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As I mentioned, however, the OFT has made recommendations to improve information for consumers. Most consumers tend to make an initial decision on whether or not to go to an event on seeing an advertisement, but full information on charges is often only available within the transaction itself. It is very often the only way to obtain accurate price information without contacting the ticket seller. That can make it much harder for consumers to opt out of the purchasing transaction, especially if they think that the event that they want to attend is likely to sell out
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quickly. It is an essential part of consumer protection that advertisements do not mislead consumers. It is important that they inform people.

The OFT is looking at the rules governing event entertainment advertising. It found that the code of non-broadcasting advertising practice, written and enforced by the industry committee of advertising practice and independently administered by the Advertising Standards Authority, is less than satisfactory, as non-broadcast advertising tends not to carry price information. The report therefore recommended that the guidance on event advertising be reviewed and amended to include, among other things, the requirement that advertisers display the face value of the ticket, while indicating where additional fees may apply and whether they could vary depending on the sales channel and the ticket seller used. It recommended, too, that event organisers follow up any amended guidance to provide consumers with the fullest possible information when advertising events.

In general, the OFT study found that where consumer protection regulation is applied, it appears to be working well and that most consumers express high levels of satisfaction with the ticket-buying process. However, as my hon. Friend pointed out, there are areas for improvement, and the Government fully support the OFT’s initiatives to secure these improvements. My hon. Friend suggested a number of measures to make the market in tickets more transparent and to make it work better for consumers, which, broadly speaking, fall within the scope of the OFT report.

As regards clearer advertising, the OFT recommended that the guidance be amended. I will pass on to the OFT the full text of my hon. Friend’s speech so that in further discussions it can take account of what he has said. I will ask, too, for its views on the other proposals that he has made, as they are closely related. I will write to him with details of those views. The OFT will certainly wish to have the opportunity to consider his proposals, discuss them with interested parties and, if appropriate, make further recommendations on the market.

In conclusion, I thank my hon. Friend for raising these important issues and for giving me the opportunity to explain the protections that already exist for consumers and the work that we have in hand to offer better transparency and more information. I will ask the OFT for its views on his suggestions. Like him, we want consumers to be informed and empowered in the marketplace. We will therefore continue to work closely with the OFT and other authorities to achieve that shared objective.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at ten minutes to Seven o’clock.


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