Parliament

Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill

Published date : 21 May, 2024
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, much as I wish we were not here, because we would not need to be here if the Government had done the decent, sensible thing and accepted the Lords amendment.

We have heard stories in interventions and substantive contributions, and in past debates, about the effect of an under-regulated secondary market that leaves fans paying over the odds for tickets, and places experiences beyond the financial reach of families. There is also a high risk involved that tickets purchased that way will not even grant entry to the events, and I had hoped that by this stage the Government might have read the room, understood that, and decided to respond in a meaningful manner. Let us be in no doubt: the Government amendment does little other than add the Competition and Markets Authority to the list of bodies that are able to enforce the already existing and inadequate rules on secondary ticket sales. As just about all Opposition Members can see, even if Government Members cannot, the existing rules are not working as well as they are intended to work.

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Perhaps the Minister will be able to deal with that question when he responds to the debate. Certainly the measure might bring a bit more resource, but it will also spread the resource for the CMA that little bit more thinly. The fact that the rules are not working as effectively as they need to has been evidenced in previous debates, when we have heard of obscure charging practices, of pressure to pay with countdown timers, and of the exorbitant end prices that often result.

The Government amendment is fine as far as it goes. It might bring a little more resource to the problem and a more strategic capability when tackling rule-breakers. I also gave two cheers when the Minister announced the promise of an inquiry at the tail end of the previous debate, but the Government are still not taking those practical measures that could be taken today with amendment 104B to clean up the marketplace for secondary ticketing.

Amendment 104B would involve measures such as a requirement to provide proof of purchase or evidence of title for the tickets for sale, which would forbid resellers from selling more tickets than they would legally have been able to purchase from the primary market. It would ensure that the face value and end price paid are clearly visible, along with the name and trading address of those doing the secondary vending. Crucially, it would also allow secondary legislation to be introduced, which could take account of and bring in anything from the inquiry that the Minister has announced, and it would compel the Secretary of State to have concluded that work within nine months. Contrary to what the Minister says, I believe that the measures in Lords amendment 104B are proportionate and add clearly to the existing Bill.

Lord amendment 104B is a bit like Lords amendment 104 which came before it. Indeed, it is almost the holy grail of amendments—it is popular, it does not cost anything, and more to the point it would be effective and do the right things in the right way for the right reasons. I do not think I am speaking out of turn when I say that hardly any Government in these isles, whether Labour in Wales, the SNP in Scotland or the Conservatives at UK level, are so overwhelmed with public support and good will at this time that they can afford to turn down good ideas when they are presented to them on a plate. It is therefore baffling that the Government would seek once again to steer these practical and effective measures off the road and into the ditch.

I will conclude my remarks by remarking on the “Dear Colleague” letter that was sent from the Minister yesterday, in which he expressed a clear desire to get the Bill on to the statue book without delay. Not a single Member of the House looking at the Bill in its totality would want it to be delayed, but we want it to go forward into legislation in as strong a form as it can be. That, for me, clearly means going forward in a way that can tackle the egregious abuses of people’s trust, and the reasonable expectations they have when they participate in the secondary ticketing market. Accepting the Lords amendment would allow everyone to do that, and I hope the Government will take heed of the genuine strength of view that exists on this matter, not just within this House or the other place, but outside and among the population at large, and that they will allow the Bill to progress as amended accordingly.

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