As the British Parliament considers ways to thwart ticket scalping, its members are finding themselves in conflict with ticket regulations set out by the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) for next year’s Summer Games. But fans buying tickets to the Games may inadvertently be penalized just like those engaging in illegal ticket resale.
The issue was raised by Members of Parliament (MPs) last week, during discussion of proposed larger fines attached to the 2006 London Olympic and Paralympic Games Bill.
According to current LOCOG rules on ticket purchase, the original ticket purchaser may share their tickets with family and friends, but that purchaser must attend the event in order for all the other tickets to be valid. If that purchaser is unable to attend the event, none of the other tickets he or she has purchased can be presented for entrance to the Games.
This stipulation was designed to deter scalpers, or “touts” as they are known in the UK, from buying and reselling tickets to strangers. The original 2006 bill makes it illegal to resell Olympics tickets for profit unless specifically authorized by LOCOG.
However, legitimate ticket purchasers and their circle are in a difficult position if they are unable to attend. At best, the whole group would be denied entrance to the event, and at worst, the ticket purchaser may end up being subject to touting fines.
This glitch is particularly relevant to the current amendment winding its way through Parliament because this new version proposes a raise in the touting fine from £5,000 ($7,800) to £20,000 ($31,000). The increase is in response to law enforcement’s concern that much of British touting around the Games may be coming from organized crime, for which a £5,000 fine may not prove much of a deterrent.
During last week’s debate, Liberal Democrat Baroness Dee Doocey expressed great concern about the ordinary Olympics fan getting unnecessarily penalized due to LOCOG’s regulations.
Quoted by London’s Telegraph, Lady Doocey argued, “How can LOCOG dictate that a whole family or a group of friends, despite every member having a ticket, won’t be admitted to an Olympic event because the lead ticket has suddenly fallen ill or has been called on away on business through no fault of their own? They will have to say to their family members not just, ‘I can’t go,’ but, ‘I’m terribly sorry, you can’t go either.’ It is frankly ridiculous.”
But one of the amendment’s supporters, Liberal Democrat Baroness Susan Garden, insisted that neither current nor proposed law would implicate members of the general public who had purchased legitimate tickets.
“This measure is aimed squarely at touts,” Baroness Garden told the BBC. “Nothing in the law at present, or as a result of this change, prevents those who have Games tickets from selling them at face value to family and friends …so genuine spectators have nothing to fear.”
The Baroness added that those interested in selling unwanted or unusable tickets at face value are also free to use LOCOG’s proposed Olympics ticket exchange site, scheduled to launch early next year.
Graham Burns, Chairman of the UK’s Association of Secondary Ticket Agents, is not so sure things will work out well for the average consumer.
“We now have an onerous piece of legislation which effectively criminalizes the general public if they want to buy their son, daughter, mother, brother a ticket to go see an event at the Summer Olympics in the UK,” Burns told TicketNews. “But was this really just an Olympic thing? After the glaring failure of the last Labour government to tackle the issues of secondary ticket sales and the growing black market, was this thrown in as a ‘solution?’ Raising the fines for unlawful ticket touting from £5,000 to £20,000?”
Burns added, “This needs addressing and it needs addressing now before some hapless consumer finds themselves in the dock facing a £20,000 fine for giving their mother or daughter a birthday gift!”