Last Thursday, the Senate Economics Reference Committee (SERC) conducted a hearing in relation to the Ticket Scalping in Australia inquiry in Sydney. The inquiry, launched with little fanfare in the lead up to Christmas last year, called for submissions that considered:
the prevalence of ticket scalping and its impact on ticket prices and sales;
the effectiveness of current state-based consumer protection legislation, and how these measures can be improved, including through a federal approach; and
issues of illegality, including the prevalence of counterfeit tickets.
During the hearing, the SERC heard from key employees of Ticketmaster, “a global leader in ticketing, including the resale ticketing market”. Ticketmaster suggested that “scalping, often wrongly confused with resale, is not a significant problem in Australia…”. However, the Senators of the SERC appeared to hold a different view. Senator Xenophon commented:
In Adelaide there was a lot of controversy about a One Direction concert – and until I was approached about it I thought One Direction was just traffic signage, but apparently it is a band. What do you say to the parents who have distressed teenagers who found that they could get a ticket and had to pay some exorbitant amount? Do you have sympathy for the dilemma that those kids and parents face?
Both the SERC and Ticketmaster discussed their concerns with the piecemeal, state by state approach that is currently in place in Australia when it comes to regulating the resale of tickets and the prosecution of scalpers.
The concerns have arisen due to the changes to the ticketing market that have occurred as a result of the rise of digital ticket sale platforms. While a state by state approach was appropriate in the days where individuals needed to physically queue outside venues or ticket outlets to purchase tickets, this approach is not particularly useful where anyone from anywhere in the world can sit down at their computer and purchase a ticket to an Australian sporting, music or theatrical event.
Ticketmaster noted that it would welcome regulation to outlaw the use of botnets (computer programs that are written to siphon tickets from the primary market) as “[i]t is not always clear that current laws against fraud et cetera fully cover that”.
The SERC is due to report its findings from the inquiry on 26 March 2014. While it is unclear at this stage what their ultimate proposals will be, it seems that the SERC may either propose to introduce legislation at a federal level to prohibit scalping or to encourage the industry to adopt a binding code that relates to ticketing and resale practices. We will report back once the report is handed down.