Office of Fair Trading reviews ticket pricing

March 2005

Live Event Industry

A shake-up in the way concert and theatre tickets are sold was announced yesterday after The Office of Fair Trading said the public are not getting clear information on prices. Even legitimate agents are sometimes charging as much as two-thirds on top of the face value of a ticket according to the OFT research. In future it would like advertisements for events to show the face value of tickets. The OFT uncovered evidence of some ticket sellers breaking the law and employing “potentially unfair” terms and conditions, and mark-ups as high as 600% on some tickets sold over the internet. The watchdog also revealed just how much fees can add to the price of a concert or West End show ticket. A comprehensive mystery shopping exercise, looking at the cost of tickets for everything from West End hit Chicago to a gig by up-and-coming rock band Hope of the States, found that some people using well-known agencies were being asked to pay up to 67% extra to cover booking fees. Among the OFT findings were that some ticket agents were relying on “potentially unfair” terms and conditions buried in the small print, designed to allow them to deny refunds or to make changes to events. The OFT also found that secondary agents – ranging from ticket booths to firms specialising in getting people into sold-out events – attracted the most complaints. People being misled about the face value of tickets or not receiving what they had paid for were among the main gripes.
The OFT threatened tougher enforcement action to bring firms into line. One of the biggest problems is that, because of the way the rules currently work, most adverts for shows and pop concerts provide no information at all about ticket prices to avoid complaints from the Advertising Standards Authority who insist on full details of all prices and booking fees. This can be particularly complex for adverts for multi venue tours with different ticket prices and different agencies selling tickets. So adverts for Victoria Wood’s stage version of Acorn Antiques in London make no mention of the fact that the top-price tickets are £65, and the same applies to adverts for concerts by Kylie and REM. The OFT said this system was not working and has recommended that advertising rules be changed so that all event advertising must include the cost of the ticket excluding any fees, and details of where tickets can be bought at face value. This could help to reduce the dominance of the leading agents.


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