Friday, February 20, 2009

Government plans for rout for touts

Ticket touting - which, apparently, is a bit of capitalist, free-market economy we're not meant to applaud - is coming under government pressure again, as a consultation is launched by the Department For Culture, Media and Sport to try and remove any chance you might ever have of unloading that ticket you bought to take your now-ex girlfriend to go and see the Wedding Present.

It's not just a consultation process, though - there's this, too:

new advice from Consumer Direct with tips on how to safely shop for tickets online.

The DCMS links to the front of ConsumerDirect, which offers no obvious link to this advice (perhaps they feel the advice is so obvious they don't need to point to it.

They do have this on the front of Consumer Direct, though:

It's not entirely clear why "women in push-up bras" are considered the obvious illustration for a story about holiday brochures - presumably someone thought they were bikinis. But even then, you do wonder if they couldn't have found an image that wasn't reliant on underwiring. Still, that's the agency who will be offering advice to keep you safe buying tickets online.

The full consultation is available as a PDF and a rich text format document; we've just published a version through Google Docs to make it easier to read in a browser.

So, what's in it?

Firstly, the DCMS has rejected the calls from promoters that they should get a slice of any money made when a ticket is sold on:
The Government does not generally accept such a moral case, which it feels is outweighed by consumer benefit.

I guess you're not going to get the government actually saying "the greedy, greedy bastards" in an official document. Not unless it's Mandelson's department.

The document suggests that what it's really concerned with is access for the consumer, and does suggest that the DCMS doesn't want to see the system of ticket distribution become too complicated. It's fairly cool on the idea of mobile phones being used as tickets, for example, noting success but - presumably - worrying that you have to have a mobile phone for that to work.

It also stresses that it doesn't really want to legislate:
The Government is not going to dictate how tickets best reach fans, but wants to see a set of clear principles that could underpin how this market works, given the ongoing concerns around consumer awareness and countering illegal activity.

... well, not more than it already has.

This all sounds generally positive - and a suggested measure that you shouldn't be allowed to sell a ticket for a free event makes sense.

As is a proposal that the decent, honest ticket resellers have some sort of code of conduct, and presumably a little symbol, to show that they're not touts, they're resellers.

Of course, that idea is slightly undermined by assuming that a bloke selling tickets he doesn't have would have qualms about displaying a logo to which he wasn't entitled, but it's a starting point.

The consultation also suggests that ticket distributors consider making more use of ballots for popular events - something I've thought would work well for the festivals (at least back when they used to sell out) and seems to be commonsense.

Another sensible observation is that putting the tickets on sale in one big lump, months and months before the event - causing an unpleasant world of "This website is inaccessible" pain for everyone - only fosters an ecosystem where people are going to be looking for resellers both honest and shady. Trading off the value of "Oasis sell out in ten seconds a year in advance" headlines for satisfied customers could be an idea.

Mimicking the list of events that have to be made available on free-to-air television for years, there's a plan to create a list of "nationally significant" events. This is surprising:
The Government is concerned that, for such events, tickets should be distributed on an equal basis enabling access at all levels and not restricted through prohibitive price levels, excessive corporate allocation or inadequacies in distribution or control.

Hang about... did Gordon Brown's government just suggest it's going to take some of the "corporate jollies" share of the tickets away? Actually, given the current economy, the accounts departments of the big companies are probably offering up little prayers of thanks right now - "sorry, Sir Oswald, but you can't take fifty people to Glyndebourne this year... DCMS rules, you know. No, even if we do sack the rest of the invoicing team to raise the cash..."

It's not actually a bad starting point for consultation at all - indeed, despite the headlines suggesting this is all about putting photo IDs on tickets, the suggestion that tickets bear the faces of the bearer is only mentioned the once, and in the context of what is being done now, rather than suggested as the way forward.

It is a consultation process: you can feed your views in directly.