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'Crown jewel' list to prevent on-selling

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The Government will create a list of "crown jewel" events whose tickets cannot be sold on once bought. If the ticketing industry will not sign up to the voluntary scheme the Government has threatened to legislate.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will ask event organisers, promoters, and ticket sales agencies to collaborate on a new system which it hopes will stop fans of sporting and cultural events paying high prices to touts.

But one of the biggest forums for after sales, eBay, has said the plan is impossible unless the Government is prepared to force organisers to offer refunds on unwanted tickets.

The Government wants to stop the practice of unscrupulous operators buying large numbers of tickets to in-demand events with the sole purpose of selling them at a huge profit.

"Fans are the lifeblood of our sporting and entertainment culture, and young fans keen to get to events are often the most exploited," said DCMS minister Andy Burnham. "Event owners and promoters need to work harder to ensure that real fans get tickets at a fair price. The whole industry now needs to take action to ensure that distribution is fair and effective."

"We have also seen a growth in the secondary market with tickets block-booked by people whose sole aim is to sell on at a profit," said Burnham.

The department wants industry to manage a list of events whose significance to the cultural or sporting life of the nation is such that the selling on of tickets at a profit should be banned altogether.

But eBay has said such a list will only work if fans are allowed to get money back on unwanted tickets through official channels.

"If the Government are not going to insist that event promoters guarantee refunds beyond cancellation rights, why should fans be prevented from reselling spare tickets just because they can no longer go, or their team is knocked out?" said eBay in a statement.

Though Burnham said the list will operate on a voluntary basis, the department did threaten to use the law to force the issue if industry did not create a viable voluntary scheme.

"The Government has consistently said that legislation is a last resort, and this remains the case," said a DCMS statement.

The department was responding to a Parliamentary Select Committee report into the issue.

eBay said a previous Parliamentary report had rejected the proposals, though.

The company's statement said: "We are also sceptical about whether these proposals are workable, and note that the idea of a list of protected events has already been rejected by an all-party committee of MPs on the basis that it would simply add to confusion for consumers.

"The trouble with bans or price caps is that they don't work and can be counter-productive.

"They end up either driving the trade on to other parts of the internet - or even worse, on to street corners where there is no consumer protection if things go wrong.

"The real issue here is that up to a third of tickets for major sporting events being allocated to VIPs and corporate bigwigs. If the Government wants to promote access to sporting events, it should regulate this rather than consumers selling tickets on eBay."

The Government said it opposed the secondary sale of tickets to events designed to be free.

The DCMS said it has secured agreement on this issue at least from eBay, and the auction site will not facilitate sales of tickets for events which are meant to be free.

"The Government agrees with the Select Committee's conclusions that the secondary sale of free tickets (such as those for charitable events and events which receive public subsidy such as the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend) should be prevented," said a DCMS statement. "The Government has already reached an agreement with leading operators including eBay that sales of tickets for such events will be prevented in the future."

The issue of secondary sales is a fraught one. Tickets for high demand events can reach hundreds of pounds and many fans feel they are being priced out of the market for seats at events.

In the music industry, album and single sales and revenue are falling around the world, while revenue from concert tickets is soaring because of both increased live activity and higher prices. Many people oppose controls on after-sales of tickets because they believe the music industry is using the issue to exert greater control over ticket sales to compensate for falling recordings revenue.

Bans on ticket after sales already exist for football matches to avoid fans from opposing teams sitting together, and for the Olympic Games.

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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