Ruling

20614-17 Walker v mirror.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      15th March 2018

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 20614-17 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 pf Practice in an article headlined, “Greedy touts cash in as Peter Kay tour is cancelled- meaning they’ll profit twice thanks to legal loophole while devastated fans are left out of pocket,” published on 13 December 2017.

2. The article reported that following the announcement that a comedian’s UK tour had been cancelled, thousands of families who had bought their tickets from touts would be unable to obtain a refund. It stated that touts would benefit from a legal loophole, which would see them receiving two payments for each ticket, one for reselling the ticket, and a full refund from the primary seller now the event had been cancelled. The article reported that people who had bought tickets from touts had “no legal redress” to obtain a refund and that the touts could receive a “three figure profit per ticket.” It went on to state that by law, official ticket sellers must deliver refunds when shows are cancelled, but those who bought through a third party, did not necessarily have the same consumer rights.

3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate for the article to state that there was a “legal loophole” that allowed ticket sellers to profit twice, as he believed the buyer would always receive a full refund regardless of whether they had bought their tickets from a primary or secondary seller. He said it was inaccurate to state that people who bought tickets from touts would have “no legal redress”, as if the tout was a registered trader a buyer could lodge a complaint with Trading Standards, lodge a County Court Money Claim or report the individual to the police for fraud. He also said there was no evidence that tickets had been issued for this event, that thousands of families would be affected, or that touts would make a three figure sum.

4. The publication did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the article had made it sufficiently clear that it was referring only to ticket touts and not legitimate reselling sites, which refund buyers automatically. The publication provided screenshots from social media after the announcement that the tour had been cancelled where a number of people acknowledged that touts would be paid twice. One screenshot showed a twitter user stating that he had resold tickets for this event and also received a refund from the primary seller, resulting in over £1,000 of profit. The publication also quoted another user who had sold their ticket and believed they were not obliged to “pay anything back as I didn’t sell a guarantee to see the concert. In my opinion, once the transaction has happened, it was a done deal.” The publication provided comments from other twitter users who said they had bought tickets from touts for similar events and had been unable to get a refund.

5. The publication said that it was accurate to state that buyers who bought from touts had no legal redress, as touts were not registered traders but individuals who sold through unofficial channels, often through social media. It said that in these circumstances the person buying the ticket does not know the buyers contact details, which is necessary to bring any other form of legal action such as through the County Court. It also said it was accurate to refer to the number affected as thousands, and provided links to numerous consumer advice websites which addressed the issue of obtaining refunds from ticket touts, suggesting it was a frequent occurrence. It said that given the comedian’s previous tour had sold over 1 million tickets, and this tour was of a similar length, and all tickets had been sold, the total number of tickets was likely to be similar. Also, where tickets were being advertised above face value online several minutes after going on sale, the publication said it was fair to assume thousands of tickets had been resold by ticket touts.

6. The complainant said that the publication had not provided sufficient evidence that any touts had refused a refund. He said that the social media posts were based on hearsay, and said there was no evidence of this behaviour in relation to previous similar events. He agreed it may be more difficult to recoup money if a tout refused to refund a buyer, as a tout may simply disappear, but denied that this equated to having “no legal redress.”

Relevant Code Provisions

7. 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

8. The article had made clear that buyers who had purchased tickets through official primary and secondary sites would receive a refund automatically. The article distinguished these sellers from touts, who bought a large number of tickets and resold them without the same refund guarantee. When the event was cancelled, the touts referred to in the article would have received a full refund from the primary seller, and although the complainant maintained that if a tout did not pass this on to the buyer there were a number of legal avenues open to them, it was demonstrable that due to how the tickets are sold, for example on social media, this was not always feasible due to the unverified identity of the seller. In these circumstances, it was not inaccurate for the article to refer to this as a “legal loophole” or to state that there was “no legal redress” available to people who bought tickets from ticket touts. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

9. It was not possible to show exactly how many individuals had bought tickets in this way for this specific tour, or how many touts had refused to provide a refund. However, the publication demonstrated that the comedian’s last tour had sold more than 1 million tickets and his recent tour had quickly sold out with tickets appearing for resale online at inflated prices just minutes later. Where the complainant was not in a position to dispute how many tickets had been sold in this way, and members of the public as well as consumer advice groups had highlighted the prevalence of ticket touts selling tickets for these kinds of events, there was no breach of Clause 1 on this point. Also, where the publication was able to demonstrate that tickets were being advertised for hundreds of pounds, it was not inaccurate for the article to state that tickets had been issued for this event and touts could receive a three figure sum for reselling them. There was no breach of Clause 1.

Conclusions

10. The complaint was not upheld

Remedial Action required

11.  N/A

Date complaint received:13/12/2017
Date decision issued: 26/02/2018