In a long-awaited move, both the judiciary and the legislature in the UK have recently ramped up the pressure on ticket touting for sporting and musical events.
Ticket touting or ‘scalping’, whereby “greedy individuals” (Justice Gore in All England Lawn Tennis Club v Miller ) resell tickets bought at market price for a substantial premium, has long been a source of extreme controversy and ire in society and one which has invariably escaped legal sanction. The classic touting model was the sight of an opportunistic punter outside a stadium vocally advertising his wears and extorting desperate fans hoping for last minute entry to the event. That model has evolved in the internet age with a plethora of secondary ticketing websites emerging. Technology advances have also led to the practice of software ‘bots’ being deployed by sophisticated touts to hoover up large amounts of tickets as soon as they go on sale online.
However, it appears that the tide is now turning. Spurred on by lobbying from both the sporting and musical industries, as well as ordinary consumers, the UK introduced the Consumer Rights Act in 2015 which introduced minimum requirements for secondary ticket websites to follow as regards the information they provide consumers, e.g. clear and accurate price information about a ticket, including its original price, and restrictions on surcharges which are often levied as an additional penalty on the consumer. The Act bolsters existing legislation in the form of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
The judiciary have also weighed in on the issue in recent months, with the High Court granting an interim injunction against touts preventing them from plying their ‘trade’ in the environs of the hallowed Cheltenham racecourse (Jockey Club Racecourses Ltd v Persons Unknown ), a decision which may prompt other stadia to follow suit. The application was grounded on the tort of trespass. Where the terms and conditions of a ticket, which is the license for a person’s presence at the sporting venue, prohibit the re-sale of tickets or touting then that person will become a trespasser on the land.
While ticket touts will undoubtedly scramble to find ways of evading the new legislation and defying injunctions, the strengthening of anti-tout legislation and robust nature of recent judicial decisions is to be welcomed and may signal a decisive shift against such practices going forward.