Insights Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee says ban digital “harvesting” software


Following a recent evidence session on ticketing abuse, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee has written to the Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, to raise its concerns about evident problems in the operation of the event ticketing market and is tabling an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill to ban the use of software which enables ticket touts to purchase excessive numbers of tickets.

The Committee held a one-off evidence session looking at the distortion of ticketing markets caused by the use of “bots” and software to “harvest” large numbers of tickets as soon as they go on general sale, restricting availability to fans and pushing up prices of any tickets available for re-sale.

The session also revealed evidence of much more far-ranging and disturbing factors in the market, including inappropriately close relationships between those selling tickets on the primary market and the re-sellers on the secondary market.

The Committee says that the failure of witnesses to give satisfactory answers to the Committee about where companies’ main profits are made, and their efforts to tackle large-scale ticket touts and fraudulent sellers, is likely to lead to the Committee returning to this in the new year and taking further evidence from other industry participants. It has raised its concerns with the Secretary of State, with a request that she begin to investigate these issues more closely, but also consider immediate measures to ban the technology, the bots and software, that block buy masses of tickets for resale at inflated prices before fans get a chance to buy them.

Damian Collins MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “The answers we got from witnesses representing the ticket sellers and resellers went from complacent to evasive, and their failure to provide the most basic assurances about what they’re doing to tackle known large scale touts and fraudsters operating on their own sites — we had an example on screen in front of a Member in the session — have led us to believe there may be much bigger problems in this market than we originally thought. We are writing to the Secretary of State to ask her to begin to look more closely at this issue but also as a first step that there seems to be a lot of consensus on amending the Digital Economy Bill to ban the technology that harvests tickets on a large scale before genuine fans ever get a look in.

“The Competition and Markets Authority is due to report on whether ticket companies are complying with consumer law, and given their performance at our evidence session we await this with interest. In the meantime, we heard strong evidence indicating there is a significant level of under-reporting of income by known touts trading on secondary sites and we believe this is another aspect of this that warrants investigation by HMRC”. To read the Committee’s press release in full, click here.