Proposed amendments to the Digital Economy Bill will ensure bulk buying touts who sell tickets for extortionate prices will be subject to an unlimited fine.

Bots, software that run automated tasks online, have been used to bypass restrictions imposed by primary ticket sellers which limit the maximum number of tickets a party can purchase. Traditionally such technology was thwarted using Captcha boxes to ensure the purchaser was human, but as bots have developed, that preventative method has become almost obsolete.

The amendments are based upon the recommendations in a report of Professor Michael Waterson, who has advocated for a bulking up of existing consumer rights laws as well as establishing more rigorous techniques to counter the bots, including a measure to report bot activities when they appear.

Back in December, the Competition and Markets Authority began an investigation, recommended by Waterson, considering whether secondary ticketing websites like Seatwave, StubHub and Viagogo are in breach of consumer rights laws.

The UK is following the path of the state of New York, which in 2016, made the use of bots for touting a criminal offence after 1,000 tickets for a U2 show at Madison Square Gardens were purchased within a minute.

Whilst the original amendment to the Bill, tabled by Nigel Adams MP, sought a prison sentence of 51 weeks and a fine of up to £5,000 or both, the most recent draft imposes an unlimited fine.

Such a deterrent has been welcomed by consumers who have fallen victim to extortionate prices and an unavailability of tickets. Viagogo has faced the brunt of the public’s frustration having sold tickets to Ed Sheeran’s Teenage Cancer Trust performance for £5,000. Tickets for Bonobo’s initial show in February sold out in less than a minute, with tickets immediately appearing on secondary touting sites for well above the original price.

Measures to allow the sale of tickets from individual fans will need to be considered to not detriment consumers and the government has asked the bigger primary ticket sellers like Ticketmster and Seetickets to help distinguish fans from touts.