/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Ask Which? – Why am I charged a ticket booking fee?

Mattie asks: I understood the only way to avoid booking fees for concert tickets was to buy them direct from the box office with cash. However, the last time I bought tickets in this way, I was charged.

I recently went to a box office in Glasgow to purchase six tickets for a concert and was told that I would not avoid a booking fee, even if I paid with cash.

I was told that only a certain amount of tickets were allocated for sale without a booking fee and these had all gone. I wonder if you had heard of this and whether it is even legal?

Joanne Lezemore, Senior Solicitor for Which? Legal Service responds:

When you buy tickets, there is no legal obligation for any retailer to sell them at face value.

However, the Code of Practice set down by the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers for ticket agents and retailers states that ‘for fairness, this [booking] charge should not be made to those paying by cash or cheque’. Frustratingly, that Code is not legally enforceable.

Official ticket sellers generally act on behalf of event promoters, venues or performers. The typical way that most ticket sellers and secondary websites earn money is through the additional service fees they charge customers.

By law, ticket sellers must give you clear, honest information about prices and tell you about any extra charges on top of the ticket’s face value, like booking fees.

But don’t rely on promotional advertising to give you the full price you’ll pay when you buy tickets. It is always worthwhile before buying tickets from any agent or retailer, to contact them first in order to find out the face value of the ticket and its final cost.

I hope this helps you; please be aware that the guidance given is limited by the information I have and should not be treated as a substitute for taking full legal advice

Have you ever been charged a booking fee when buying a ticket from the box office? Do you think the price you were charged was fair?

Comments
Guest

>>> When you buy tickets, there is no legal obligation for any retailer to sell them at face value. <<<

Well, that's the problem, in a nutshell. I can't thing of any other product where the retailer's margin isn't built into the price. "New TV sir? Yes, of course. You've seen it advertised at £999? Ah, that's only the manufacturer's price. We add another £300 to that, plus delivery; we have to make a living too, you know!"

Why can't promoters, venues or artists include a retailers or agent's margin in the ticket price? No reason.

Then it could be made a criminal offence to advertise or sell tickets at more than face value. That would be fair to the public and fans, and an immediate end the practice of touting.

Guest

Even if it was illegal to sell tickets above face value, it would be done illegally. If enough people refuse to pay above the ticket price then the agents will be forced to take action, but it’s not going to happen because of the number of people with more money than sense.

Guest

Of course people would continue to do it illegally. But if you were to buy up £1000’s of tickets on spec, with the additional threat of a fine and confiscation, and maybe jail for a repeat offence, would you take the risk?

This is one area of the service industry that really does need cleaning up to protect people from their own stupidity, and honest people from fraudulent sales by criminal outfits.

Tickets for the Olympics anyone? You pay in full now and I will mail you the tickets two weeks before the event. Yeah, right!

Guest

So its perfectly legal for a venue to advertise (at the venue) tickets for say £20 and then charge an admin fee of £100 even when buying with cash at the venue itself and not through any third party ?
I know a retailer doesnt have to sell you anything at any price, but I was under the impression that advertising items for sale at a price which was lower than they were actually available for breached the Trading Description Act ?

Guest

I have long thought this to be an unfair practice, particularly when paying cash, but I do not mind when it is a reasonable fee and the tickets will be posted out.

I recently bought a total of six tickets for three concerts in three different venues in Glasgow next February. The fact that I could buy then all in one go, with the tickets promptly posted out, pay by credit card with a £1.75 transaction fee in total seems reasonable to me, but I would not have expected to pay extra if I called at the box office.

Guest

Looks like you’ve had a pretty good experience there Tim. Last December I ordered and paid for two tickets for a concert [in June] as soon as it was announced and we made travel and accommodation plans. The tickets did not arrive until about one week before the date. We had been wondering whether or not to cancel the accommodation but we hung on and sent e-mails to the selling agent. The tickets did arrive just before we were due to depart [they said the tickets “had just been received into stock”]. There was a retailing charge of £4.50 per ticket [not bad if the service had been OK] plus a transaction fee of £1.75 for CC payment [acceptable]. The whole distance selling business is messy but there’s practically no other way to get tickets unless you happen to live close to the venue. I cannot believe the ticket sellers are paying the full face value for the batches of tickets they buy in bulk – probably on sale or return anyway – so any retailing charges are just an impost. It wouldn’t surprise me if there wasn’t a bit of VAT avoidance going on in between all these little extras as well, especially with amounts that don’t divide by six.

Guest
Chris says:
18 December 2011

Fatsoma.com do not state anywhere it is non-refundable and in the terms and conditions state

“7a. NORMAL PAY TICKET SALES
7a.1. Tickets sold through Fatsoma’s normal pay method, are tickets sold for events advertised by promoters, where transactions are processed through Fatsoma’s own online merchant and bank account. Transactions of this nature adhere to the terms of clauses 7a

7a.2. All tickets sold on the Website are at the point of sale owned by Fatsoma.

7a.3. The User may apply for a refund prior to the event in question provided that tickets for the event remain on sale. Acceptance of refunds are determined by the event’s refund policy and it is the customer’s responsibity to check this policy with the promoter prior to purchasing the ticket.

7a.4. Fatsoma will process the refund due to the User in accordance with clause 7a.3 as soon as possible and, in any case, within 30 days of the day the refund is accepted by the promoter.

7a.5. Should an event be cancelled the Promoter of the event will inform the User prior to such cancellation and will refund to the User the ticket price minus the booking fee.”

They are refusing to give me a refund for 4 tickets I brought for an event which was postponed (Fatsoma continued selling tickets after the postponement was announced) saying it is in the terms and conditions that the booking fee is non-refundable however I cannot find where it says this!

Can you please help?

Guest

Hi Chris, sorry to hear about the trouble you’re having. I’ve spoken to Joanne and she offered this advice:

“From a contractual point of view, the purchaser of the ticket is only bound by the terms and conditions set out by the seller however, the terms and conditions do not have to state what will happen if the consumer wishes to cancel – legally if you breach a contract the company can look to the consumer for any loss of profit.

However, it seems from the terms given that they are vague – they refer to a refund but also a refund policy – is this set out in the terms and conditions? If not, a court would interpret the clause in the widest possible favour in the consumer’s favour.

Even if there was a term stating that if an event is postponed no refund would be given but only tickets to a later concert, it could be deemed and unfair contract term – it would depend very much on the facts of the case.”