/ Shopping, Travel & Leisure

Time to rebalance the ticket resale market

Concert billing

If you’re a music fan – or sports fan, or theatre-goer for that matter – then you’ll almost certainly be familiar with the perils of buying tickets online.

In theory, the process should be as transparent and straightforward as ordering your groceries online or downloading a song.

But in practice, and especially when it comes to high-demand events, the experience is far more frustrating – logging onto a ticketing website at a designated time, only to discover the performance you want to see is apparently ‘sold out’.

And then, compounding the misery, minutes later and hundreds of those tickets have popped up for vastly inflated sums on so-called ‘secondary ticketing’ sites.

Ticketing black market

Tickets are increasingly being listed on these secondary sites before they go on sale to the general public, as highlighted by recent Which? research.

Clearly, something isn’t working.

Services supposedly established to help genuine fans re-sell a ticket when they can no longer attend a show, are in fact enabling industrial-scale touting.

Typically, this involves ‘power sellers’ (ie touts) harvesting blocks of tickets via specialised software and multiple identities or credit cards. And the development of this digital black market is a cause of growing unease within the music industry.

Fans are the lifeblood of our business, but if they are short-changed and badly treated, then there will be serious long-term ramifications. Revenues that should stay within the music ecosystem and help develop our next generation of talent, are instead being syphoned off by these hi-tech speculators.

Ticketing and the Consumer Rights Act

But if recognising this dysfunction is easy – rectifying the market is far more problematic. And for that to happen, we need the Government to act.

Measures in last year’s Consumer Rights Act (CRA) aimed at providing fans with basic protections have so far proved ineffective. The legislation is often ignored by secondary ticketing sites, and certainly not enforced. So scalpers and touts continue to act with impunity.

But support for a petition to the Government to enforce and extend the CRA is a strong indicator of public feelings on this issue, having amassed nearly 40,000 signatures. The Government has commissioned a review into the secondary ticketing market, the findings of which are due out this week. So there may still be hope for fixing this dysfunctional ticketing market, rebalancing for the sake of both the fans and entertainment industry.

So what do you think about the secondary ticketing market – does it need rebalancing?  Have you bought secondary tickets before? If so, do you think you were ripped off? And were you confused at all about the difference between a ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ ticket seller?

This is a guest post by Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition. All opinions are Paul’s own, not necessarily those of Which?


Perhaps it is time that the special powers that the Consumers’ Association was granted over a decade ago are wheeled out and discussed here in Conversations. What powers it does have and how they could be applied, creatively if necessary by using subscribers, and what is not possible.

Ticket fiddling is a scandal and I find it very hard to believe that a dedicated group could not find an angle on this to disrupt the present fiddles.

I understand it may be a bit of a dry subject but I am hopeful that our members include enough thoughtful people that it will be worthwhile.

Que Choisir, the smaller French consumer body, has retianed solicitors who write or act on behalf of the local Que Choisir “chapter” . They have around 160 odf these arounf the country with an average of 1000 members. The Paris Office is but a central administration and publishing point and it is a members organisation with a small off ice and a cheap CEO and office.

Perhaps the highly centralised Which?, now with a majority of co-opteds compared to elected members , should re-examine its effectiveness – other than generating Conversations. It is significantly more expensive than any other consumer organisation I could find around the world despite being one of the largest.

Joining Consumer Reports in the US is around 50 dollars and Choice in Australia despite being very much smaller seems to ger by on smaller subs. Perhaps not paying £2.24m to four executives on the Which? Ltd Board or losing fifteen million on overseas expansion could be a reason why Which? is so expensive.

P.S. I am of course willing to read the internal papers Which? must have discussing its powers and attend a meeting of subscribers and the relevant staff. Who knows I might lash out on independent legal advice.

If there was a law passed that secondary tickets can only be sold at face value and the seller pays a small fee to the website this would put a stop to it overnight. People who genuinely cannot attend an event will still be able to offload their tickets and recoup most of their outlay.

I think you got it spot on first time. I’m sure there must be some drawbacks to your scheme that I can’t think of but there can’t be much that outweighs the way we’re being ripped off right now.

Laws are meant to be for our benefit, passed by the government which we’ve voted in to represent us. I think we’re now past the favourite delaying tactics of ‘Let the market decide’ and ‘self regulation’. This is a law which needs passing, now.

I think the whole ticket market for popular events is unfairly rigged and I am afraid to have to point out that the entire entertainment industry is in it up to its eyeballs. I won’t repeat everything I have said in previous Which? Conversations on this topic but artistes, their agents, promoters, venues, ticket agents, the recording industry, official fan clubs, merchandise merchants, and all the support operations, have all got their snouts in a rotten trough to a greater or lesser extent.

It is people who are obsessed with things or “celebs”who have to get a ticket by any means and will do anything to get one they are the ones who encourage these places to exist by paying anything at all just to get hold of a ticket .The whole system is wrong but when some people are obsessed what can anyone do

A bit like an auction isn’t it where if you want something badly enough – and can afford to part with the money – you’ll get it. If people did not pay the prices demanded by the secondary ticketing sites then maybe the practice would largely cease. In a sense the remedy also lies in the “fans” hands. Who is it who pay the extortionate prices?

It seems to me to be easy for the venues only to let people in with the ticket and matching ID or prof of purchase (card used).
Those honest people that cannot attend should have an ability to sell back to the seller their ticket at face value minus a reasonable admin fee. That ticket then be resold and face value.
As others have said this does not happen because the industry is reasonably happy with the status quo now.
I have just about given up trying to get tickets that are sold out in seconds. Something is not right when that happens.

Hello all, today the Government published the independent review on secondary ticketing:

Our Director of Policy and Campaigns, Alex Neill, said:

‘Our research found extensive examples of tickets being sold unlawfully so it’s right that secondary ticketing sites have clearly been told they are ​responsible for complying​ with the law. The Government and Trading Standards must now ensure they can take strong action to punish any sites found breaking the rules.

‘Fans are rightly frustrated when they see tickets being sold on the secondary market at hugely inflated prices, particularly when they are being sold on an industrial scale. So it’s good to see that the review has acknowledged there is much more the industry needs to do to combat this problem. They must take this opportunity to show they are willing to take action, otherwise people will be looking to the Government to step in.’