on a £65 face value Ed Sheeran ticket if they really want to.
Guidance has been issued on the Business Companion site which explains trading standards law on the sale and resale of tickets and the various laws which may apply (not just the CRA). BIS has also issued guidance on secondary ticketing under the CRA.