Ticket agencies 'Touts are useful'

Which? Archive

This article, Ticket agencies, was last updated on 01 March 2007 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Money articles.

A crowd outside a theatre

Tickets to some West End shows go for vastly inflated prices

Under the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (Star) guidelines, member agencies are not supposed to charge more than 25 per cent on fees.

Rip-off booking fees

But Which? member Hilary Copeland told us about a booking fee of £1.40 on the cost of a £5 ticket to see the Tiffany exhibition at Somerset House in London – a mark-up of 28 per cent.

The OFT’s 2005 investigation didn’t criticise agents’ fees and felt in general that there was enough competition between agents to keep the scale of charges down.

It may be a surprise to learn that reselling tickets at more than face value is not illegal, though street trading can be. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has accepted the merits of touts, or secondary agents as they are politely called.

Consumer protection laws breached

In a 2005 report, it said they ‘can provide a benefit to consumers’ who are desperate to get a ticket. However, the OFT acknowledges that some secondary agents breached consumer protection laws.

Official ticket agents believe the only way to stop touts is by a combination of self-regulation, legislation and a change in the way the public views tickets.

One piece of good news for the consumer is a new European law, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which comes into force this year and will require ticket sellers to provide customers with all relevant details.