Touts to face unlimited fines for bulk-buying tickets online

Announcement comes after Viagogo were deemed 'morally repugnant' for inflated ticket prices to Ed Sheeran charity gig

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The Independent Culture

Touts who buy tickets in bulk online and sell them for inflated prices will face "unlimited fines" under new Government plans.

The Digital Economy Bill has been amended to mean that it will be illegal to use "bots" to sweep ticketing sites and bypass limits on the maximum number of tickets that can be purchased at one time. 

Tickets that are purchased by bots can appear on secondary websites such as Viagogo for massively inflated prices. 

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said this kind of profiteering was "simply not fair".

Some of the UK's biggest artists, including Ed Sheeran and Adele, have criticised touts and urged their fans not to use secondary websites to buy tickets to their live shows. 

Viagogo was accused of "moral repugnance" in February after tickets to an Ed Sheeran gig at the Royal Albert Hall, which aimed to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust, appeared on the site for up to £5,000. 

Ministers will accept in full the recommendations of a review by Professor Michael Waterson as part of the crackdown. 

In the report he suggested that ticket websites should feature tougher measures to fight bots, and threatened further action if the industry failed to act against touts. 

In February an Ed Sheeran fan said she accidentally paid £1,300 for tickets to see Ed Sheeran live, claiming that Viagogo's website failed to make the total cost clear enough. 

Charlotte Duckworth, 21, believed she was paying a total of £377 for three tickets to see Sheeran. In fact that was the cost per ticket being sold on the website, and did not include charges for booking and VAT. 

At the time a spokesperson for Sheeran said: "We are vehemently opposed to the unethical practices that occur in the secondary market. We have written to each of our partners, be them promoters, venues or ticketing companies detailing the way in which we expect tickets to be sold: direct to fans...

"We are aware and deeply concerned about the websites in question and have urged all fans not to engage with them in order to avoid being ripped off with higher prices or, potentially, counterfeit tickets."

Jo Dipple, chief executive of music industry representatives UK Music, said the review was a step towards "ensuring the ticketing market for live events works more fairly for gig-goers".

"Massive profit is made by people who are taking value out of the music industry and putting tickets out of the reach of music fans," she told the BBC.