/ Travel & Leisure

Tick tock ticket companies – one month to justify your practices

Coins in clock

We’re giving ticketing companies one month’s notice to justify their practices or we’ll take our evidence to the Competition and Markets Authority. Do you think the industry is working well for ticket buyers?

Ticket fees are nothing new. In fact, at the first Ticketmaster event – an Electric Light Orchestra concert in January 1977 – fans paid a service charge of 25 cents on top of their $6.50 tickets. But they remain a big bugbear for entertainment lovers.

Six months since we launched our Play Fair on Ticket Fees campaign, and with almost 50,000 of you having pledged your support, the majority of ticket companies are now displaying all their additional compulsory charges upfront. This is great news and should make it easier to compare the cost of tickets between different sellers.

But we’re concerned that the ticketing market still isn’t working well for ticket buyers. Eight in 10 people think compulsory fees are a rip-off, and we know that the market is dominated by a handful of large players.

Fees of all shapes and sizes

In our latest investigation, we went through a total of 85 online bookings and found that compulsory fees added 18% on average to face value ticket prices. But in some cases, compulsory fees increased the ticket price by more than a third.

At the time of our research, the highest individual fee came from Stargeen, who charged 37% on top of the face value ticket price of £25 to see Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre in July 2014. However, in response to our campaign, Stargreen has now added an option to collect theatre tickets from the box office for free. Result!

Some companies didn’t offer a free delivery option for any of the events we looked at, while others charged fans up to £3 for collecting tickets at the box office. Four companies even charged fans up to £2.50 to print their tickets off at home.

Several ticketing companies have told us that they don’t have control over all the factors that influence the level of fees, but they’re ultimately responsible for the prices they charge. This is why we’re giving them one month to justify these practices.

Do you get ticked off by ticket fees? What improvements would you like to see in the ticketing industry?

Ian says:
16 June 2014

Many of the ticket companies have yet to comply with the new law requiring an 01, 02 or 03 number for customer services.

Ticket price should never have any surcharge. You don’t buy a toaster and pay5% extra? The ticket seller should be paid a % of the ticket price or per ticket from the game / gig organiser. No hiking prices on resale at higher prices. What is good for football should be standard across all.

Leemisa says:
20 June 2014

I agree with Brat90 – there should be no surcharge at all. A local theatre charges a “booking” fee when you turn up to buy the ticket in person!

Almost all these charges are unjustified. They are what I call the Green Shield Stamp Money Making System. This is a technique where a company positions itself neatly between buyer and seller, taking money from both while offering a ‘service’ that the customer does not want or need. Their sole reason for existence is to take a ‘slice’ of the ‘action’ for themselves.

Once upon a time I would call the box office of the theatre in question, get a clear picture of ALL available seats, make my selection and pay the seat prices declared. The only extra charge was postage. (Now one, otherwise excellent, theatre charges an ‘internet fee’ when I do all the work on my computer. What, pray, does that encompass?) There are still, thank goodness, some theatres where this is still possible.

I have some sympathy for credit card charges as the banking system also wants their cut – equally unjustified in the age of the electronic funds transfer and the internet. Even then, these should only cover the banking costs. It is evident that a little extra on this expense is taken as a bonus. Even so, credit card ‘charges’ would not be acceptable in a restaurant, so why here? I have no sympathy at all for debit card charges.

So I am not really interested in whether these crafty charges are too high, or how clearly they are documented, I am interested in why they exist at all. Let’s be done with them and dispose of these carpet-baggers altogether.

Our local theatre is managed on behalf of the local authority. It charges a £1.50 booking fee on top of the seat price even if you print your own tickets. Not a major extra (5-10%) but this conversation prompted me to ask them why they did this. Their answer was:

“The reason that the majority of entertainment venues have booking fees is down to the industry partnership between promoters and venue managers.

The costs of running and maintaining venues has risen hugely in recent years. However venues showing touring work such as the (**** theatre) only retain on average 20% of the ticket income – the remaining 80% goes to the producers of the show.

Therefore of a £15 ticket price, the (**** theatre) is likely to retain after tax £2.50. In some cases the producer takes all the ticket income money, so our only income is what we take on the bars etc, and the booking fee.

In an ideal world it would be simply included in the price for the customer but, quite rightly, the Advertising Standards Authority and the producers are keen that we explain and display our prices clearly.

We always aim to be transparent with our fees and charges and display them so the customer is aware of the final price they will be charged.”

Neil says:
25 June 2014

I’m afraid that Which are barking up the wrong tree here.

The concert promoters (i.e. the people who organise the shows) sell their tickets to the ticket companies at face value – or above face value in the case of very popular tickets – and the ticketing companies add their margin on top. The ticket agencies might also have to agree to do a significant amount of marketing of the concert as part of the deal.

If the ticket companies don’t agree to the conditions imposed by the promoters, they won’t be given any tickets to sell.

One of the commenters above made a comparison with buying a toaster. Now imagine if the manufacturers sold toasters to retailers at £22, and then insisted that the retailer marked the price on the shelf as £20 + £3 retailer fee. Retailer makes just one pound, endures the ire of their customers and finds that Which start a campaign accusing them of ripping consumers off…

TWINKS says:
14 November 2015

Thats about the size of it neil
Promoters dont have shops before all the digital tech there were ticket agencies all over the country tickets printed and sent to each one the promoters paid tax on the face value the agents paid tax on the booking fee dig tech has allowed these big players to control it a to z as far as the secondery sites are concerned this is where the real scandal is they basically tout tickets to there own companies and where I live they have all the music journos scoffing at their table.

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