Scarlet Mist, an online ticket exchange in the UK that specialized in face value transactions, was forced to shut down last week after organizers complained that it had been taken over by alleged scammers.
Founded in 2003, the free site allowed fans to exchange unwanted tickets to concerts throughout the UK, but over time ticket “touts” — the equivalent of resellers and street scalpers, some of whom are fraudsters — used the site as a means to obtain face value tickets that they simply resold at a premium. Such actions defeated the purpose of the site.
“Scarlet Mist has gone offline. We have been forced to close the site because of the unacceptably high levels of fraud carried out by a small number of criminals,” founders Richard and Olly Marks wrote in a goodbye note on the site. “We are desperately sorry to let the rest of you down.”
The Markses hope to be able to bring back the site back, or a new one with greater protections for consumers, but when and how that might happen was not disclosed.
Contributing to the site’s demise was the growing closeness of the primary and secondary ticket markets, they said, “where opaque pricing structures, compulsory handling charges and non-transferable non-refundable sales” have become accepted.
“Ticket touting is a mixed blessing; there are many music fans that are willing to pay the prices that they charge,” the Markses wrote. “Successive governments have looked at the issue – and Scarlet Mist has given evidence to various working parties and reviews. We do not think it is practical to make touts illegal, but we do think that they should pay tax on their earnings. We have lobbied for this, and we believe that the websites that act as front-ends for high-earning touts should be required to share information with the tax inspectors.”
Earlier this year, members of the UK government began discussions about tougher ticket resale laws, but the proposals have languished in Parliament, as other government priorities pushed those efforts to the back burner.
“We are very sad to see the demise of Scarlet Mist, but not surprised,” Graham Burns, chairman of the Association of Secondary Ticket Agents (ASTA), told TicketNews.
Burns said ASTA met with the Markses to try to work out a partnership with the ticket broker community, but the discussions went nowhere.
“With our help it may have survived, because without it, it was certainly doomed,” Burns said. “It just proves our point really, that the primary distributors and enthusiast websites need to work with the secondary markets, the promoters, the organizers and any other interested parties. Going it alone is a lonely path.”