Event tickets: Corporatism in action

I for one was glad to see a Conservative Majority Government on May 8, 2015.

It meant, after years of having to compromise to the whims of the anti-business Business Secretary Vince Cable, a majority Conservative Government presented a clean slate to push the values that I am proud Conservatives for Liberty represent – free markets and individual freedom. Unhappily, however, in certain areas the Conservatives still seem to be acting as if they have Liberal Democrats like Vince Cable ready to stab them in the back if they show themselves to be too pro-free market.

One thing the Government could do, though, to show it actually believes in the power of the market is to abolish sections of the Consumer Rights Act; specifically the anti-competitive measures into the secondary ticket market, which are an example of the law of unintended consequences, where often through the best of intentions, government intervention makes a situation much worse.

Like with many things, the most anti-competitive parts of the act were on the behest of the Lib Dems, who in turn were taking orders from powerful actors in the live events industry. The changes to the secondary ticket market mean that anybody selling tickets on an online platform is now required to provide more information on the ticket than before, including the exact seat number, the face value of the ticket and any other restrictions that may apply.

This will allow event organisers to cancel tickets they find being sold on any platform other than on their own officially approved channels. It is an example of the live events industry trying to put high barriers to entry to protect their own privileged position, which they think they could lose out on in a true free market, which would give consumers the choice they want. It is an example of corporatism where big business works through government intervention to stop the creative opportunities that the market would allow a plethora of ticket sellers to have, not just the big live events organisers.

At the moment, these officially approved channels normally charge both sellers and buyers a processing fee on top of the original cost of the ticket; a fee which goes straight into the pockets of event organisers and their carefully selected partners. So, even though terms and conditions on the ticket mean that fans are not allowed to make a profit, this definitely doesn’t preclude event organisers and their friends from doing so.

One of the worst aspects of this whole thing is the lack of outcry that the changes provoked. It is hard to imagine similar restrictions on selling your car or home being tolerated in this way. Luckily, the Consumer Rights Act contains a statutory requirement for a review of the entire secondary ticketing market to be held within the next 12 months. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport now needs to step up and ensure that we roll back this grotesque infringement on free markets, which is harming consumers at the expense of a few privileged organisations.

To take part in this process and show your support for a free market for tickets, you can sign up to Fan Freedom UK – a consumer rights organisation fighting for fan’s rights. This can be done through this link, where there is also the opportunity to write to your MP, outlining your concerns.