back to article Proposed Brit law to ban b**tards brandishing bots to bulk-buy tickets

The British government is to ban ticket touts from using automated software to snap up more tickets than allowed by event organisers. The new criminal offence will be brought forward under a provision in the Digital Economy Act. Those who break the law will face an unlimited fine. The plans are part of draft legislation and …


  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some more research into how tickets are put for sale on secondary ticket websites within seconds of them going on sale on the primary ticketing site would also be useful. The fact that the secondary site is owned by the primary site is entirely coincidental of course.

    1. Gio Ciampa

      Legalised Touting

      TicketMaster and GetMeIn being one example (of many, I presume)

      First thing they could do is stop this "Pre Sale" nonsense, so tickets go on sale when they are supposed to, not several days earlier (if you happen to be in the know...)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There is advance sales and advance sales

        Putting a gig on sale a whole frigging year before the event is really taking the piss.

        Back in the day you would queue up outside the gig venue a month or so before the event. I saw the first performance of DSOTM on 20th Jan 1972. I bought the ticket on 1st Dec 1971. I have a ticket for a gig that is taking place next November... Then if the artist dies or cancels, they will no doubt charge me another handling fee to get a refund.

        Taking the Piss the lot of them.

        Don't even get me started on 'handling fees' that are on top of the ticket price.

        1. Chunky Munky

          Re: There is advance sales and advance sales

          Aussie PF perhaps? I booked my tickets to see them in Reading next November at the start of December - 11 months ahead ffs!

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Bands / shows want to maximise their profits.

      They could advertise tickets for the market price - but it would look bad if hero of the people Bono sold tickets for £2000. So they sell a tiny fraction of the tickets for £50 - and then run their own secondary market

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "They could advertise tickets for the market price - but it would look bad if hero of the people Bono sold tickets for £2000. So they sell a tiny fraction of the tickets for £50 - and then run their own secondary market"

        That doesn't really work though, in that the secondary market only takes a thing slice. Unless you're suggesting that Bono and the music industry are the ones snapping up the tickets (or never really selling them) and 'reselling' them at the £2K mark.

        Plus, advertising them at £2K isn't the same as actually selling them at £2K. And the problem isn't getting a ticket for gigs, it's getting a decent seat at gigs.

        1. Rimpel

          decent seat

          wait - who sits down at gigs??? :-)

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: decent seat

            wait - who sits down at gigs??? :-)

            Me. If I can - which isn't very often at most prog gigs. Which is why my attendance at said gigs has dropped considerably.

            Arthritis is a bummer.

    3. JLV Silver badge

      >The fact that the secondary site is owned by the primary site is entirely coincidental of course.


      Equally convenient is that more tickets than allowed by event organisers doesn't apply since it's the organizers who are ripping you off.

      Happily for me, I mostly attend smaller concerts in smaller venues, where the elaborate tricks to gouge the customers are less prominent. You can also buy off Craigslist, because people won't go through as much hassle to fake a $70 ticket as a $500 one. Though I still have nasty memories of the Pixies charging $150 minimum for their comeback gig 5 years ago, totally on their own initiative.

    4. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      And yet the fix to tickets being resold is very easy. Put a bloody name on the ticket when first sold and only allow the named individual into the venue.

      Except that would destroy the very secondary market that seems to have suspicious links to the primary market...

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Popularism, much?

    As well as being a rather dodgy proposal, I doubt an unlimited fine would do much to stop the NHS, railway, and Brexit headlines.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      I doubt an unlimited fine would do much to stop the NHS, railway, and Brexit headlines.

      Nor should they. In fact WTF are they wasting time on this at all right now?

      Was this piece of legislation not engineered by the Dark Lord Mandlescum himself?

      "Ticket Fees" as charged by TickeMaster* are basically "We supply the infrastructure" charges, which are basically whatever they can get away with.

      *Other organizations that will also charge extortionate excess fees on top of face prices are available.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Popularism, much?

      Yep, much as I'd like to see the end of scalping, there is more important things they should be getting on with.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They don't need to bulk buy tickets when Ticketmaster own getmein.

    Lets see, I have 10,000 tickets I can sell at normal price or I can sell 2,000 at an inflated price on my own website.

    It's a good job most artists these days aren't worth seeing or I would be outraged, outraged I tell you.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Small bands

      Are all I see these days - as I can afford the tickets.

      Big name / big venue tickets are hellishly expensive if you can actually get them from the primary site, and cost goes up to Croesus level on secondary sites.

      1. 9Rune5

        Re: Small bands

        Not all of them.

        Last summer I bought some "Lucky Dip" tickets for two Rolling Stones shows. "Lucky Dip" is basically a lottery. You will always get two tickets, but you might get the worst seats in the house or find yourself situated right next to the stage. I experienced both ends of the spectrum. At the second show my dad and I got pit access for a fraction of the normal price. Felt like winning the lottery (or so I imagine, having never won the "real thing").

        The "catch" is that you (and your companion) have to pick up the tickets in person on the concert day, you are then marked and can't transfer/sell the tickets to a third party. Thus it isn't practical to do this with everyone.

        In any case, I did not put in a lot of effort to get these tickets. Win-win afaict.

        1. Jan 0

          Re: Small bands

          Why bother? If you didn't see the Stones in the sixties, then you should be seeking their equivalents now. Why watch tired old men when you could be seeing top acts now? I saw the Stones, Who, Hawkwind, Third Ear etc in the sixties, but I've been going to the avalanche of newer, just as wonderful bands ever since, "Don't look back"!

      2. Sherminator
        Thumb Up

        Re: Small bands

        Well played tiggity.

        I believe that is the first time I've seen the use of Croesus.

        Well played indeed. :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Small bands

          I used to used it on the shed. Then I got a new-fangled plastic one that didn't need painting.

      3. BongoJoe

        Re: Small bands

        I know people who fly to overseas venues, stay in a hotel and it works out cheaper than watching the band in the local UK arena.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          "I know, stay in a hotel..cheaper than..the band in the local UK arena."

          Yes, they don't call the UK "Treasure Island" in some circles for nothing.

          The British really are a group who demonstrate the adage

          "They live, we sleep."

  4. wolfetone Silver badge

    Would be easier and cheaper to ban ticket touting full stop. But that would make too much sense.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      It would simplify things.

      Require venues to buy back unwanted tickets at 90% face value (perhaps up to 24 hrs in advance) and make it illegal to offer tickets for sale. Allow transfer of tickets to another person.

      Not being able to advertise or sell online would take out a lot of the market. Secret shoppers (PCSOs) wandering outside venues should round up most of the remainder.

      1. lglethal Silver badge

        Another suggestion - names of attendee has to be on the ticket (or at least the purchaser of a group of tickets). ID's checked at venue. If your ID doesnt match the name on your ticket or that person isnt in the group then no entry for you sir. Name changes are possible (e.g. purchaser gets ill), but require you to go through an approval process at least 24 hours in advance. Only one name change possible (so if someone has bought a whole bunch of tickets, they cant tout them to individuals only to a group). And no doubt there would be a fee involved in this.

        Probably wouldnt completely wipe out touting, but would go a long way towards it... And requiring a name and ID to be associated with each purchase would certainly make some of the touts think twice...

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          I just think you'd find an awful lot of John Smith's by that method.

          Better... "Your ticket is confirmed, Sir. You just need to swipe the credit card that you booked with to release your tickets at the box office."

          In fact, I'm pretty sure that an awful lot of London theatres that I've been to operate on that exact principle, just not for every single ticket. There's no reason you couldn't demand card-only booking in this day and age, though (hell, it's already almost "book online in the first ten minutes" if you want tickets to anything popular anyway). The Olympics basically did that and few complained even if it was only one particular type of card, too! Or even a "member's card" (with photo) that you have to sign up for and which is disabled if it's used for touting.

          There're all kinds of ways to stop touting or make it so difficult that you could crush the industry overnight. The fact that they're not used tell me that someone gets a backhander or that it works to the artist's (or their management's) advantage to allow touting even if they can't admit that because it's screwing over their own customers to get more money.

          If you compare touting to eBay bidding, that's what I think happens. 10% of the tickets aren't sold until the last minute when those people so desperate to go are willing to pay so much more just for the chance, so the total income rises dramatically just by holding onto 10% of the tickets until later on and selling them via "other" sites (often related, as mentioned above). You still only sell 10,000 tickets, but the last 1000 get you 10 times more money ("because they were sold out, but look what I got!").

          I can't believe it's not an industry set-up, rather then thousands of independent people all looking to make a quick buck and hang around outside venues carrying lots of cash.

          They don't want a "fair" system - of 10,000 tickets being available for the published ticket-price. They'd make less money, and it would also cost administratively to run. They'd then have to put up the face-price of the ticket to compensate, and fans would revolt.

          While it still says £30 (or whatever) on the ticket, the artists etc. aren't the bad guys. And while someone is still willing to pay £3000 for a "rare last minute" £30 ticket, even the touts are the good guys. Win-win and the only person screwed over is the guy who can only afford the £30 ticket but never gets one because he can't book in the first nanosecond. You can make more profit out of a touted ticket than 100 of those people, so who cares?

          That said, I haven't been to a live gig in my entire life. Nearest I get is classical music, West End shows, or a stand-up comedian. Biggest piss-take I've had? Russell Howard at Wembley Arena. Someone bought the tickets for me at great expense, we were so far away the guy was a tiny dot even on the big screens, and it was basically his normal TV stand-up, with almost no ad-libbing or interaction with the audience. Paying a fortune to stand in a sweaty pushing crowd for hours to listen to a bad ad-libbed and interrupted rendition of a handful of songs you've heard a thousand times, and a thousand songs nobody would ever choose to listen to? More fool you.

          1. myhandler

            Doesn't work for tickets as gifts or for parents buying tickets for their kids.

            Do you want your teenage progeny taking your credit card to a gig where they will no doubt lose it?

            Kids will also optimistically buy tickets but then find their friends can't go (or their parents won't let them) and have to sell them all. I speak from experience. (But easily sold via Gumtree not the bastard agents)

            1. Lee D Silver badge

              1) So kids will have to have a member card to let them pick up the tickets. Not hard. You could even link them so your kids can use any ticket in your name, if you really want to.

              2) Buying tickets that haven't been confirmed? Sorry, no sympathy at all. That's probably why there ARE so many resold tickets in the first place, and not enough for the people who want to actually go see. Speculative booking is at least partly the cause of shortages, and shortages the cause of speculative booking ("Quick, just order 2 while they have them, we'll see if Jeff can come later").

              Compared to the sheer volume of tickets that are touted for every possible concert, such concerns are a drop in the ocean. And those other reasons are why the tickets are so hard to come by / so expensive in the first place anyway.

      2. Muscleguy Silver badge

        IIRC New Zealand has already done this. Despite having a widely used home grown EBay equivalent perfect for selling on such stuff. EBay took too long to get around to NZ and a local outfit got off the ground and were too established by the time EBay took a look. The founders sold out to a local newspaper conglomerate for big bucks.

  5. tiggity Silver badge

    Handling charges

    See title, another dodgy expense in ticket purchases.

    Ultra expensive postal delivery charges (for those that still send out paper tickets) - charged about as much as recorded delivery for a bog standard delivery

    1. monty75

      Re: Handling charges

      I've had to pay delivery charges on digital tickets I downloaded and printed myself. It's beyond extracting the urine.

      1. kain preacher Silver badge


        These folks really can get blood from a stone. these folks can embarrassed

        a loan shark.

      2. Oddbodd

        Re: Handling charges

        Shoutout to Sunderland Empire who once wanted me to pay three quid for box office collection. That's three quid for them to do nothing.

    2. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Handling charges

      What about charging to print your own damn tickets ?

      Last time I printed my own ticket there was a $2 handling fee and a $5 ticket printing fee.

      1. Def Silver badge

        Re: Handling charges

        Last time I printed my own ticket there was a $2 handling fee and a $5 ticket printing fee.

        I'd get your lawyer to send them a nice invoice for the printing fee (and other associated costs, of course). See what they have to say about that.

        1. kain preacher Silver badge

          Re: Handling charges

          I have a feeling their blood sucking sharks would eat my lawyer as a snack

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Handling charges

        Sounds like even RyanAir could learn a thing or two about price gouging

        1. kain preacher Silver badge

          Re: Handling charges

          Bah not even RyanAir would stoop that low.

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Glastonbury have one answer

    You have to send in a recent photo which gets embossed onto the ticket, so not re-sellable and not easy to fake. That's only a part of the security measures - and yes, they do check them at the gate.

    For people who genuinely later find they can't go for some reason, it is possible to get a partial refund (I think it depends on how late you return them).

    No new laws needed, but it does require the vendors to be somewhere approaching honesty, or at least know what the word means.

    1. Boothy

      Re: Glastonbury have one answer

      You could do something similar with electronic tickets (I've not seen a paper/card ticket for any venues I've been to for quite a few years now).

      i.e. send your profile pic in on ordering, and it's bound against the ticket.

      When you are scanned in at the venue (often a mobile app these days), your profile pic pops up on the screen of the scanning device and they can see if it's you.

      Does mean the venues need up to date scanners though!

      Went to Sheffield arena a few months back, and their scanners were old school red laser handhelds (like in a shop check-out), that could only read tickets if they were printed out on paper (they can't scan a phone screen)! Kind of defeats one of the point in having electronic tickets :-/

    2. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: Glastonbury have one answer

      That's a great idea but how do I buy them as a gift for someone if I need their mugshot?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Glastonbury have one answer


        In this selfie obsessed world you can't con a friend to take a pic with you for some spurious reason?

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Glastonbury have one answer

          n this selfie obsessed world

          There are still pockets of sensible people that have never taken a selfie in their lives. My desk is currently occupied by one[1]..

          [1] Unless you count the profile picture that my Apple store account uses - one of the user-registration workflows on a previous version of OS X included the use of the built-in webcam to take a profile picture. Now since replaced by a proper picture (of a cat, naturally. Specifically, senior male ginger-and-white cat, sticking his tongue out..).

  7. DJO Silver badge

    Promoters culpable?

    It would be ridiculously easy to stop bots from buying tickets from a web site, a simple captcha would probably suffice. I wonder why they don't bother

    1. zappahey

      Re: Promoters culpable?

      "It would be ridiculously easy to stop bots from buying tickets from a web site, a simple captcha would probably suffice. I wonder why they don't bother"

      Not even remotely sufficient. There's a great freakonomics podcast on the topic of ticket touts.

    2. shade82000

      Re: Promoters culpable?

      Apparently, "back in the day" they didn't have too many captcha variations, so the bots were written to get to the verification page, then many operators on terminals would type in the responses and the bot would take over again. That's even if it got to the online stage - the touts had a relationship with some of the sales people and they would persuade them on the phone to reserve more tickets than they were allowed to. This was even well past the introduction of online sales - apparently they still had better results from phoning the sellers directly, or would even do the deals before they went on general sale.

      There was a really good 30+ page interview that I read a couple weeks ago but I can't find the link now, there are plenty of others to read if you are interested in the subject.

      Not that any of this means anything - according to that same article, some popular gigs only allocated 20% of their tickets to the usual outlets (just 5% in one particular case), the rest went through 'other' distribution channels which would not be affected by this legislation anyway.

      It was quite funny really, the interview had the writer of the original bot (now 'reformed'), a couple of event managers / promoters and a ticketmaster rep. They were all blaming each other for the process failure but the obvious thing was that the whole system is flawed and needs government intervention from ticket allocation, right through added fees, all the way to customer delivery. This legislation will only affect one small part of the problem and legislating just that bit will shift the problem to another bit unaffected by law. People will still be wondering why tickets are unavailable or expensive and it will take another 20 years to deal with that bit of the problem.

      1. shade82000

        Re: Promoters culpable?

        Nice one zappahey, That was the exact article I was referring to!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Promoters culpable?

        Something I never understood is why someone wants to get the government deeper involved in something like this, instead of letting the free market solve it. Every time you establish rules, someone is going to find the loopholes and exploit them - and the government is better at creating loopholes than they are rules.

        If I have a bushel of apples, I should be able to charge whatever I want for the apples. Price them too low and I loose money. Price them too high and I eat them myself. If someone else pays my asking price, and then finds people who are willing to pay even more, then he can sell them and make a profit. If not, he can eat them himself. In the end, the final price paid for the apple is its true market value.

        Tickets to an event shouldn't be any different.

        If the resale market is so large, it is ONLY because the "market value" of the tickets is higher than the price printed on them. If the Tickmaster sells through Getmein, it is because they don't want to loose out on the profit and want to keep something for themselves.

        Price controls on staple goods, such as milk or sugar, in times of shortage are fine. But an entertainment ticket isn't a staple good, it is a luxury, and if someone wants to pay 6000 pounds for a ticket and they have the means to do so then they should be allowed to do it.

        At the same time, a artist, venue, or promoter should be able to define their own parameters as well and if they say that only the original purchaser can have the seat, and the original purchaser knows that going in, then they should be able to keep the prices low that way. It works both ways.

        1. John 110

          Re: Promoters culpable?

          "...instead of letting the free market solve it..."

          Because the free market isn't solving it, perhaps?

          1. Ledswinger Silver badge

            Re: Promoters culpable?

            Because the free market isn't solving it, perhaps?

            Of course it is. Just not in the way that many people like. If there were no people willing and able to pay above the face price of tickets, there would be no market for touts. That's the tricky things about markets - an economic outcome isn't necessarily the sort of outcome everybody approves of, since it amounts to rationing on price.

            If the promoters were (in economic terms) competent, they'd set prices that cleared each category of tickets at the highest possible price. There would be no touts, but equally, the cheapest price for a top artist would be several hundred quid a ticket.

            An interesting thought experiment for those who think that tickets are too expensive due to touts: What prices would you set, and how would you ration tickets?

          2. nijam

            Re: Promoters culpable?

            > Because the free market isn't solving it, perhaps?

            Actually, yes it is, because the primary-owned secondary sites are doing exactly that. I suspect that it's just not the solution you personally wanted.


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