Decision of the Complaints Committee 19858-17 Walker v mirror.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Mark Walker complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that mirror.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Shameless touts charge teens and parents three times ticket prices for kids' charity gigs”, published on 11 November 2017.
2. The article reported that thousands of tickets for an event had been sold online for inflated prices by “greedy touts”. The article referred to the event as a “charity gig” and reported that it was run by a company (the company), in aid of a charity (the charity) that it owns. The article also reported that “one well-known tout, banned from illegal sales, is using [a] website to demand £1,000 for six tickets that cost just £57.50 each”.
3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to refer to the event as a charity event because not all profits raised went towards the charity, or towards a charitable cause. While he did not dispute that some of the proceeds from the event were donated to the charity, the complainant said that the primary objective of the event was not to raise money for the charity, but to create a profit for the company.
4. The complainant also said that the article gave the misleading impression that the reselling of event tickets is illegal, because it reported that a “well-known tout [was] banned from illegal sales”.
5. The publication did not accept that there had been a breach of the Code. It said that it took care over the accuracy of the article and had provided the Communications Director of the company with a full copy of the article, prior to publication; they did not question or disagree with the reference to the event as a charity event. The publication provided a copy of this correspondence, and a copy of post-publication correspondence with the company, which it said demonstrated its position that the event supported the charity.
6. The publication said that it was accurate to describe the event as a charity event and provided other sources of information which it said supported its position. It said that the event’s information page on the company’s website stated that “every ticket you buy helps raise money for [the charity]”, and that the terms and conditions of a competition to win tickets to the event stated that, “after entering the competition, participants will receive a bounce back text message informing them that a voluntary donation to [the charity] of £3 will be taken automatically…100% of the donation will go to [the charity]”. The publication provided an image of a ticket for the event which showed the company’s logo and stated that the event “supported” the charity.
7. The publication said that the tout referred to in the article had used “botnet” software to purchase tickets and sell them on at an increased price. It said that the use of botnets is illegal and provided copies of previous articles which it had published, which it said demonstrated its position. It also provided a copy of a comment made by the Council in relation to this individual, which stated that “an investigation carried out by the Council, in relation to the illegal reselling of tickets, gave rise to the commencement of criminal proceedings against [the individual]”, and that he had given an “undertaking that he will discontinue to contravene regulations under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008”.
8. Although the publication did not accept that there had been a breach of the Code, as a gesture of goodwill, it offered to amend the headline to “Shameless touts charge teens and parents three times ticket prices for kids’ gigs that donate to charity”; to amend the opening line of the article to read “Greedy touts are ripping off teens and their parents heading to a Christmas ball which donates a portion of its profits to needy kids”; and to amend the article to read “One well-known tout, who was banned from unauthorised sales by using botnets, is using website StubHub to demand £1,000 for six tickets, that cost just £57.50 each”.
Relevant Code provisions
9. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
Findings of the Committee
10. The article reported on issues surrounding the resale of tickets for an event run by the company, and the complainant said that the reference to the event as a “charity gig”, was inaccurate. The publication sent a full copy of the article to the Communications Director of the company, prior to publication, and they had not questioned or disagreed with the content of the article. Furthermore, the publication had relied on information publicly available on the event website which stated that proceeds from the ticket sales raised money for the charity, and information on the event ticket which showed the company’s logo and stated that the event “supported” the charity. The publication demonstrated that it had taken sufficient care to ensure the accuracy of this information, and there was no breach of Clause 1 (i) on this point.
11. The article was focused specifically on the resale of tickets for the event, and the inflated prices that customers pay as a result of this practice. The company described the event as “supporting” the charity; the publication sought to demonstrate that the event was generally understood to be a charity event, and it was entitled to adopt the company’s characterisation of the event. While it was not made clear exactly how much money was donated to the charity each year as a result of the event, in circumstances where it was not disputed that some of the proceeds were donated to the charity, the Committee did not consider that it was misleading to describe the event as a charity event, in this context. No correction was required and there was no breach of Clause 1 (ii) on this point.
12. The complainant said that the article gave the misleading impression that the re-selling of event tickets is illegal, because of the inclusion in the article of the reference to an individual who had been “banned from illegal sales”. The article did not claim that the re-sale of tickets was illegal in all circumstances, rather it reported that an individual who was engaging in the practice had previously been found to be re-selling tickets in a manner which was illegal. The Committee did not consider that the article was misleading in the manner suggested by the complainant. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
13. While the Committee did not establish a breach of the Code, it welcomed the publication’s offer to amend the headline and the article.
14. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 13/11/2017
Date decision issued: 01/02/2018
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