Show’s over for hidden ticket fees

In a win for Which?’s Play Fair on Ticket Fees campaign, the online ticket companies we named and shamed have committed to display all their compulsory additional charges upfront.

Six weeks since we called on online ticketing companies and entertainment venues to Play Fair on Ticket Fees, and with more than 37,000 people pledging their support, seven major ticket companies have agreed to put their compulsory charges upfront.

We found the overwhelming majority of people (93%) agreed that companies should always show any extra compulsory charges upfront.  BH Live Tickets, See Tickets, ATG Tickets, Ticketmaster, Stargreen, Ticket Soup and Ticket Web have agreed to display the costs, like delivery and booking charges, at the start of the booking process, making it easier for customers to compare prices between different companies.

One of the biggest, See Tickets, has already put these changes into practice and Ticket Soup say they will update their website this week.  Another of the bigger companies ATG, has promised to do so by March.  We are working with the remaining four companies and expect them to commit to a timeframe in which they will make these changes.

Which? is now calling on the ticket companies to go further and justify their fees and set them at a fair level. Our campaign uncovered extra charges of up to more than a third of the ticket’s face value and examples of consumers being charged up to £2.50 to print tickets out at home or £3 to pick them up from the box office.

Our research shows that eight in 10 (82%) think additional fees are a rip off and nine in 10 (91%) told us they think it’s unfair to be charged for printing tickets at home.  A similar number (89%) thought the same about being charged to collect tickets from the box office.

Which? is concerned about a lack of transparency in the ticketing market, as consumers are not being given a clear explanation of what these fees are for or where their money goes. We also think that delivery fees should only be used to recoup costs associated with delivery, and don’t think the high fees some companies charge for delivery or even to print tickets off at home or collect them from the box office are fair.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd said:

“The show is now over for hidden ticket fees with some of the biggest ticket companies promising to display all compulsory charges upfront.

“But people are still concerned at the level of some fees so we will continue to challenge the industry to clearly explain their fees and set them at a fair level.”

Consumer Minister Jenny Willott said:

“Hidden charges when buying tickets online need to come to an end. Not only are they unfair for the customer, but they also damage the reputation of businesses. The sector has made some progress on this with more transparency about what the final price will be and I welcome Which?’s efforts to help highlight this issue. We want to make sure people can compare prices across the board so they can see if they’re getting a bad deal and if so choose to take their business elsewhere.”

ASA Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs, Lynsay Taffe said:

“Since September 2013 the ASA has been conducting comprehensive enforcement work to make sure that ticket sellers are up front about compulsory admin fees, and consumers aren’t misled.

“We’ve assessed 130 websites, including major ticket agents and London theatre websites, and have worked directly with 55 businesses to correct the pricing on their sites. We’re now conducting the same exercise with regional theatre websites where around 50% of 650 sites are being contacted to bring them into line.”

Notes to editors:

1. We launched our Play Fair on Ticket Fees campaign on Tuesday 17th December, 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.

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 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.

5. 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.

6. Below is the full list of 20 ticketing companies we looked at for our original research in October and November 2013:

·         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.    Below is the full list of 15 different events we looked at and the most expensive ticket fees we found for them – from our original research in October and November 2013:

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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