Investigators from 27 European Union member states in the spring and summer quietly monitored more than 400 ticket resale Web sites, and officials this week said they found enough problems to warrant further study.
During a press conference in Brussels today, September 16, John Dalli, the EU’s health and consumers commissioner, said the preliminary findings of the union’s “Sweep” investigations revealed that 247, or 60 percent, of the 414 Web sites studied “were flagged for further investigation for breach of consumer rules.” Dalli did not identify specific Web sites, but said most of the complaints from consumers that launched the investigation centered on cultural and sporting event ticket sales.
According to the EU, a Sweep investigation is a “joint EU investigation and enforcement action to check for compliance with consumer protection laws. It involves carrying out a targeted and coordinated check on a particular sector in order to see where consumer rights are being compromised or denied.” Once a site is flagged as having possible violations, law enforcement in that country is notified and they follow up with their own investigation to ensure compliance. In addition to the 27 EU member states, Norway and Iceland also participated in the Sweep investigation.
“First, our sweep investigations are gaining greater momentum and we are targeting more effectively markets that are problematic for consumers – this is key to long-term successful enforcement,” Dalli said in a statement. “Second, consumers, who have a key role to play in keeping the market clean, continue to stand up and to report about unfair practices. Indeed the role that consumers play in rewarding the good operators, who respect their rights, can be a powerful instrument for change.”
The Sweeps investigation revealed most of the problems in the European secondary ticket market involved “missing, incomplete or misleading information” about ticket prices; unfair terms and conditions, such as non-guaranteed ticket delivery; or a lack of coherent information about the reseller. In addition, several sites misrepresented themselves as authorized resellers for certain events or sports teams when they were not.
While behind the U.S. market in size and scope, the European secondary ticket market is still close to a $1 billion entity, and growing quickly. Many European countries have stricter laws prohibiting ticket resale, or like in the UK, limit or regulate ticket resale for certain sports, such as soccer (football).
Yet, despite the laws, there have been several high-profile cases of fraud involving unscrupulous ticket resellers and recent Olympic Games, particularly in the UK, which is the largest secondary ticket market in Europe.
According to the EU, the UK led the way in the number of sites reviewed (73), followed by Belgium (59), but Germany had the most sites flagged within its borders for problems (22). The investigators flagged sites with problems within a country’s borders and also across borders.