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Secondary ticketing websites are ‘breaking the law’

Competition watchdog finds evidence of rule-breaking and widens investigation

Secondary ticketing websites – which re-sell event tickets that have already been bought – are facing a severe crackdown as the UK’s competition watchdog says it has evidence they are breaking the law. 

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has identified widespread concerns about the information people are given when using secondary ticketing sites. The CMA said that all sites:

  • Must be clear if there are restrictions on using a resold ticket that could result in buyers being denied access to an event;
  • People should know whom they are buying from – for example if the seller is a business and / or an event organiser – and can benefit from their legal rights; and
  • Customers need to be told where exactly in a venue they will be seated.

It is clamping down on one site in particular – which it has not named – that has not improved the information it provides about tickets advertised on its site, despite making promises to do so.

The competition watchdog launched a formal probe into ticketing sites back in December 2016, amid concerns that consumer protection laws were being broken.

Scope of the investigation widens

The CMA is taking its investigation even further, prompted by fresh evidence it has unearth about the sites during its probe. It says that it wants to probe:

  • Pressure selling, and whether sites are making misleading claims about the availability and popularity of event tickets to rush people into buying
  • Challenges for customers getting their money back
  • Sites being used by people selling tickets they don’t have
  • Organisers of sporting events selling tickets directly through a secondary site without telling buyers

Action must be taken against companies – Which? reacts

Alex Neill, managing director of Which?’s Home Products and Services, said: ‘With people increasingly finding that they have to buy tickets through secondary sites, its right that the competition authorities are taking action against companies that aren’t playing by the rules.
‘Our research has found many websites breaking consumer law by not listing the face value of, or restrictions on, tickets as well as key information, such as block, row and seat numbers.
‘This action must now lead to much greater transparency, so that consumers have a better chance of getting the best tickets for popular events.’

Huge problems with secondary sites

In July, we reported that one in four tickets to big music, sporting and theatre events ended up on secondary ticketing sites, sometimes within a day of them going on general sale.

Secondary ticketing sites flood Google adverts, despite the fact that tickets are on general sale. In July, lobby group Fan Fair Alliance found that ticketing sites had paid for advertising to top Google rankings for 77 out of 100 upcoming tours.

Artists have also been fighting back. Ed Sheeran cancelled 10,000 tickets that were sold on secondary ticketing site for his upcoming 2018 stadium tour.

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 be aware that sites like SafeTickets.net, CompareTickets.net, BigTicketShop.uk and Tickx.co.uk generally link through to major 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.

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