Play fair on ticket fees

Which? is launching a new campaign calling on ticket companies to Play Fair on Ticket Fees, as eight in ten people who’ve booked tickets online in the last year say the level of compulsory fees charged are a rip off and we’ve found that these fees can often be hidden and unclear. 

 New Which? research reveals that two thirds (67%) of people who were charged a booking fee told us that the level of fees seemed expensive in relation to the ticket’s face value and the overwhelming majority of people (93%) agreed that companies should always show any extra compulsory charges upfront.

Half of consumers (49%) who booked tickets online in the last 12 months said that additional compulsory charges had put them off from buying tickets for an event altogether.

In a separate mystery shopping investigation which looked at 15 different music, comedy and theatre events across the country with 20 ticketing companies, we uncovered extra charges of up to more than a third of the ticket’s face value.  For example purchasing a ticket through See Tickets to see Jimmy Carr’s December 2014 stand-up show at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall at £25 incurred an extra £9.50 in additional fees (£3 booking fee plus £6.50 compulsory delivery fee) – a mark-up of 38%.  Of the 78 individual bookings, in only two cases were tickets being sold at face value without any additional compulsory fees like booking or delivery charges.

We also found examples of consumers being charged to print tickets out at home or to pick them up from the box office. Ticketmaster’s £3 charge for some events was the highest we found for box office collection.  Printing at home was most expensive with Ticket Web and Eventim, who both charged £2.50. Nine in 10 (91%) people told us they think it’s unfair to be charged for printing their tickets out at home and a similar number (89%) thought the same about being charged to collect tickets from the box office.

Of the 20 ticketing companies we looked at we found that seven don’t always reveal the exact cost of their additional compulsory fees upfront, making it difficult for customers to compare the cost of tickets between different companies.  These are: BH Live Tickets, See Tickets, ATG Tickets, Ticketmaster, Stargreen, Ticket Soup and Ticket Web.

 Which? is launching a campaign calling on all ticketing companies to Play Fair on Ticket Fees.  We are calling for ticket companies and entertainment venues to:

  •  End hidden fees – show all compulsory charges upfront;
  •  Justify their fees – give a clear explanation of what they’re for and set them at a fair level. 

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd said

“Consumers tell us they are feeling ripped off by the level of ticketing charges and the lack of transparency means it is almost impossible for people to compare prices when booking online.

“We want to see the ticketing industry Play Fair on Ticket Fees, so that all charges are displayed upfront and with a clear explanation of what they’re for.”

 

Which? believes that companies who don’t display compulsory charges upfront are not only breaching the Committee of Advertising Practice Code (CAP Code) as enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) but are also behaving unlawfully under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. 

 

Notes to editors:

1.    We’re asking consumers to back our Play Fair on Ticket Fees campaign, from Tuesday 17th December you will be able to find out more and sign our petition here

2.    Ticket fees are the compulsory additional charges that ticket companies charge consumers for purchasing tickets online.  These fees fall into two main categories ‘booking fees’ which can apply per ticket or transaction and ‘delivery fees’ which relate to how you receive your tickets.  These fees are often described as ‘fulfilment fee’, ‘transaction fee’, ‘service charge’, ‘handling fee’ and ‘administration charge’.

3.    The amount the ticket companies can charge for these fees isn’t restricted by the regulations that protect consumers from excessive card surcharges.  Rather, the rules that relate to these charges are found in the Committee of Advertising Practice Code (or CAP Code) which is administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The rules in the CAP Code reflect the requirements of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which require all compulsory fees, whether fixed or variable, to be clearly disclosed at the outset when the ticket price is first displayed.

4.    Methodology: In October and November 2013, Which? Money looked at ticket prices and extra costs for 15 different events across three genres: music, theatre and comedy. For each event, we went through the online booking process with a range of ticketing companies, selecting tickets with the same face value in each case. In total, we looked at 20 different ticket companies. Not all companies were offering tickets to all 15 events, but we used a minimum of three different companies for each event.

5.    Methodology for consumer survey: 2,015 members of the general public completed an online survey between 30th and 31st  October 2013. 1,113 had booked tickets online in the past 12 months. 

6.    The full list of 20 ticketing companies we looked at are:

·         ATG Tickets

·         AXS

·         BH Live

·         Delfont Mackintosh

·         Eventim

·         Gigantic

·         Lastminute

·         Liverpool Echo Arena

·         London Theatre Direct

·         Love Theatre

·         See Tickets

·         Sheffield City Hall

·         Stargreen

·         Theatretickets.co.uk

·         Theatre Tickets Direct

·         Ticket Factory

·         Ticketline

·         Ticketmaster

·         Ticket Soup

·         Ticket Web

 

7.    Full list of 15 different events we looked at and the most expensive ticket fees we found for them:

Event and date

Venue

Highest level of ticket fees found (as a percentage of the ticket’s face value)

THEATRE

Strangers on a Train, 13.1.14 Gielgud Theatre, London 35%
The Lion King, 14.1.14 Edinburgh Playhouse 32%
War Horse,13.1.14 New London Theatre 30%
The Woman in Black, 11.1.14 Fortune Theatre, London 30%
Peter Pan: The Never Ending Story, 16.1.14 Newcastle Metro Arena 30%

MUSIC

Rizzle Kicks, 4.3.14 O2 Academy, Bristol 27%
Barry Manilow, 18.5.14 Manchester Phones4U Arena 21%
Ellie Goulding, 8.3.14 Liverpool Echo Arena 21%
Dolly Parton, 17.6.14 Glasgow Hydro Arena 18%
The Wanted, 31.3.14 Bournemouth International Centre 17%

COMEDY

Jimmy Carr, 13.12.14 Wolverhampton Civic Hall 38%
Miranda Hart, 19.3.14 Newcastle Metro Arena 29%
Russell Howard, 27.3.14 Wembley Arena 26%
Russell Brand, 29.3.14 Sheffield City Hall 24%
Joan Rivers, 8.10.14 New Theatre, Oxford 22%

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