CONSUMER / COMPETITION
Live events sector
The UK’s four main secondary ticketing agencies have been banned from using certain “misleading” price strategies. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said they had not been clear enough about extra fees added at the end of the booking. The four largest sites are Get Me In, Viagogo, StubHub and Seatwave. The action, comes after widespread concern from consumers, some politcians and industry groups such as the Fanfair Alliance, and seeks to ensure that advertisers are upfront about booking and delivery fees at the end of the process, which can drastically affected pricing.
The ASA have also demanded that Viagogo stops using the words “official site” and “100% Guarantee” as it could not guarantee entry. . Concert promoters may use contract terms in the sale of tickets to cancel touted tickets meaning tickets bought on Viagogo could not guarantee entry.
The ASA’s chief executive, Guy Parker, said: “Many of us will recognise the frustration of being happy with the initial price of tickets on a secondary website only to be stung by hefty fees when we come to book” and “The message from our rulings is simple and it’s clear: The price you see at the start should be the price you pay at the end.
The advertising industry regulator is the latest UK authority to put the secondary ticketing market. In addition to new legislation in the 2015 Consumer Rights Act and 2017 Digital Economy Act, both the Competition & Markets Authority and National Trading Standards have been investigating the operations of the big secondary ticketing platforms.
Then, last month, the government’s Department Of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy issued guidelines reaffirming and clarifying the rules contained in the CRA, while also introducing a new requirement for ticket resellers to declare ticket numbers. Google recently introduced new rules for secondary ticketing websites to follow if they want to buy advertising on the web giant’s search engine.
A StubHub spokesperson responded to the ruling: “As a consumer first ticket marketplace, StubHub supports any measures which make ticket buying easier, more convenient and more transparent for fans” and “We welcome this opportunity to work closely with the ASA and we will be fully compliant with its decision. We hope that other players in the ticketing industry, including primary issuers, follow suit.”
The ASA ruling was welcomed by anti-touting campaign FanFair, though it stressed that such rules would only have effect if they are properly enforced, saying in a statement that it was “aware of thousands of UK music fans who feel ripped off” by the secondary ticketing sites. “Almost without fail, these victims share three recurring complaints: they were directed via Google advertising towards these sites, they thought they were purchasing from an authorised seller, and they were misled on pricing”.
It went on: “While we welcome today’s ASA ruling and hope it goes some way to addressing this latter issue, what’s absolutely crucial now is enforcement. Without proper sanctions, we fear that much-needed reforms will not be implemented, particularly by Viagogo, and the public will continue to be duped”.