Nigel Adams MP: We must criminalise the use of ‘bots’ by touts

One of my top priorities as Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music is to campaign against ticket touting, which is a huge injustice to music, theatre, and sports fans.

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This problem was brought home to me when I tried to obtain Green Day concert tickets for my family a few months ago.  I logged on at the sale time, and was told that I’d been allocated the tickets – but by the time I entered my card details to complete the purchase, was told they were no longer available.  I contacted the ticketing company, who explained to me how the ticket release had been attacked by ‘bot’ software used by pernicious touts to snap up tickets faster than genuine fans can.  These tickets then appear on secondary ticketing websites at vastly inflated prices.  I was fortunate that the company was able to claw back many of these tickets, and solve the problem for me.  But while not everyone is an MP, able to get such a rapid response, every fan does deserve a fair shot at seeing their favourite artists live.

Therefore, I’m calling on the Government to accept a “Ban the Bots” amendment as part of the Digital Economy Bill to make the use of such software for touting illegal. The Bill is due to receive its second reading in the House of Lords on the 13th December.  The behaviour of these touts is essentially fraud, and while I know this is only one aspect of a complex problem, I want this cheating to finally carry serious consequences - a maximum prison sentence of 51 weeks, a heavy fine, or both.

In a rare move, the entire Culture, Media and Sport Select committee decided to table my amendment in all of our names – Conservative, Labour, and SNP members standing together to show truly cross-party support.   The proposal also has support from Sharon Hodgson MP, Chair of the APPG on Secondary Ticketing, and the FanFair Alliance, an industry and fan group campaigning on the issue.

Sometimes, the debate around secondary ticketing focuses on regulation, to the extent that some free-market Conservatives are put off becoming involved.  What I would say is that far from restricting the free market, we’re trying to defend its most fundamental principle: that of a willing buyer and a willing seller making an exchange.  While some fans (albeit through gritted teeth) might pony up hundreds or even thousands of pounds above-face-value to buy a coveted ticket from a tout, there’s no artist who is willing to sell their tickets to parasitical touts who rip off fans and add no value.  Many artists choose to price their tickets accessibly to their fan bases, rather than milking every possible penny, and want to perform to full venues, rather than partially-empty ones because touts priced fans out of seats.  That should be the artist’s right.  If, for example, Adele wanted to charge £20,000 for front row tickets, she would.  But she doesn’t, and touts shouldn’t be allowed to muscle in on pricing which is offered to good-faith music fans.

Ultimately this issue comes down to a question of fairness. It’s time for the government to act on industrial scale ticket touting to protect genuine music fans. Criminalising the use of ‘bots’ by touts to buy up large numbers of tickets won’t be the end of my campaign, but I think it’s a good place to start, and I’m glad we’ve got so much support behind it.


Nigel Adams is the Member of Parliament for Selby and Ainsty, and is a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

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