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Taking on the ticket touts - Ticket sales regulations 2018

Published on 24 September 2018

What are the new rules banning the automated purchasing of tickets in the UK for reselling at a higher price?

The background

The Breaching of Limits on Ticket Sales Regulations (the Regulations) came into force in July 2018.  The Regulations seek to criminalise the use of automated software ('bots') by ticket touts to bypass security measures and purchase larger volumes of tickets for UK recreational, sporting or cultural event tickets than permitted by the event organisers, and then to sell these on for inflated prices.  

The development

The Regulations apply where:

  1. tickets for a recreational, sporting or cultural event in the UK are offered for sale;
  2. a purchase is made wholly or partly by a process that the purchaser makes using an electronic communications network or electronic communications service (the meaning of which is set out in s.32 of the Communications Act 2003); and
  3. the offer is subject to conditions limiting the number of tickets a purchaser may buy.

    Where the above conditions are satisfied, the Regulations create a new criminal offence for a person:

  4. to use software that is designed to enable or facilitate completion of any part of a process within (a) to (c) above; and
  5. to do so with intent to obtain tickets in excess of the sales limit, with a view to any person obtaining financial gain.

The Regulations make it clear that for the purpose of this offence, it does not matter whether the offer in (c) above is made, or anything is done to obtain tickets, either inside or outside of the United Kingdom.  The Regulations also set down the applicable sanction for the new offence to be 'a fine' in England and Wales, and a fine not exceeding £50,000 in Scotland.

Why is this important?

The purchase of tickets using bots and the tickets then appearing almost immediately on re-selling websites for vastly inflated prices has been a prevalent issue for many years.  Whilst this is very frustrating for the consumer, there has been little regulatory or industry action on the issue until recently.

In 2018, many events (particularly in the music industry) have been refusing entry to audience members who have purchased tickets from re-selling websites.  Whilst these steps have angered many paying customers, it shows that event organisers and indeed the artists themselves have decided to take action against the use of bots and the re-selling of tickets.

Now, the Regulations have brought the legal framework in line with the prevailing industry attitude, providing a criminal offence for purchasers using software to facilitate the purchasing process with the intent of breaching sales limits and gaining financially.  Whilst it remains to be seen how effectively the Regulations will be implemented, and how easy it will be to prove the use of such software, the passing of the Regulations shows definitive steps towards increasing legal protection for both consumers and event organisers.

Any practical tips?

If you operate in the sphere of ticket selling or re-selling, you need to become familiar with the Regulations and be sure that you do not fall foul of the new offence they introduce.  Further, for re-selling platforms, the government may yet introduce further obligations to identify individuals who they believe may be breaching this new offence, and so this may place further practical obligations on website operators further down the line.

For event organisers, the new offence provides some further protection, but the event needs to include a ticket sales limit in order for the Regulations to bite; be sure to include such a limit in any terms and conditions of sale.