Secondary ticketing stitch-up

Which? spent eight weeks monitoring four of the biggest secondary ticketing websites and found evidence that consumers are missing out.

We looked for unusual selling patterns on the sites – Get Me In!, Seatwave, StubHub! and Viagogo. The anti-consumer tactics used by touts we encountered included:

– Tickets appearing on re-sale sites before they were even officially released: Stubhub! had 364 tickets on sale for Rod Stewart’s UK tour the day before the presale began.

– Tickets appearing simultaneously on primary and re-sale sites: For the same Rod Stewart tour, 450 tickets were available on Get Me In! the moment the presale began on the primary site and two days later this had risen to 2,305 tickets.

– Suspicious ticket release patterns: For each of the 28 Riverdance tour dates, eight tickets were on sale on Get Me In! within a minute of an O2 Priority presale (where O2 customers get early access to tickets), each listing had exactly the same price.

– Re-sale restrictions being ignored: Viagogo listed tickets for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet at the Barbican, despite the venue imposing strict resale restrictions and asking for photo ID on the door. Tickets cost up to £1,500 (despite the original face value of £62.50).

It isn’t illegal to resell tickets for profit, but it is likely that some of the selling patterns we encountered are only possible because of the use of ‘botnets’. This is software readily available on the internet that makes it almost impossible for genuine fans to buy tickets on primary sites. There’s also a risk of fraud on ticket resale sites because sellers don’t have to prove they actually have the tickets they list.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, consumers must be notified of any restrictions on the tickets, all seating details and the original face value of the ticket. Which? has found these rules being repeatedly flouted on all the major secondary ticketing sites.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd, said:

“People get rightly frustrated losing out on popular tickets, particularly when they end up on sale at the same time on secondary sites at higher prices.

“Secondary ticketing sites work for those who re-sell tickets within the rules and these sites should be adhering to the Consumer Rights Act so that fans understand what they’re buying.

“We need the Government review to crack down on those who resell tickets at inflated prices on an industrial scale.”

 

We have sent evidence to the Department of Culture Media and Sport as part of an investigation it is carrying out into secondary ticketing.

Notes to editors:

1.    We chose a selection of popular events going on presale and general sale over an eight-week period (August-October 2015) to monitor the speed and volume of tickets appearing on the four largest secondary sites. 

2.    Responses from industry: Ebay-owned StubHub! told us it does not own, purchase or price tickets to any event listed on its website. Ticketmaster’s latest annual report states that it may acquire tickets for sale ‘from time to time on a limited basis’. When we asked Ticketmaster whether it sells tickets directly to its sister resale sites (Get Me In! and Seatwave), it said those sites ‘do not have a policy of acquiring tickets for resale in their own right.’ It declined our request to explain either of these statements further.

We also asked how tickets can appear on secondary sites before an event has officially gone on sale: StubHub! said that certain sellers know they will receive tickets by other means (e.g. hospitality or fan clubs) and therefore list them early, although it admitted it can’t check every ticket listed upfront. Ticketmaster declined to answer directly, other than to say its sites operate in accordance with the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Viagogo failed to respond to any of our questions. 

3.   Which? advice on ways to beat the touts:

a.   Join the fan club – If you’ve got a favourite artist or a preferred venue, sign up to the newsletter and you may get priority booking, or discount codes for particular events.

b.   Ensure you get ahead of the game – Use sites, such as gettothefront.co.uk and beatthetouts.com, which list advance tour dates, and sign up for alerts from primary sites, such as Ticketmaster and Seetickets. O2 Priority also offers customers early booking for specific shows, often two days before the general sale.

c.    Check with the venue first – If you can, visit in person – the venue box office is often the cheapest option because most don’t charge booking or postage fees. If the venue isn’t nearby, try the website.

d.   Alternatives to ticket touts – If you miss the boat and a show is sold out, try scarletmist.com, which was set up by fans to allow people to buy or sell spare tickets at face value or less, and encourages a face-to-face exchange.twickets.co.uk and vibetickets.co.uk are also fan-to-fan ticket exchange sites, restricted to face value.

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