/ Travel & Leisure

Buying resale tickets – ensuring that you’re protected

Music gig

The Competition and Markets Authority is working to ensure fans who buy secondary tickets aren’t left out in the cold. But event organisers have a role to play too – and the regulator wants to hear your views on what that role should be…

On 19 September, around 200 fans were reportedly refused entry to a Foo Fighters’ gig at London’s O2. People who had bought tickets from resale sites were apparently denied access when they couldn’t produce ID that matched the name of the original ticket buyer.

Innocent people like these Foo Fighters fans are being left out in the cold – literally – as artists, promoters and venues act to try and tackle so-called ticket touts.

Action against secondary ticketing sites

Here at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), we are concerned about this issue – and others in the secondary tickets sector – and we’re keen to hear from Which? readers on how we’re approaching it.

Last week, we announced that we will be taking enforcement action against secondary ticketing websites, with the aim of ensuring that important information about tickets and their sellers is provided to buyers. We are also working with National Trading Standards and Trading Standards Scotland, who are looking at the practices of businesses that buy tickets in bulk and sell them through secondary ticketing sites.

A key focus of the CMA’s work is to ensure that secondary ticket buyers on these sites are told about resale restrictions which could lead to them being turned away at the door.

Ticket resale that’s fair for all

Thousands of people in the UK use secondary ticket websites. They can offer an important service by allowing people the chance to buy tickets at the last minute or re-sell tickets they can no longer use.

However, it’s crucial that people who use secondary sites are told if there’s a risk that they won’t be able to get in. The CMA will be using its powers – including court action if necessary – to tackle this issue.

We will be acting to ensure certain secondary ticket websites do more to avoid fans losing out, but we also think event organisers that use resale restrictions have a role to play.

In general, people expect to be able to sell something that they have previously bought – and resale restrictions that prevent this have the potential to be unfair under consumer law.

Artists, sporting bodies, promoters and venues have told us that they want tickets to be sold at prices that are affordable to fans (rather than being bought up by businesses to be resold at a profit). But if they want to use resale restrictions to tackle ticket touts, they also need to take steps to ensure blameless customers don’t suffer.

What role can event organisers play?

We have already begun working with event organisers to explain how the law works. Last week we set out our thoughts about steps that those who use such restrictions should be taking to ensure that people don’t lose out (based on some of the industry best practice that we have observed).

Here are our proposed steps:

  • full and clear disclosure of any resale restrictions upfront;
  • putting in place arrangements for consumers to exchange, return and/or resell tickets that can be effective in allowing the original ticket buyer to recoup or mitigate any financial loss if they are unable to use the ticket;
  • full refunds to be issued to any consumer whose ticket is voided; and
  • putting in place arrangements that help to ensure that those people who have bought resold tickets, and have not been fully and clearly informed about these restrictions, will not lose out.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be looking for feedback on this – before revising and finalising our position.

So, this is a call to fans that have either bought or sold tickets through secondary ticket sites – what steps would you like to see event organisers take so you don’t lose out?

This is a guest contribution from Jon Riley, Project Director at the CMA. All views expressed here are Jon’s own and not necessarily also shared by Which?.


If you buy a ticket and subsequently cannot use it, it should be offered back to the promoter for resale. If successfully resold then a proportion of the cost should be refunded. However, for popular events the purchaser may get a more attractive price from a secondary seller. I don’t really see how this can be banned.

I see no reason why, if you have a valid ticket, wherever purchased, your identification should be required. If I buy tickets to send other family members to an event, and I am not present, will they then be possibly denied access?

I would suggest the main remedy is for resellers to ensure that all tickets they sell are for the seats stated and entry is guaranteed, with no restrictions. But you may buy from companies outside the jurisdiction of UK law, in which case educating the potential customer seems the only way to avoid being defrauded.

The problem I see is that for events that will be oversubscribed, an effective auction of scarce tickets will ensue. This is made possible by those who choose to buy through the “auction”. It seems an unpalatable outcome perhaps, but these are not charitable occasions, they are commercial. It may be the resellers also act as a place where promoters can get guaranteed sales (providing they are not returnable) to give an event a better financial basis. A bit like bulk-selling aircraft seats to tour operators?

Ideally, only the venue/promoter/event organiser should be able to sell tickets direct to customer and not in bulk to secondary resellers. I do not know how you would stop this, other than to ban all resellers; in many cases they no doubt perform a decent service, especially for tourists, offering a variety of entertainments.

Dave Jones says:
11 December 2017

I think the whole ticket agency trade needs regulating. All the so called secondary sellers are owned by the big agencies,ie Ticketmaster. These companys are nothing other than touts. I recently tried to buy tickets for Peter Kay, the day they went on sale. There were none left but immediately after they were available, at an extortionate mark up on secondary sites. Is that anything different to what Stan Flashman used to do? Sorry, showing my age there.
Then there is the issue of so called service charges. How do they get away with charging £3 per ticket, for me to print my own ticket?
Why not totally outlaw the ticket agents, no reason why the venue box office cant deal with ticket sales, its what they always used to do. Then if you buy a ticket and cant attend, you should be able to pass the ticket back to the box office to be resold, at face value, and a fair proportion of the money should be returned to the original buyer.

We visited Angkor Wat earlier this year and when we purchased the tickets they took our photographs and embedded them onto our tickets so they couldn’t be used by anyone else. A similar approach should be adopted when buying tickets. When we recently purchased Railcards online we had to supply photos of ourselves which were then embedded into the cards. If you can’t attend the event you could simply contact the organiser who could attempt to resell the ticket(s) and embedd the photo(s) of any new purchaser(s) into the resold tickets(s) and reallocate new ticket numbers to the resold cards and nullify the ticket numbers of the original cards. Simple process which would stop the reselling of tickets.

Is this topic still live?, once again I have been caught up in Tickets issued by Ticketmaster/Eticketing ending up on reseller sites like Viagogo/StubHub(these are actually virtually the same company). Today tickets from Eticketing for NFL UK games at Tottenham new Stadium went on sale at 10:00, these tickets are on-line only and by 10:30 NONE were left, however on Viagogo/StuHub there were literally HUNDREDS for resale at vast prices. My two grandsons are devastated as I stated I would be ready at 10:00 and should get tickets. Something MUST be done to stop this latest racketeering, it is breaking a lot of hearts!