Protect fans from 'internet spivs'

Reselling Rugby World Cup 2015 tickets for a profit would be outlawed to protect fans from "internet spivs", according to proposals put before the Commons today.

There are 562 days to go until England hosts the tournament
There are 562 days to go until England hosts the tournament

A cap of 10% or 20% above the original price would also be introduced on tickets re-sold for other events, such as high-profile theatre shows or gigs, should the Bill become law.

Labour's Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) insisted new regulations are needed to tackle touts, who have evolved from "blokes in sheepskin jackets lurking outside stadiums" to a sophisticated group that harvests tickets.

They using multiple credit cards and computer programmes known as botnets to make thousands of attempts to get tickets each second to manipulate the market, Mr Smith said.

Tickets for the England v Wales rugby world cup group game - due to go on sale for between £75 and £315 - a re already being offered by secondary websites for between £920 and £1,725, MPs heard.

There are 562 days to go until England hosts the tournament, with some games also being held in Cardiff, Wales. Tickets are to go on sale throughout this year.

Introducing a 10-minute rule motion on the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events), rugby fan Mr Smith told MPs that secondary touting is "parasitic" and "leeches off fans desperate to see their heroes".

He said: " In an ideal world, the most committed fans will be rewarded with a chance to see a once-in-a-lifetime event - Wales becoming rugby world cup champions.

"But many fans will be forced to pay sky-high prices in a rigged secondary market.

"I used to believe ticket buying was a fair lottery where a quick phone call or a mouse-click would give someone the chance to see their heroes.

"Unfortunately all too often the true fans don't stand a chance.

"Touts have evolved from blokes in sheepskin jackets lurking outside stadiums shouting for spare tickets. They are now a sophisticated group harvesting thousands of tickets just seconds after they go on sale."

He went on: "I'm calling for two things from this Bill - the rugby world cup to be designated as an event of national significance. It should be illegal to resell tickets for profits.

"For other events there should be a cap on the amount for which a ticket can be resold.

"We're letting down the fans by not giving them a chance of a fair deal. We've got to call time-out and stop new internet spivs fleecing honest fans."

Conservative MP Philip Davies (Shipley) objected to the Bill, citing a parliamentary report which suggested the secondary ticketing market was "perfectly legitimate".

He added the Office of Fair Trading had stated it worked in the consumer's interest.

Mr Davies also compared the demand for popular concerts to the Christmas scramble for Buzz Lightyear toys, of Toy Story fame, or a designer handbag.

The Tory told Mr Smith: "One of the misapprehensions is that ticket touts and people in the secondary market are guaranteed to make a substantial profit - and that just simply isn't the case.

"Fifty per cent of tickets sold on Viagogo, for example, are sold at face value or below and people can actually make a loss.

"As far as I'm concerned this is a matter of clear principle though. If somebody buys a ticket, as far as I am concerned that ticket belongs to them and they should be able to do what they please with it just as they should with any other commodity that they buy.

"For argument's sake, there are times on the high street when designer handbags come out in limited edition - 30 or 40 available - it's first come, first served, people rush into the shops and the moment they manage to snatch one they are immediately sold on eBay for a massive profit.

"I don't see what the difference is between that and those people who want to sell a ticket on at an inflated price if they think demand outstrips supply.

"It also happened with toys. I remember one Christmas, Buzz Lightyear was a particularly popular toy and the same thing happened there where people bought a limited edition of the stock went out straight onto eBay and sold it at a huge profit.

"I don't see why tickets should be treated any differently, or perhaps you want to put a restriction on people re-selling every commodity above the price they made for it."

Mr Smith was allowed to bring in his Bill without a vote, with only Mr Davies saying "no" when it was put to MPs.

It will be given a second reading on Friday, June 6.