/ 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?


>>> 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.

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.

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!

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 ?

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.

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.

Chris says:
18 December 2011

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

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?

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.”

Queenie says:
9 March 2012

It’s one thing when the tickets are being sent in the post but most facilities charge a booking fee anyway or don’t give the option to have tickets at the box office. In my humble opinion any fees involved in processing the sale should be built into the cost of the ticket and not stuck on top. I’m going to see a show on Broadway next month and the booking fee is £1.50 (95p!) so fair enough, my parents wanted to see a show in Bournemouth and the booking fees came to over £16 so they decided not to go since the tickets were already costing over £60 each! I’ve seen tickets for London theatre shows being sold at more than £20 above face price, plus booking fee, plus “restoration fee”. It seems out pockets are meant to be bottomless when we want to be entertained!

Lucy says:
21 April 2012

Booking tickets a few years ago, booking fees were more or less around the £5 mark, and back then I still remember thinking that this ‘fee’ was nothing more than a money-making scam from ticket companies. Recently however, total fees for tickets are adding up to more than 10% than the actual ticket price! The last time I bought tickets from an actual venue box office, I was still charged a fee just for my local venue to get the tickets from LiveNation or Ticketmaster or some other villainous company determined to rip money from my pockets.
It is getting past the point of ridiculous now. Many fees we’re being charged for it seems are disguised by several names so we end up paying ‘booking fees’, ‘transaction fees’, ‘restoration fees’, ‘delivery fees’, ‘cancellation fees’ whatever other stupid and probably non-existent things we’re being made to pay for. I’m sure that the majority of these could be incorporated into the ticket price, and indeed should be. If tickets for an event aren’t going to be sold other than through ticket outlets, then why should WE pay a ticket price plus the extra fee that the event organisers should be? And since when was an individual fee required PER ticket? I do not understand why one transaction should result in multiple fees per ticket.
It’s just crazy.

Gill Wales says:
10 May 2012

I have just been charged 90p per ticket ‘booking fee’ for Brighton Festival Fringe events. I bought the tickets in person at the ticket office and paid by credit card. I wan;t told a booking fee had been added until I questioned why the transaction total was more than the ticket prices.
I was told the only way I could avoid the ‘booking fee’ was if I paid in cash but I was buying several tickets for several events and would have needed to have over £100 in cash on me. It’s unlikely that many people carry quantities of cash these days or have the time to go to an atm and queue all over again.
If it was truly a ‘booking fee’ it would apply per event/transaction, not per ticket. So it’s just a way of charging more than the advertised price. For many of the tickets 90p represents almost 10% extra. It seems extraordinary that reputable vendors have such blatant disregard for the principle of transparent pricing.

EBlake1210 says:
11 May 2012

I am about to be charged £4 p/ticket extra for the Liverpool Echo Arena – snide & sneaky ways to make money off me genuinely make me wonder if it would be better to buy the DVD after the event and watch it at home as many times as I want. #joke #forcingpeoplenottobother!!

a-ticket-seller says:
14 August 2012

well to throw something else into the booking fee pot, promoters and event organisers know that the booking fee’s alone are a multi million £ business, when I was involved in selling tickets, the contracts from the event organisers made it clear a 10% booking fee is to be added to the ticket face value in which they get 4% back, I am then left with 6%, take off the credit card processing fee of 3% and I was left with a margin smaller than what the event organiser were getting back handed.. when enquired why do they deserve the percentage of the booking fee it was made clear that when an event is cancelled by the organiser the full ticket value gets refunded to the ticket purchaser but the booking fee does not in order to cover their organisation costs, I think it was more of a tax dodge as they never cancelled anything.. I would of been happy to run my business at a lower booking fee, but was set by the event organisers and outside of my control. I no longer sell tickets as I don’t agree with the whole booking fee non refund concept.

Lady Margaretta says:
13 October 2012

I just bought tickets to an event at the O2 via Ticketmaster website and I’m pretty annoyed because I had to pay £2.75 for their “TicketFast” service. This basically means I paid £2.75 for the privilege of printing off my own ticket, using my own printer and my own ink. The only other delivery options were standard post (also £2.75 and not an option for me as may not be at the same address) or special delivery (even more expensive).

Which? please can you tell me if they are allowed to charge for a “delivery service” which doesn’t actually involve delivery, and which involves the consumer essentially paying twice to receive their tickets – once by paying their charge and once by using their ink and printer? NB I know ticket sellers often use “booking fees” and “admin charges” to add in those extra pounds but TicketFast is clearly defined as a delivery option, not an admin fee. Could this be a bit like when Ryanair had to change their online checkin fee (the same thing) to an admin fee?

I’d be grateful for your help.

felix-tha-g says:
17 October 2012

I notice that Ticketweb ALSO levy a delivery charge (£1.95) for sending tickets out – regardless of whether it is sending physical tickets by post or ‘e-tickets’ by email. Is it possible to charge someone for effectively sending an email? Should this charge not be listed as a separate ‘administration cost’ instead? Posting physical tickets is an identifiable service – automatic despatch of an email following payment is not…

Richard says:
2 November 2012

I have just purchased 4 tickets for Bon Jovi in Manchester 2013 (gold circle) from tcketmaster, price was £100 per ticket and £12.50 service charge per ticket. I noticed if I bought a cheaper ticket the service charge went down and up if I bought one that was more expensive.
Can ticket sellers do this? Like other people have been saying the service charge is more than 10% of the ticket price.
Shouldn’t a service charge be set what ever the amount of the ticket?

I have just booked two tickets to see a gig at King Tut’s in Glasgow through your friend and mine: Ticketmaster. I was expecting the £2 processing fee per ticket (although we never know what that is really for) but I thought I would avoid the delivery charges by picking them up on the day of the gig. But no. It is new to me but apparently it now costs £2.50 to have the tickets sitting in the box office waiting for me to pick them up. How is this justified? Is it me or was there a time when picking tickets up at the venue was free and you paid for them to be posted out? Pretty ridiculous state of affairs…

We have a new Conversation published on ticket charges if you’d like to join in: https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/ticketmaster-ticket-charges-ticketfast-print-boarding-card-ryanair/ Thanks

FrankO says:
23 April 2013

A small local theatre which runs as a charity routinely charges a 10% “booking fee” on all tickets. I use the inverted commas because you’re charged the extra even if you pay cash at the door at the time of the event. Their stated rationale is that the performers and other show suppliers extract a flat percentage of the ticket price. So if they didn’t separate off the fee they charge to cover their own costs, they’d have to increase the ticket face price even more to recover the same sum of money.

I’ve heard similar reasons (excuses?) from other entertainment enterprises that add a booking fee to their nominal price. It seems pretty outrageous to me that vast numbers of consumers are so often and so deeply annoyed by unreasonable add-on fees just because a handful of artistes and venue managers can’t negotiate appropriately worded contracts.

Susanne says:
5 September 2013

Several years ago The Which? guide to saving money said under Booking tickets (and booking fees) ‘Go to the box office if you can – by law there must be a location at which you can buy the tickets at face value’ – so are you saying this is not actually the case and venues can charge what booking fees they like, even to cash purchasers present in person at the booking office?

Susanne says:
5 September 2013

is this conversation still current?

Frank says:
5 September 2013


Do please read what’s already been posted in a thread. It’s right up there at the top on the Which? solicitor’s reply to the original question: “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.” So indeed the Which? guide was wrong.

Susanne says:
5 September 2013

I did indeed read the entire thread, so don’t sound so tetchy; I just wanted to know whether the published guidance from Which? was up to date, in case the law had changed.

KarenA says:
27 November 2013

Just booked some tickets online. Printed them off myself. Where’s the justice in the booking fee? If you ask me booking fees are totally unjustified. Everything should be included in the ticket price. Absolutely hacked off with being continually ripped off!

Simon Edge says:
4 December 2014

A new high (low) in booking fees. £11 per ticket on a face value of £80 at the O2 Plus delivery of course. Its time that these fees were regulated.