By Myles Longfield (@myleslongfield)
This year, the UK will play host to some of the biggest sporting events in the world. Athletes will come from all over the globe to play at tournaments like Wimbledon, the Ashes and the Rugby World Cup.
Those living in London will get to see most of this action, given the capital’s world-class stadia and infrastructure. It’s a win-win situation for everyone as Londoners get to see top-level sport that those living in most other towns and cities can only dream of, while the local economy gets a significant boost from high consumer spend and inbound tourism.
Some commentators are suggesting that this could all be put at risk, however, following changes introduced by the Consumer Rights Act, which make it far harder for fans to resell tickets to live events. Under the Act, anybody selling a ticket on an online platform now has to provide more information about a ticket that they wish to sell than they had to previously. This includes the exact seat number, the face value of the ticket and any restrictions that apply.
If fans do not go through this process they will be breaking the law. In a further twist, however, if fans do follow the law, event organisers will have all the information they need to cancel the ticket if it breaches terms and conditions which forbid them from doing so – as many frequently do. This leaves fans in a catch-22 situation, where either option risks severely curtailing their consumer rights.
The government, for its part, has argued that event organisers will not be able to cancel tickets they find being sold on, as terms and conditions providing this would be deemed ‘unfair’ by the courts. The problem with this, however, is that the Consumer Rights Act also amends the law around ‘unfair terms’, meaning that nobody knows what the law currently means in practice.
This uncertainty does not bode well for anyone who has bought a ticket for a live event which they find that they can no longer use. They will either have to pay the organisers a processing fee to return it, or give it away for free.
Recent polling undertaken by Opinium for Fan Freedom UK, a consumer rights group, has shown that just under two thirds of fans believe they should be able to sell tickets that they can no longer use. It seems they will be in for a shock if they ever find themselves in a position where they wish to do so.
A spokesperson for Fan Freedom UK said: “London is, quite rightly, one of the cultural capitals of the world. This is down in no small part to the thriving live events industry. It therefore makes no sense for the government to compromise this through unwelcome amendments to the Consumer Rights Act.”
The group believes it can get the ticketing amendments in the Consumer Rights Act repealed, however, saying that: “The Consumer Rights Act contains a statutory requirement for a review of the secondary ticketing market to take place by the end of May 2016. We will be using the review as an opportunity to encourage them to clarify where fans stand on this issue as soon as possible.”
For the time being the law will stay as it is, which means that any fan attending a sporting event this summer will have to be very careful about what they do with their tickets.