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Which? puts ticket companies on deadline to defend practices

Concerns that ticket market isn't working well for fans

We’re giving ticket companies one month’s notice to justify their practices or we will take our evidence to the Competition and Markets Authority.

Six months since we launched our Play Fair on Ticket Fees campaign and with almost 50,000 people pledging their support, the majority of ticket companies are now displaying all their additional charges upfront.

However, Which? is concerned that the ticketing market still isn’t working well for consumers. Previously eight in 10 ticket buyers told us that they think the level of compulsory additional fees are a rip-off and we know that the market is dominated by a handful of large players.

High mark-ups

In our latest investigation we looked at the compulsory booking and delivery fees charged for music, theatre and comedy events by 17 ticket companies, across five different events.

We found that across all 85 online bookings, compulsory fees added on average 18% to face value ticket prices, with the level of fees varying between events for all companies. See Tickets charged the widest range of fees, from 5% of a ticket’s face value for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, to 31% for Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre.

At the time of our research, the highest individual fee as a percentage of a ticket’s face value was applied by Stargreen, who charged £9.25 (made up of a £7 booking fee plus £2.25 compulsory postage) on top of a £25 ticket to Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre in July 2014 – a mark-up of 37%.

However, in response to our campaign, Stargreen has now added an option to collect theatre tickets from the box office for free.

Delivery charges

At the time of our research, six companies (Ticketmaster, Ticketline, Eventim, Gigantic , BH Live and Stargreen) offered no free delivery option for any of the events we looked at, while three companies (Ticketmaster, See Tickets and Eventim) charged fans a delivery fee of up to £3 for going in person to the box office to pick up tickets for certain events.

Four companies that offered consumers the option to print their tickets at home (BH Live, Eventim, TicketWeb and Ticket Line) charged a fee of up to £2.50. Only two companies (AXS and Ticket Factory) offered print-at-home as a free option, but we want to see all companies doing this.

Greater transparency needed

Several ticket companies told us that they don’t have control over all the factors that influence the level of fees, however they are ultimately responsible for the prices they charge, which is why we want them to justify them. If the ticketing industry can’t offer an adequate response, we will take our evidence to the Competition and Markets Authority.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: ‘Consumers can often feel ripped off with widely varying and often high ticket fees so we’re putting companies on notice to step up and Play Fair on Ticket Fees. They need to justify their fees and treat their customers fairly, or we will take our evidence to the Competition and Markets Authority.’

Kelly Wood, live performance official at The Musican’s Union said: ‘It’s vital that fees are proportionate and transparent in order that fans aren’t deterred from attending events, as this could have a devastating effect on artists and the future of live music in the UK.’

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