MPs urge government to take swift action to stop ticket touts using ‘bots’

An influential group of MPs has urged the government to take immediate action to stop touts using specialist software to buy large numbers of tickets to resell for a profit.

The call from the cross-party culture, media and sport committee follows an evidence session last week when it heard about the activities of touts who offer tickets to events on resale websites.

That prompted the MPs to call for an inquiry into the tax affairs of secondary ticket selling companies, saying they had heard worrying evidence about the close relationship between touts and ticket resale websites.

The chair of committee, the Conservative MP Damian Collins, has written to the culture secretary, Karen Bradley, to call for an immediate end to the use of so-called bots to “harvest” tickets as soon as they are placed on open sale.

MP Damian Collins

MP Damian Collins, whose committee is to table an amendment to the digital economy bill Photograph: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

The MPs are to table an amendment to the digital economy bill, currently making its way through parliament, which would make it illegal to use software to buy up large numbers of tickets.

The use of bots “appears to be a significant problem”, Collins wrote in the letter, while urging Bradley to more closely examine the ticket reselling industry.

He said the evidence session had “shed a light on much more far-ranging and disturbing factors in the ticketing markets, including clear indications of too close relationships between those selling tickets on the primary market and sellers on the secondary market”.

While secondary ticket sales websites such as StubHub and Viagogo operate legally, organisations representing fans have warned that they are a conduit for touts to resell significant numbers of tickets at a profit, making it harder for individuals to acquire them at cost price.

Collinssaid the answers given to the committee last week from ticket sellers and resellers “went from complacent to evasive” and gave no confidence that they were seeking to tackle large-scale touting.

He said: “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 evidence session heard strong evidence indicating there was a significant level of under-reporting of income by known touts trading on secondary sites, Collins said, adding that this should be investigated by tax authorities.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said the government had commissioned a report into consumer protection over secondary ticketing and planned to respond to this. “We understand fan frustration on ticketing bots and the culture secretary is to hold meetings with stakeholders to discuss their impact on the secondary market and consider this issue further,” she said.