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LCQ6: Combating ticket scalping
     Following is a question by the Hon Michael Tien and a reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (April 11):
     It has been reported that in recent years whenever popular performances were staged, the scalping of tickets for performances became rampant. For example, prices as high as 17 times of the original prices were fetched in recent days for the scalped tickets for a series of "standup comedy" performances, arousing strong dissatisfaction among those members of the public who were unsuccessful in purchasing the tickets. On the other hand, according to the Terms and Conditions of Hire of the Hong Kong Coliseum and the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, only those hirers who choose Urban Ticketing System for the sale of tickets are required to set aside, for open sale, at least one-fifth of the tickets of each price category. However, under the terms and conditions of hire of quite a number of private venues, hirers are required to set aside at least half of the tickets for open sale. Regarding the Government's efforts to combat ticket scalping on the policy, legislation and law enforcement fronts, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it will seriously consider requiring that tickets for events held in government venues must be sold by way of real name registration, and that venue hirers must set aside at least half of the tickets for open sale;
(2) as some members of the public have criticised that section 6 of the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance, which prohibits ticket scalping, has a loophole in that events held in venues managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) are not subject to regulation and has set a penalty (i.e. a maximum fine of $2,000) far too lenient, whether the Government will consider enacting a comprehensive legislation to curb ticket scalping and raising the relevant penalty level (e.g. increasing the maximum amount of fine or introducing a prison sentence), so as to enhance the deterrent effect; and
(3) notwithstanding the Government's claim that LCSD has deployed additional venue and security staff to patrol venues under the purview of LCSD when events are being held so as to combat ticket scalping, but most of the touting activities for scalped tickets are currently conducted on the Internet, of the specific strategies adopted by the Government for combating online ticket scalping, including whether it will request the relevant websites to proactively remove information relating to ticket scalping?
Acting President,
     According to the Terms and Conditions of Hire of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD)'s performance venues, if a hirer organising paid-admission event chooses to use URBTIX for sale of tickets, the total number of all consignment tickets to be issued in any price category of the approved ticket price scale for a particular performance shall not exceed a prescribed proportion of the total number of seats as shown in the approved seating plan for each price category of that performance. This prescribed proportion was originally set at a maximum of 49%, but after reviewing the arrangement for the use of URBTIX and the nature of different venues, the proportion of consignment tickets for the Hong Kong Coliseum (HKC) and the Queen Elizabeth Stadium (QES) has been increased to a maximum of 80% since 2001, while the proportion for other venues has remained unchanged. The aforementioned changes have taken into account the larger seating capacity of the HKC and QES, and the hirers of these two stadia, especially the HKC, are mostly entertainment production companies which organise large-scale pop concerts on a commercial basis. These events often involve high production costs and bear greater financial risks, and normally require more support from sponsors and co-organisers based on commercial and practical considerations. The hirers concerned require greater flexibility for the ticket sale to tie in with their commercial considerations including specific events' need, marketing strategy, and terms of their sponsors, etc.
     The LCSD often communicates with the hirers proactively so as to ensure that a certain number of tickets are available for purchase by members of the public through URBTIX. We also consider that increasing the supply of tickets is an effective mean to tackle the issue of ticket speculation. With regard to raising the proportion of tickets available for public sale for the HKC and QES, the LCSD will review this suggestion with a view to providing more tickets for public sale.
     Furthermore, subject to the co-operation of the event organisers, the LCSD is pleased to implement real-name ticketing arrangement for events held at the LCSD venues and using URBTIX as distribution channel. In fact, URBTIX has recently jointly worked with an event organiser and a performing venue to pilot the implementation of a ticket ballot and real-name ticketing arrangement for an additional performance of a concert by a local non-profit orchestra which will be held in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall in May 2018. The LCSD will review the effectiveness of this implementation and its impact on the arrangements for ticket sales, ticket purchase, venue admission, administration and operation, etc., and will consider carefully the views of the public, event organisers and various stakeholders, as well as the efficiency and feasibility of practical operations. The LCSD will also draw reference from the experience of local and other markets outside Hong Kong in the implementation of real-name ticketing arrangement to evaluate the pros and cons of different ticketing models, and to work out feasible ticketing arrangement which would suit the circumstances of respective events in discussion with the event organisers.
     The LCSD has implemented a series of measures to ensure that tickets can be sold through formal channels in an orderly manner. When handling ticketing arrangements for very popular events sold through URBTIX, the LCSD would discuss with the event organisers to set a maximum number of tickets that each patron can purchase per transaction on the launch date, and impose a limit on the number of tickets that can be purchased online by the same credit card so that more people may have the opportunity to purchase tickets through public sale. The LCSD has also been enhancing the online ticketing system to prevent browsing and ticket purchasing activities by automated computer programmes, and reviewing ticket sale situation from time to time. Moreover, a new counterfeit security feature has been incorporated since March 2017 to further strengthen the security of the URBTIX tickets.
     When tickets of a large-scale event go on sale, the URBTIX outlets will deploy manpower for crowd control and devise appropriate queuing arrangements as necessary. During the period when the event is held, the LCSD venue concerned will deploy additional venue and security staff to patrol the area. Anyone found engaging in resale of tickets within such area will be advised to cease the activity and leave the venue. Assistance will be sought from the Police as and when necessary.
     Besides the above administrative measures and the review to increase the proportion of tickets available for public sale for performances at the HKC and QES, we will also study the feasibility of regulating the sale of tickets for LCSD venues through legislative amendment in consultation with the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies so as to ensure the healthy development of the market.
     Thank you, Acting President.
Ends/Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Issued at HKT 15:15
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