Stop Ticket Scalping in Australia

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N.S.W. Fair Trading Amendment (Ticket Reselling) Bill 2013

On 14 November Fair Trading Minister, Anthony Roberts, introduced a new Bill into the New South Wales Parliament mandating for anti-ticket scalping legislation.

The proposed Bill can be downloaded to your computer and read in PDF (portable data format) using the free Adobe Reader software.  If you don’t already have Adobe Reader on your computer, please download it from  HERE.

Please download the Bill from the Parliament of New South Wales website   HERE.

Mr Roberts said about the Bill –

“This bill will bring openness and transparency to the secondary ticketing market, help to protect consumers from price gouging and fraud, and empower event organisers to enforce their ticket terms and conditions.”

The Bill states that any advertisement for the sale of tickets held in NSW, other than an advertisement published by event organisers, must specify a ticket number, row and seat number, readily found terms and conditions, a notice specifying the circumstances where the resale of the ticket may result in its cancellation and contain a photograph of the ticket that does not show any barcode. These requirements will also apply to e-tickets.

The Music Network has an   interesting article   about the Bill.  Please take note also of the consumer watch-dog CHOICE’s comments.  STSA wishes to respond to the comments in the MN article, and to Choice’s concerns.

First, in this post, we’ll start with the CEO from Viagogo’s statement, as follows.

“When you make things more difficult, people choose the easiest route. In this case, that’s a return to selling tickets on the black market in pubs, car parks and outside venues. That would be a step backward, not a step forward,” said viagogo spokesperson Alex Levenson.”

Really?  Isn’t the easiest route not to scalp the tickets in the first place.  Of course if someone cannot genuinely go to an event they can try to re-sell them for the price that they initially paid for them.  What planet is Alex Levenson living on?  Scalping tickets in person and / or online to major events at most major capital cities of Australia is already out-lawed, so we don’t imagine there will be droves of people scalping tickets right outside the venues or skulking around dark car-parks surreptitiously waving around tickets, running the risk of being apprehended for breaking the laws, for example, not to resell tickets for more than 110% of the original prices, to events at major sports facilities in Queensland.

Those who buy tickets at pubs run the risk of the ticket being counterfeit or already having been sold and deserve the ticket being cancelled and being out of pocket if they pay twice as much as the original price, denying someone else the opportunity of trying to get a ticket from an authorised primary seller at the initial price.

What is so difficult about advertising or listing at ticket at face value, whoever you are, whether you are an event organiser scalping your own artist’s tickets, or you are an average “punter” or citizen, Mr Levenson?

If this blatant attempt at profiteering did not occur, then there would be no need for skulking around dark alleys offering tickets for exorbitant profits, would there?

There are those who see tickets as purely a commodity to sell to the highest bidder, and those who think that tickets are rights to a once-off intangible event and should be made available at their original prices, reasonable enough for the average event goer’s income, to those who are lucky enough to buy the tickets that event organisers make available to the general public.

It is actually organisations like Viagogo GE that are contributing significantly to ticket scalping, because there is nothing much to stop someone living in Australia from selling or buying a ticket to a sold-out show at an exorbitant price using Viagogo.

Viagogo is unregulated in terms of there is currently no legislative provision for them to make it compulsory for ticket sellers to have photographs showing the ticket price.

Click   HERE  to download a Word document with screen shots showing a listing of tickets to the Ashes 2013 in Melbourne, Victoria, with the second image showing the text “Ticket prices are set by the seller and may be above or below face value”, which is the only warning / advice they give to potential buyers that tickets may be above face value.  This “warning” is similar to what Ticket Master Plus and TicketsNow use.   Click  HERE   to download a Word document listing prices of tickets to the Ashes cricket event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2013.

Viagogo ran from the United Kingdom when they were about to be prosecuted for facilitating ticket scalping of tickets to the Olympics, online, and so the administrators of Viagogo fled to Sweden.  This organisation has even allowed tickets to be sold  at inflated prices before their release to the general public.  They go through the “loop-holes” by legitimately securing tickets before their public release, e.g. by being a Member of a group that was offered tickets prior to their general release, and then ALLOWING and FACILITATING them to be offered for re-sale at prices way above their face value.

Viagogo, eBay, Gumtree online, and many other internet markets generally turn a “blind eye” toward ticket scalping, as do many members of the public, because they are in the first “camp” above or they really don’t care about that one person whom missed out on a Ticket at the original authorised price.

Section 59 of the proposed Act is duplicated in full below.

59  Unauthorised advertisement for resale of tickets

 (1) An advertisement that offers a ticket for sale is, for the purposes of this

Division, an unauthorised advertisement unless the advertisement complies

with the requirements of this section.

(2) An advertisement must specify the ticket number, row number and seat

number of the ticket if the ticket has such numbers.

(3) An advertisement must specify the terms and conditions of the ticket or

specify where those terms and conditions can be readily found.

(4) An advertisement must include a notice specifying the circumstances in which

resale of the ticket may result in the ticket being cancelled or rendered invalid.

(5) An advertisement must contain a photograph of the ticket that clearly shows

any ticket number, row number and seat number. However, the photograph

must not show any barcode on the ticket.

(6) This section does not apply to:

(a) an advertisement published by or on behalf of the organiser of the event

to which the ticket relates or any agent of the organiser, or

 (b) an advertisement of a class prescribed by the regulations

*******

STSA notes that the law does not cover event organisers.

STSA advocates that the new law should stop unscrupulous Event Organisers / Promoters from selling Tickets way above their sale prices, and thus they should be covered by the clauses.   Sports organisations and event promoters should not be given carte blanche power to set their own terms and conditions on ticket sales to different events, because this will allow them to legally sell tickets for far more than their face values.

STSA recognises that bundling up tickets with packages makes them inaccessible to ordinary people whom cannot pay exorbitant amounts of money for packages, and recognises that the ticket allocation system of many types of tickets is un-fair and weighed toward the favour of a select group of people.

We will be writing to the Minister to express a major concern thus with Section 59(6) and 60(5) of the proposed Act.  Why should Event Organisers be legally given the enhanced chance to scalp their own tickets?  See below for information about 60(5).  Constructive comments made to this post may be considered in our response.

To effect this change, concerned people need to lobby Minister Roberts and also to write to (or lobby) the Event Organisers and Promoters and let them know we are calling for legislation to address this issue.   Let them know that we also call for them to make ticket allocation, e.g. to sporting events, more equitable.

As part of their research, STSA has uncovered some documents relevant to the legislation proposed by the Minister Anthony Roberts.  Have a read of   THIS    PDF document here which answers a question put to the Minister at the 12 August NSW General Purpose Standing Committee Meeting No. 5.  The Meeting looked at proposed expenditure for the Minister’s portfolio area.

The Minister mentions STSA on page 2.

He gives salient information on the issue, including the following.

It is not focussed on removing the option of those unable to attend events to sell tickets, and would welcome industry initiatives to develop such a secondary market controlled by ticket operators

Dr John Kaye asks –

“What will you do to protect ticketholders to whom I referred earlier, those consumers who purchased tickets and for whatever reason do not want to use them and want to resell them. What protections will you build into your legislation for those consumers?”

The Chair responds that they have run out of time so that question will have to be answered later.

STSA advocates for the    Major Events Act 2009   to be amended to make it illegal to re-sell tickets or buy tickets within or outside NSW to major events in NSW at more than 110% of the original ticket prices, on a par with the Queensland legislation.

The current “Major Events Act 2009” of NSW is very outdated as it stipulates only that tickets cannot be sold AT major events, without the authority of the authorised (primary) ticket seller.   STSA is of the opinion that NSW “Major Events Act” needs to be similar to the   Queensland law.

As STSA has posted about on this blog already, industry can set up ethical secondary ticket sale sites modelled upon   Ticket Trust   in the U.K.

Some smaller event organisers in Australia are fed up with ticket scalping and have taken it into their own hands to set up such online sale sites, such as the   Melbourne Palais Theatre.

Their resale site requires a person to register, and makes it possible for registered people who cannot attend a Show, to offer a genuine ticket to a sold-out show for re-sale. A particular ticket cannot be sold twice concurrently which offers some protection against counterfeit tickets being sold.  Buyers can go onto the site and may be able to purchase a genuine ticket to a Palais Theatre Event at the Palais Theatre Resale site.

STSA also is concerned about Section 60(5) relevant to “forums” which states the following –

“This section does not apply to an advertisement offering a ticket for sale if the advertisement is in a forum that has been authorised for the purposes of such sale by the organiser of the event.”

Unfortunately, the Queensland anti-ticket scalping law has a provision which means that  Event Organisers and Promoters can authorise tickets to be bundled with other items and thus sold at inflated prices.  While the Queensland law prohibits non authorised bodies from bundling tickets in order to inflate the selling prices of the tickets, it does not prohibit “authorised bodies”  i.e.  event organisers / promoters and authorised primary ticket sellers, from doing so.

There is a wide public perception that some Event Organisers do not release a sufficient number of tickets to the general public and that they give a large share of tickets to corporate bodies whom then package tickets with other items, and make them a profit that way.

STSA asks that Section 60(5) be removed.  Why on earth should Event Organisers not have to advertise a ticket’s terms & conditions (or give a link to where such can be obtained) and show evidence of a ticket’s seat number and original ticket price?

Have they or the NSW Minister for Fair Trading got something to hide by asking for this clause to be included?  NSW can lead the way by NOT pandering to the big corporate bodies and removing Section 60(5).

If the “industry” really is genuine in wanting to make ticket purchasing equitable, why try to hide the original costs of tickets?  By not being covered by the Bill, it shines a spot-light upon the power and likelihood of the Event Organisers making big profits.

Tickets can be bundled with other items by Event Organisers but not at exorbitant prices.  If they are being bundled by authority of the Event Organisers with other items to make up a package, and the cost of the package is way above face value of the individual items, with the Event Organisers relying upon the appeal of the included tickets, then these Event Organisers can only be called hypocrites, telling the general public not to on-sell tickets above face value when they do it themselves!  It is not equitable when those who are rich can buy tickets to an event of which the artists would like fair access to, based upon modest ticket prices.

To those who say not everyone who wants to go, can always go, because of the limited number of tickets, that does not mean that the public favours ticket prices to be   raised to start at hundreds of dollars each,   so that the number of purchasers of the tickets is falsely made more finite due to the fact that there are a finite number of rich people with hundreds or thousands of dollars free to spend on a ticket or tickets.  Life is a lottery and would be buyers of tickets realise that there are limited numbers of tickets to the most popular shows, and that they take their chance along with others of getting a ticket at their original release and ticket prices.

In the opinion of STSA and many members of the public, transparent advertisements of tickets should foremost apply to Event Organisers.

Section 60 of the proposed law is duplicated in full below.

60 Public forum not to contain unauthorised advertisement

(1) In this section:

advertisement means any advertisement whether paid or not.

forum means any forum having advertisements to which members of the

public have access (whether or not a member of the public is first required to

pay a fee or subscription, register or become a member) such as a website, a

newspaper, magazine or other publication or a public notice board.

person conducting a business or undertaking has the same meaning as in the

Work Health and Safety Act 2011 but also includes any person of a class

prescribed by the regulations.

(2) A person conducting the business or undertaking of a forum must take

reasonable steps to ensure that no advertisement in the forum is an

unauthorised advertisement.

Maximum penalty: 200 penalty units.

(3) A person conducting the business or undertaking of a forum must, within a

reasonable time after being notified in writing by any person of an

unauthorised advertisement in the forum, ensure that if it is reasonably

practicable to do so:

(a) the advertisement is removed from the forum, or

(b) the advertisement is changed so that it is not an unauthorised

advertisement.

Maximum penalty: 50 penalty units.

(4) The regulations may prescribe circumstances in which a person conducting the

business or undertaking of a forum is taken to have been notified in writing

that there is an unauthorised advertisement in the forum.

(5) This section does not apply to an advertisement offering a ticket for sale if the

advertisement is in a forum that has been authorised for the purposes of such

sale by the organiser of the event.

(6) A reference in this section to a person conducting a business or undertaking

includes a reference to the owner of the business or undertaking.

STSA supports the provisions in the Bill that call for “public forums” to provide information about a tickets terms & conditions (or a source of such) and a photograph showing the ticket with the seat row and number (if any) and especially the TICKET PRICE.  The barcode can be easily taped over to obscure it when photographing or scanning it.

The Football Federation of Australia ( FFA ) has written to STSA to say its     “hands are tied”   regarding cancelling tickets which are attempted to be scalped on eBay and Viagogo because the sellers do not provide the exact seat numbers.

However, STSA states that it needs to be clarified if Section 60(2) refers to an individual placing an advertisement in a “public forum”.   60(6) refers to an owner of a forum, but what are the legal implications of this?  Is the person whom created the “forum” the owner, or is the corporate body whom provides the platform for the forum, the owner?

Take the example of eBay.  Who removes an illegal advertisement?  Is it the person whom made the listing or the eBay company, or perhaps there is intended a tiered effect, with the eBay company being responsible if the person whom has done the listing is notified but does not himself or herself remove it?

These questions and concerns with the Bill as it currently stands will be put forward ASAP to Minister Anthony Roberts, using the contact information at   THIS   page.

Read about the Amendment of the Bill   HERE

UPDATE 21 April 2014:  

STSA finally received an answer to its concerns and questions.  Please click on the Link below.

https://stopticketscalpingaustralia.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/letter-to-the-n-s-w-minister-for-fair-trading/

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