/ Money, Shopping, Travel & Leisure

Are you unhappy with ticket resale websites?

Have you used a secondary ticketing website like Viagogo or Seatwave? Whether you’ve been reselling or buying tickets, are these sites working for you?

Our Play Fair on Ticket Fees campaign has had big wins in the primary ticketing market – last month seven companies agreed to show all compulsory fees upfront. It’s not before time. Fee transparency is a key and fundamental consumer principle. Indeed, it is the law under the Consumer Protection Regulations and a requirement of the Advertising Standards Authority too.

But what about the secondary ticketing market – now dominated by online operators like Viagogo, Seatwave and Getmein? Even Ebay and Gumtree are involved too. Shouldn’t the same transparency principle apply there?

Reselling gig tickets

The first question is: do you even know the difference between primary and secondary ticketing? In the old pre-internet days, secondary ticketing may have been called ticket touting, but now it seems to have gone a bit more legit. It’s become an online marketplace that puts people in touch with each other to get tickets for, well, frankly anything.

The BBC reported last month that some entertainment lovers were paying over £2,000 for two tickets (with a £20-£35 face value) to see the Donmar Warehouse’s Corialanus. That included an incredible £255 booking fee, a £9.95 shipping charge and £51 VAT.

We’ve debated secondary ticketing before on Which? Convo, and the response was as you’d expect: people have mixed views and experiences.

Perhaps this isn’t surprising as some people are winners from selling any spare tickets at much higher prices than they paid. But others are losers as they buy tickets they could’ve bought from the primary agent at face value, or are sold tickets with restricted view at an inflated price.

All Party Group on Ticket Abuse

Stepping into this murky world is the new All Party Group on Ticket Abuse, which has set up an inquiry. And later this month they want to hear from Which?.

Some MPs want to regulate the market, such as by setting a cap on how much extra a ticket can be re-sold for. Other MPs want big events to have the same ticket restrictions as the London 2012 Olympics to stop ticket touting. The Government meanwhile has made it pretty clear that it does not want to regulate the secondary ticketing market, and instead sees the solution to any problems lying with the industry itself.

So, what do you think? Have you used a secondary ticket website? What was your experience? Did you get what you paid for? Do you think the market should be regulated and, if so, how?

Comments
Andy Goode says:
14 February 2014

YES!! Especially when some are in, or appear to be in, cahoots with the initial vendor!
I am also appalled at vendors fees in the first instance.
However, legit secondary selling only occurs because of the systems in place for primary selling. I want 2, I buy 6, sell 4 for profit, mine are free. Numbers should be limited to 2 and that would slow it down.

Gareth says:
14 February 2014

I agree that numbers should be limited especially for big name concerts.I think the whole notion of these ticket agencies buying up great swathes of tickets from venues, before fans get a chance to buy them at face value is appalling. I’m sure the venues should not be allowed to do this.

Bill Belfield says:
14 February 2014

I paid £940 for 2 Michael Buble tickets at the O2 I’m London last year from Ticketmaster. 8 rows from the stage and dead centre, face value was £75 each. Even though my wife and daughter had a brilliant time, I can’t help but think this whole reselling business is exploitation.

These websites are legitimised ticket touting, nothing more. They encourage hovering up of the tickets so fans can’t buy at list price. The names of the people attending should be entered on purchase and linked to the tickets and IDs presented at the show. Resale is generally not necessary. Of course, there needs to be a way such that legitimate reasons for not attending should be allowed, perhaps they can be handled by a small insurance fee at the time of booking e.g £1 or £2.

Kevin says:
14 February 2014

This absolutely has to be cracked down on, the only winners here are the middle men, or touts to give them their correct name (flashy website of not). The band do not receive the excess charged, and the fans have to pay (if willing) and over inflated price. The amount of times I have tried to get tickets to an event and failed, only for them to show up on the reselling websites minutes later, does not get any less frustrating! Recently I missed out on a concert that was a charity gig, in this scenario are the touts passing on the increased margin to the charity? I think not.

It would not be difficult to solve, and Glastonbury as an example, already do this I believe. With laptop, tablet and phone cameras common place, it would not be difficult to add in a photo at the purchase point. The person buying the ticket then has to be in attendance on entry. Checking the photo will add some time at entry, but it’s minimal, they have to check tickets currently anyway.

Ross says:
4 June 2014

There is a system to make fully transparent but MPs going about it all wrong I’ve been battling for right contact for next to 2 years may get lucky now with all this recent press and a big open police case with Viagogo

It’s probably only the recession that’s holding ticket prices in check since this is the purest of markets. The resellers can only charge what the market will bear. Restricted Supply [only so many seats on only so many days] . . . divided by . . . Enormous Demand [big names, huge popularity, must-be-there event] . . . equals . . . Very High Price.

Are the resellers’ tickets all legitimate? Probably :: Were the ticket touts’ ditto? Who knows!

Do the resellers pay VAT, business rates, etc? Probably :: Did the touts? Not likely!

I am not sure that limiting ticket numbers per personal application could be guaranteed to eliminate touting but I think a restriction on the number of tickets available to bulk commercial purchasers to say 5% of the total per reseller might lead to more healthy competition although I suspect ways around it would soon be found. For the music and entertainment business to survive and flourish I think promoters have to have a way of laying-off some of the risk and getting some predictable and guaranteed income. It would be interesting to know what ticket prices would be without secondary selling,

Even the face value of some events tickets seem extortionate to me, and simply fuel the enormous payments to the participants – including sports events. But that is partly because they don’t interest me enough! If people are prepared to fork out the money, then this will continue unless some colds are caught by lack of customers – simply market forces at work. Like the silly prices paid for modern art. Bill above shelled out for the O2 so, although he thought it extortion, he was more prepared to pay the price asked than resist being ripped off.

karen young says:
14 February 2014

You should investigate ticket master, its a virtual monopoly! Its certain that they are in cahoots with the secondary selling market. The whole market is corrupt! You should have to prove who you are to use the tickets bought, im sick of people making a fortune and the real fans being taken for a ride. Sell the tickets direct to people who really want to go and only at the face price dont let greedy people stick their snouts in a trough that should not exist.

What someone will pay for a ticket is the only indicator of who really wants to go. Selling them only at face price inevitably leads to touting or, alternatively, higher face prices. The price is only right when supply and demand are in equilibrium. No promoter can guess that in advance for any given fixture since there are too many unpredictable factors affecting demand, whereas supply [the number of seats available] is fixed. Hence a proportion of the tickets, and the concomitant risks, are outplaced.

karen young says:
15 February 2014

What someone will pay for a ticket is an indicator of how much money that person has got spare to spend. Some people who really, really want to go just dont have that sort of money, and this all becomes utterly irrelevant when you know that the “official” ticket agency is buying up the tickets forthemselves to then sell on at an inflated price on a secondary site to squeeze more money out of fans! Its a complete racket and should be stopped now.

I am a huge fan of Rolls Royce motor cars, and I really, really want one but I just don’t have that sort of money; at least I have some appreciation, though, of the costs of raw materials, engineering, labour and craftsmanship that go into the price. There is no way of putting a true price on a concert ticket because, once the staging costs are covered, the rest is down to the value of the ‘talent’. The average reselling price becomes the market price.

Just as the ticket agencies that handle the sales on behalf of the promoters bag a bundle for their in-house resellers to flog at inflated prices to the highest bidder, so too the artistes’ agents abet this process thus driving up their clients’ popular attraction. It is a source of wonder why the “official” fan clubs – who you would think would want to protect their thousands of loyal but impecunious members – have not stepped in and secured preferential [and non-transferable] ticket allocations for the genuine fans [in order of length of membership or other evidence of support – like memento purchases – perhaps].

If a form of unit costing were employed, for any act that could fill the O2 arena, the seats would go for £10 each. But the booking system would probably collapse under the strain. Then the black market would swing into action. Immediately, some of those who believed they were genuine fans would suddenly accept that their devotion might not be unconditional if they could make a hundred quid by selling their tickets on a well-known auction website. It’s almost impossible to avoid being ground down by the unstoppable wheels of commerce, the more so when the commodity is not a vital necessity but the demand for it is fuelled by an ugly combination of manipulation, herd instinct and greed.

karen young says:
15 February 2014

So what you suggest is that the promotors who put together the concerts are idiots who cannot do their job and have no idea what the ticket should cost? Why bother with aface price at all then, just auction them to the highest bidders. If i bought a rolls royce at least i know where the money is going…..with tickets it done underhand and the artist does not see the extra money, it goes to the middle man a shady way to do business and everyone knows that, but its a complete monopoly which the government should look into asap. Dont dress up seatwave and via gogo as fans selling on tickets they cant use themselves……the tickets appear on these sites far too soon for that…dont pee on my leg and tell me its raining! Thats what i dont like…..shady!

If people didn’t buy the tickets at these inflated prices, then the business would wither. Blame the punters! The government aren’t there to solve every problem we have. Otherwise we’d all be complaining about a nanny state. 🙂

Karen, you have hit the nail on the head – “Why bother with a face price at all then?”. Exactly. It’s meaningless. Nobody knows where the money is going except within the industry. I am fairly sure the artistes get a due share of the box office total and that the percentage rises as the figure goes up [because the basic venue and staging costs stay the same]. Their agents make sure they benefit from higher sales revenue [because they get a slice too]. A lot goes on between the promoter and the agent and it’s in the interests of both of them to manipulate demand by issuing some tickets at “face” price, holding some back, letting ticket agencies have another allocation [knowing that they will be placed with resellers], ramping up the publicity, releasing some more to meet “huge demand”, tweaking the prices as they go. Remember, they don’t necessarily want to pack out every venue, at least not at any price because some costs [stewarding, toilets, safety management, security, etc] go up with numbers and agents don’t want their artistes appearing cheap. It’s a complex business and the last thing you want is the government trying to meddle in it!

PeterM says:
23 February 2014

Totally agree on this with malcolm r – if people stopped paying ridiculous rices, the market would dry up, and sensible prices would be the norm. However, since some people have significantly more disposable income than others, it’s unlikely to ever happen.

I’ve been to a few gigs, in London in the 70s and 80s, Brighton in the 80s, at Wembley to see Madonna in the 90s, and to see the Lighthouse Family in Manchester in the late 90s, as far as I can remember. I the mid 90s I had a few holidays in California and other parts of the USA and in Chicago I bought some brand new CDs for US$8 (about £5) and vowed I’d never pay more than £8 in the UK from then on. I have kept to that, with one exception (a double CD as a birthday gift for a friend which made her day most enjoyable) but have bought music s/h at £1 to £5 per CD.

With “booking fee” and other aspects, and far from low ticket prices anyway (whether for live events or even the cinema), I feel the industry has priced itself out of my reach, am resigned to that and don’t know or care who is playing, or where – I am simply not going to be ‘ripped off’ for 2-3 hours of entertainment (and 3-12 hours of travel, or having to stay in a hotel).

I feel the whole “events” business is a massive rip-off, and I simply boycott it. If millions more did the same, pricing would drop, and more people could enjoy it, but greed and many bites at the amount paid over for a ticket mean the middle men are all getting full bank accounts and it’s the poor idiots who are filling those accounts, paying rip-off prices and believing that it is just the way things happen now.

Wake up, Britain, tell the promoters you won’t pay £50, or £30, or even £20. Eventually the prices will come down. If you are going to pay £200, £400, £500 or whatever, then some greedy middleman, his girlfriend, and so on, are dining, driving, and taking luxury holidays on the back of your willingness to pay too much for the sake of making your child’s / partner’s / own “day”….

Oh, and I feel sorry for you being unable or unwilling to say “NO, I’ll never pay THAT MUCH”

I’ve looked at these websites with a view of purchasing tickets but the grossly expensive costs of the tickets takes seeing my favourite group or singer out of my budget. I think it’s incredible that a car park ticket costing £1 is non-transferable yet a concert ticket isn’t! The bands are obviously not profiting from this and I can imagine how frustrated they must be when half the stadium is empty as the touts couldn’t sell on their tickets. It disgusts me that once again Joe Public is ripped off!

I have never used a ticket reseller. I would be prepared to pay up to a pound above the ticket price if they can source a ticket for me. Not a penny more.

He;en Bruce says:
14 February 2014

When I used Seatwave recently I did not realize (very stupidly on my part) that I was actually purchasing from a ticket tout. I think it is disgusting. I paid a great deal of money for mediocre tickets which I was informed at the time of purchase thet the tickets were best seats!!!!

karen young says:
14 February 2014

As i said , i think ticket master owns part of seatwave or the other re selling site (via go go?). One big company……one big scam!

Steven mitchell says:
14 February 2014

Legal touting in my eyes, how the government do not want to get involved is disbelieving,how can it be. Illegal to sell over the odds on the street and legal on a website

Ashraf Mohamed says:
15 February 2014

Its legalised touting. Tickets should be resold at face value with a small markup for costs incurred.

Recent purchase of 4 tickets for double the apparent face value of tickets, which was not made clear on the Viagogo website. A further £68 booking charge simply confirms that these companies are nothing but leeches on our society. Sad to note that this company also sponsors the Scottish Rugby Union. Even more sadly, because of this, I will no longer be puchasing tickets for any further events or matches.

On two occasions I have tried to buy tickets for popular concerts. Despite being on the site the minute that it opened, I was unable to get the tickets I wanted.
I then went immediately to the reselling site where these tickets were available.
I did not buy, I was interested to see just how soon these tickets were up for resale. Within five minutes of the sale starting. How!!!!

karen young says:
16 February 2014

Because ticketmaster put them there! They never were sold to ordinary people on their website, so they can put them on so called reselling sites straight away……..thats how companies who have a monopoly work.

PeterM says:
23 February 2014

Agree with Karen – BBC You and Yours has interviewed bosses and other investigations have shown (because of ex-staff spilling the beans) that many so-called fans are really regular resellers via these sites, with significant numbers of tickets pretty much allocated to them by promotions firms.

It’s all a massive con – ‘booking fees’ or ‘admin fees’ just add to the rip off and it’s not going to go away while people continue to pay whatever the seller asks for these tickets. Even if you or I cannot afford them, someone else will come along, think ‘expensive’ but still cough up. That’s the person to blame for it continuing to happen.

Just like spam e-mail – they make enough profits from 1% who click the links to continue to belch out tens of millions of junk mails every day… if that 1% dropped to 0% the spam mail messages (and texts and calls to your landline or mobile) would all simply stop, as the cost would be too high and the returns would be nil.

james kenny says:
18 February 2014

I find it incredible that 5 nights of shows can be sold out in 5 minutes. There is obviously a conspiracy amongst the ticket agencies. Daniel Kitson is one artist who rages actively against this.
You can only order online but have to collect at the venue on the night using the card you paid with for example, this cuts out the traders. There can be more done but there needs to be a collective will.

Terence says:
19 February 2014

The whole market appears to be rigged and a disgrace. How often do we try for tickets on-line at the time they are released, only to find they are sold out but immediately available (at inflated prices) on secondary sites.
A TV investigation has shown this breaks the law. Let’s have some action!

viagogo says:
20 February 2014

As you say in your article, ticket reselling existed long before the age of the internet. Now, with the introduction of secure online ticket marketplaces like viagogo, people have a safe way to buy and sell tickets if events are sold out at the box office.

Once you’ve bought a ticket it’s yours to do with as you please. On viagogo, people can list their tickets at any price they choose but just because a ticket is listed at a certain price, doesn’t mean it will sell – just like if you put your house up for sale for way above the market rate, you’d be very unlikely to find a buyer. viagogo’s marketplace means people can view tickets at a range of prices and can decide where they sit, when they buy and how much they spend.

Legislation, such as the price caps you mention, is well-intentioned but there are always unintended consequences to legislation. When you make things more difficult, people turn back to the black market on Gumtree and outside the venue, where there is no consumer protection, no way of knowing if you’re being over charged and nothing you can do if your ticket turns out to be a fake. We believe that secure marketplaces, like viagogo’s, are a big step forward for consumers – people can buy the tickets they want with peace of mind because viagogo guarantees every ticket. Marketplaces like viagogo have also dramatically reduced fraud because we don’t pay the seller until after the buyer goes to the event.

We appreciate that there will always be different opinions on secondary ticketing platforms. However, without us, the only options for people wanting to buy tickets to sold out events would be to either stay at home, or take their chances on classified ads and from people outside the venues. Nobody need take those risks anymore.

james kenny says:
20 February 2014

So Viagogo defend their operation as you might expect citing black market and fakes as a defence for operating a legitimate second hand service.
Admittedly nobody wants to buy a fake ticket or be duped and if there has to be a service such as this then yes this is a better way for consumer protection.

The deceit lies in a monopoly able to levy huge broker fees and outrageous postal and transaction costs (a la Ryanair) for acting basically as GUMTREE with paypal to genuine fans with no other choice but to pay the black price.

There is unsurprisingly no attempt to answer the question at the root of all these comments.
How is it that online tickets for concerts all sell out within 2 or 3 minutes often for multiple dates but these are available instantly in their hundreds on Get me in or Viagogo etc?

Ross says:
4 June 2014

You s**g off gumtree but that’s where most your sellers source tickets…. Stop lying to consumers. Let them understand this properly. If the market was made transparent you’d fold for all dodgy tradings. Why are u under so many police investigations and hide uk address if above board?
Your uk address needs a big sign outside
Sherbourne House, 2nd floor
119-121 Cannon St
London
EC4N 5AT

Ross says:
4 June 2014

But them dodgy people now sell through ur site and u have them meet fans like at kate bush. If u want to truly educate people explain your secrete “white seller” programme which is aimed for street touts “the dodgy people outside venue you mention” to buy on the day and run and drop off at ur collection points or meet fans direct?
So all you’ve done is bump up price…. Cut out the middle man and go direct to these touts for fraction of price if worried about real tickets a good tout will walk u to gate

It is helpful to have Viagogo’s contribution to this Conversation. There seem to be two sorts of issues: First, there is genuine reselling where an intermediary [like Viagogo] creates a trade between people who have some tickets they don’t want and people who don’t have tickets but want some. Second, there is secondary selling by companies that have been allowed to pre-empt the market and, by virtue of the large allocations acquired, are in a position effectively to manage the market; they have assessed the demands and risks and set a price that ensures they cannot lose. As has been said before, to some extent the promotion of gigs and concerts would not work without this form of hedging and it is enshrined within the policies surrounding the management of artistes. It is this secondary form of ticket selling that seems to give rise to the most objections and it is, by its very nature, exploitative. It might not be illegitimate, it might not be corrupt, but its outcomes appear to be unfair even if its intentions are not. It would be interesting to learn, for a typical popular event such as Beyoncé coming up at the O2 Arena, what percentage are sold (a) direct by the venue, (b) by agencies at the same prices, (c) by intermediaries such as Viagogo, and (d) by commercial ticket traders with pre-empted allocations.

viagogo says:
20 February 2014

A couple of questions have been raised that we’d be very happy to help answer.
We’re not just a ‘Gumtree with Paypal’ – we offer a service that monitors your transaction from start to finish; we track your delivery to make sure it gets to you before the event and we have security measures in place to ensure it’s a valid ticket as well as customer services in 6 languages, 7 days per week. We also have a guarantee that you’ll get a replacement ticket if there is a problem or, in the very rare circumstances that this is not possible, a refund. For that we charge a fee. However, viagogo is a voluntary service so you don’t have to use us!!
Any questions about why concerts sell out so quickly and to who should be directed to the organisations that sell the tickets in the first place.

As we said, using viagogo is completely voluntary. If you haven’t been able to get tickets at the box office then we are a very good option as you get to choose where you want to sit and how much you want to pay – remember, around half of the tickets on viagogo are at or below face value. It’s always worth checking the prices because the tickets listed by sellers at the high prices you read about, very rarely sell.

Ross says:
4 June 2014

Why do you pretend to customers u are not in the uk when all trade from Sherbourne House, 2nd floor
119-121 Cannon St
London
EC4N 5AT

Ross says:
4 June 2014

Why was you ILLEGALLY selling tickets to football clubs arsenal and man utd when not allowed. Now ignoring all solicitors letters and emails because think you’re above the law?