On 2 March, EIF organised a debate, hosted by MEP Hannes Heide, on Europe’s Digital Principles, to discuss how the Digital Services Act can set out clear, consistent rules for online marketplaces in order to protect Europe’s live events sector and consumers. The MEP was joined by the following guest speakers:
Gianpaolo Scacco, Policy Officer (Regulatory aspects for culture in digital policies), DG EAC European Commission
Raphaël Chauvelot-Rattier, Policy officer at the Consumer Law Unit, French ministry of Economy and Finances
Claire Turnham MBE, Founder, Victim of Viagogo
Magdalena Menheere, Group coordination ticketing, Bundestheater-Holding
Olivier Darbois, Director of Paris-based music promoter Corida; President of French live music industry association Prodiss
MEP Hannes Heide, a former cultural manager involved in the organization of music events, stressed how important the matter of secondary ticket markets and especially online ticket resale is. Considering the amount of money involved in these practices, it is also a question of taxing and tax avoidance, besides the obvious one of consumer protection. The cultural and creative sectors need to get as much support as possible as a consequence of event cancellations during the pandemic as the return of live events after the lockdown has led to a boom in the European secondary ticket market, and we have to take urgent steps to prevent illegal practices and to protect our artists and event organisers who are now in an especially vulnerable position, MEP Heide added.
According to Raphaël Chauvelot-Rattier, the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first semester of 2022 has made the rapid adoption of the Digital Services Act regulation a priority. EU law is not completely helpless in helping consumers who are victims of those practices, he added. The settlement of disputes with the trader can be looked for and reached with the help for European Centers for Consumers which exist in every member state. The complaints and investigations are led by national authorities and can lead to coordinated actions between those consumer protection authorities in the so-called CPC networks. Stricter rules for online platforms mixed with these enforcement efforts, should ensure that European consumers are protected from practices such as fraudulent ticket resales.
Claire Turnham, founder of Victim of Viagogo, started her speech by acknowledging all the people affected by ticket abuse over the last five years: “It is a real problem for real people”. Ms Turnham stressed the need for upfront and central fan care. Many users are misled via search engines, and this is something that can be fixed. Moreover, enforcement needs to be stepped up, as perpetrators are always trying to be one step ahead. Legislation hasn’t gone far enough and there is more action needed from the artists themselves to ensure that their own fans are protected: “Fans need to be put first. Consumer awareness and education should be a priority”, Ms Turnham added, before closing by reminding the audience that music, theatre and sports are there for people to enjoy and it’s sad that this has become a misery and a harm for so many people worldwide.
Magdalena Menheere shared with the audience the main challenges she sees in this field: 1) fraudulent ticket agencies com in all sizes, 2) the venue ends up having to deal with the trouble and the bad image and 3) tickets at reasonable prices are hard to sell to the righ people. With the COVID pandemic, tourism has decreased, and it was more difficult to sell tickets however, with the reopening, ticket resellers came back immediately and are now posing an even greater challenge than before. In conclusion, Ms Menheere stressed. That only with interlocking sales and pricing strategies, effective legislation, including enforcement and technology, can we stand up to secondary ticketing. “We need legislation that supports venues and organizers to protect customers and technology that works for people of all ages.
Olivier Darbois brought to the discussion the perspective of the promoters, stressing that it is very clear that, when an illicit platform resells a ticket for double or triple the price, the net profit goes into their pockets, without paying VAT, the artist, the venues or the promoters. It is an economical phenomenon, but there is commitment to not allow the illicit platforms to damage the businesses and the consumers. Mr Darbois offered an example from France where a piece of legislation prevents secondary market ticket resale without the promoters’ consent. “The situation is worsening every year and we need to make all bodies, cultural and administrative, understand that this will become a disaster if we don’t act now”, he concluded.