Second-hand ticket, first-class confusion

A new investigation by consumer champion Which? has found that as many as a quarter of tickets to popular music, theatre and sporting events have ended up on secondary ticketing websites.

Sadly, tickets appearing on secondary ticket websites as soon as any major event goes on sale has become the norm and this often leaves consumers having to pay inflated costs to attend their dream event.

Our research found that more than a quarter of tickets (26%) for comedian Jack Whitehall’s upcoming Eventim Apollo show ended up on four secondary sites – Viagogo, GetMeIn!, Seatwave and Stubhub.

The investigation also found 17% of tickets for Lady Gaga at the O2 Arena in London and 15% of tickets for the first night of the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall were listed for sale on secondary sites. Tickets for the first night of the BBC Proms, that originally cost £38, were also found to have a mark-up of 279% on StubHub (£144) and 300% on GetMeIn! (£152).

The two biggest problems consumers told Which? they had faced when purchasing tickets on these sites were paying more than face value (72%) and hidden fees (46%), while one in 10 (10%) said the seat or area wasn’t as described.

Previous Which? research found that many websites were breaking consumer law by not listing the face value of tickets, restrictions on the ticket and, where appropriate, standing or seating information, such as block, row and seat numbers.

In its new investigation, Which? found that the way tickets are re-sold makes it difficult for consumers to make an informed decision about what they are buying. Worryingly, people are still not getting the ticketing information required by law when buying from secondary ticketing websites.

This contributed to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announcing an investigation into suspected breaches of consumer protection law in the secondary ticketing market.

When Which? called for people to share their experiences of secondary ticketing websites with them, it found that half (49%) of people who bought tickets on these sites thought that the website was the official ticket seller.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:

“People are finding themselves having to buy tickets through secondary sites more and more, and yet many struggle to find the basic information required by law.

“There needs to be more transparency within the secondary ticketing industry and the competition authorities must take strong action against those who aren’t playing by the rules.”

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Notes to Editors:

  • Which? monitored tickets listed for 65 events on the four main resale sites (Viagogo, StubHub, GetMeIn and Seatwave) between April and June 2017. See graphic below for examples of the highest proportion of tickets found on secondary sites:

table

  • Ticketmaster told Which? that the number of tickets sold on its resale platforms (GetMeIn! and Seatwave) makes up a very small proportion of its overall sales.

 

‘We have always championed transparency and consumer protection, and pride ourselves on ensuring compliancy with all rules and regulations. We never list primary tickets on resale sites, and we do not allow anyone to list tickets before they are available to the public.’ 

 

  • StubHub argues that the real issue is tickets held back for the industry, VIPs and other sellers.

 

‘The problem with access to tickets doesn’t lie with the secondary ticketing market – indeed, your findings show that only a small percentage of tickets end up here – but is due to the fact that not all tickets are available to the general public.’

 

  • Viagogo failed to respond to repeated attempts to contact them about our findings.
  • Earlier this year, Which? joined forces with consumer organisations from other countries to investigate the extent and commonality of the problems with the secondary ticketing market globally.
  • Last year, Which? released research revealing that music and theatre tickets are still being sold unlawfully on some of the UK’s biggest secondary ticketing sites, by being sold in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Full press release is accessible here.
  • In November 2015, Which? spent eight weeks monitoring four of the biggest secondary ticketing websites and found evidence that consumers are missing out due to unusual selling patterns. The full press release and research is available here.

 

Case studies

Payment glitch: John Douglas used his mobile phone to book two Ed Sheeran tickets under the impression that they would cost £157 in total, but once the transaction had been completed, Viagogo confirmed he had actually been charged £434.

‘My credit card company said I could not raise a chargeback query as I knew what I was paying for. Trading Standards were unable to help either. You can imagine my relief when Viagogo eventually conceded that there was a temporary error in the shopping process and refunded my monies.’

Turned away from the Proms: Felix Beck waited for over a month to get his money back from Viagogo after being turned away from a BBC Proms performance at the Royal Albert Hall last year.

‘When my wife and I turned up we were told that our ticket was not valid and we were given a pre-prepared letter to that effect. The man at the ticket desk said that this frequently happened with Viagogo bookings. Eventually after much frustrating effort the money was refunded but the whole affair was extremely unpleasant and I would never use them again.’

Unclear pricing: Ian Nicholson thinks Viagogo should be much clearer on the total price, after booking Gladys Knight tickets online.

‘The headline cost of the tickets was £110 each. It wasn’t until the very final screen when it advised that VAT had to be added, along with a booking fee and £4.98 delivery per ticket, that the actual cost of £305 was displayed. I thought that companies had to at least display pricing including VAT? The whole process was tremendously misleading.’

Which advice on how to avoid being ripped off

  • Sign up for ticket alerts: Join fan clubs and mailing lists of your favourite artists, festivals, venues and primary ticket sellers for reminders of when tickets go on sale.
  • Bag presale tickets: For some events, tickets are reserved for pre-sales a few days before the general public. Check for advance notice on gettothefront.co.uk and beatthetouts.com, and sign up for O2 Priority (you’ll need an O2 mobile number).
  • Buy from authorised ticket agents: The venue box office is often the cheapest and most secure option, but you should find a list of all official ticket agents on the artist or venue website.
  • Use search engines wisely Google doesn’t differentiate between primary agents and secondary marketplaces so check before you click and  watch out for sites like SafeTickets.net, CompareTickets.net, BigTicketShop.uk and Ticx.co.uk, all of which link to resale sites.
  • Don’t assume it’s sold out: Tickets can be allocated to a number of primary agents so they might be ‘sold out’ in the case of one agent, but not another, or could still be available from the venue.
  • Alternatives to touts: If a show really has sold out, you can find cheap last-minute tickets on sites such as StubHub and GetMeIn. Or try free fan-to-fan exchange site scarletmist.com, where users can only buy or sell spare tickets at face value or less. Twickets.co.uk and TicketSwap.com also restrict the price of resale tickets, but for a small fee (Twickets takes 10% from buyers, while TicketSwap charges both the seller and buyer 5%).

 

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