As many as one in four tickets to popular music, theatre and sporting events are for sale on secondary ticketing websites, according to a new Which? investigation.
Hundreds or even thousands of tickets appear on the four main resale sites – Viagogo, StubHub (owned by eBay) and GetMeIn or Seatwave (both owned by Ticketmaster) – as soon as any major event goes on sale.
After monitoring tickets for 65 events between April and June 2017, Which? found that 26% of available tickets for comedian Jack Whitehall’s upcoming Eventim Apollo show in the secondary marketplace, despite being on sale to the general public for just one day.
Over the same period, up to 17% of tickets for Lady Gaga at the O2 Arena in London (capacity 20,000), and 15% of tickets for the first night of the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall (capacity 5,272), were listed for sale across the big four.
Fans don’t know they’re buying resale tickets
When Which? asked for feedback from people who have faced issues with reselling sites, nearly half (49%) of the 362 respondents told us they thought they were buying from the official ticker seller, highlighting the need for more transparency in the market.
Many people carry out a simple Google search to find tickets, only to find Viagogo, GetMeIn, Seatwave and StubHub appearing at the top of search results, with little to distinguish them from primary ticket agents.
Last week, lobby group FanFair Alliance revealed that a secondary ticketing website had paid for advertisements to top Google rankings for 77 of 100 upcoming UK tours, even though tickets are still widely available from authorised sellers.
This matched our own findings – we took a snapshot of tickets to 12 popular events released this year and found that Viagogo had paid for Google ads placing it at the top of the list in seven cases. StubHub and either GetMeIn or Seatwave also featured on the first page of search results every time, sandwiched between primary agents such as AXS, Ticketmaster and See Tickets.
Comparison sites such as SafeTickets.net, CompareTickets.net, BigTicketShop.uk and Tickx.co.uk regularly appear in search results too, all of which link to Viagogo and other resale sites.
Viagogo is a no go
Which? is particularly concerned about Geneva-based resale site Viagogo, not least for being a repeat offender when it comes to selling tickets with strict anti-resale conditions.
Only this week, Ed Sheeran’s 2018 tour promoters said they’ve cancelled 10,000 tickets which are being sold for profit on resale sites, including Viagogo.
We also saw tickets for the BBC 6 Music Festival, West-End hit Hamilton, and concerts for pop stars Harry Styles and Adele, despite ticketholders being warned that security staff would deny entry to those suspected of using second-hand tickets.
Worryingly, telephone customer service is limited to those with tickets for events within 72 hours. Many Which? members reported difficulties getting a response via email.
Viagogo’s charges are particularly steep – the site adds as much as 34% in fees – and you don’t see the full VAT-inclusive price until you click through to add payment details.
We also spotted prices quoted in sterling but charged in other currencies, for example, euros or Swiss francs.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) placed Viagogo on its ‘noncompliance list’ in 2015, for displaying misleading price information and quoting prices exclusive of VAT.
It was later removed from this list, after taking steps to clarify fixed transaction fees. However, the ASA told Which? that the company remains ‘under scrutiny’, particularly in relation to the issue of VAT pricing.
What secondary ticketing sites told us
Ticketmaster told Which? that the number of tickets sold on its resale platforms (GetMeIn and Seatwave) makes up a very small proportion of its overall sales.
‘We have always championed transparency and consumer protection, and pride ourselves on ensuring compliancy with all rules and regulations. We never list primary tickets on resale sites, and we do not allow anyone to list tickets before they are available to the public.’
StubHub argues that the real issue is tickets held back for the industry, VIPs and other sellers.
‘The problem with access to tickets doesn’t lie with the secondary ticketing market – indeed, your findings show that only a small percentage of tickets end up here – but is due to the fact that not all tickets are available to the general public.’
Viagogo failed to respond to repeated attempts to contact them about our findings.
How to avoid being ripped off
- Sign up for ticket alerts Join fan clubs and mailing lists of your favourite artists, festivals, venues and primary ticket sellers for reminders of when tickets go on sale.
- Bag pre-sale tickets For some events, tickets are reserved for pre-sales a few days before the general public. Check for advance notice on gettothefront.co.uk and beatthetouts.com, and sign up for O2 Priority (you need an O2 Sim card).
- Buy from authorised ticket agents The venue box office is often the cheapest and most secure option, but you should find a list of all official ticket agents on the artist’s or venue’s website.
- Use search engines wisely Google doesn’t differentiate between primary agents and secondary marketplaces, so check before you click and watch out for SafeTickets.net, CompareTickets.net, BigTicketShop.uk and Ticx.co.uk, all of which link to Viagogo and other resale sites.
- Don’t assume it’s sold out Tickets can be allocated to a number of primary agents so they might be ‘sold out’ via one agent but not another, or could still be available from the venue.
- Alternatives to touts If a show really has sold out, you can find cheap last-minute tickets on StubHub and GetMeIn. But, free fan-to-fan exchange site scarletmist.com only lets users buy or sell spare tickets at face value or less. Twickets.co.uk and TicketSwap.com also offer cheap resale tickets for a small fee (Twickets takes 10% from buyers, while TicketSwap charges both the seller and buyer 5%) and mobile ticket app DICE offers face-value tickets to fans on the waiting list for sold-out shows.