/ Shopping, Travel & Leisure

Purple rage – the re-sale tickets stitch-up


We spent eight weeks monitoring four of the biggest secondary ticketing sites and found tickets being resold that hadn’t even gone on sale yet. It seems touts are spoiling the fun for everyone.

Many of us have been there waiting for tickets to go on sale for a hotly anticipated event. You’re on the ticketing website, the tickets are released, and in a blink of an eye they’re all gone… and you’ve missed out.

At that point you probably either accept defeat, or you start trawling the internet ready to pay over the odds on a ticket resale website. We’ve spotted some tickets with a 1,760% mark up!

Ticket resale rip-off

We looked for unusual selling patterns on the sites Get Me In!, Seatwave, StubHub! and Viagogo.

We saw some tickets listed on re-sale sites before they were officially released. For example, there were 364 tickets listed on Stubhub! for Rod Stewart’s UK tour the day before pre-sale began.

In other cases tickets appeared simultaneously on primary and re-sale sites. Again on Rod Stewart’s same tour, 450 tickets were available on Get Me In! the moment the presale began on the primary site, two days later this had risen to 2,305 tickets.

Re-sale restrictions were ignored too. On Viagogo we saw tickets for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet at the Barbican, despite the venue’s resale restrictions and asking for photo ID on the door. These tickets cost up to £1,500 (despite the original face value of £62.50).

We think that some of the selling patterns we encountered are only possible because of the use of ‘botnets’. There’s also a risk of fraud on ticket re-sale sites because sellers don’t have to prove they actually have the tickets they list.

And it seems that touts exploiting ticket re-sale sites are also on Prince’s radar. After the sale of tickets for Prince’s forthcoming tour were postponed by Ticketmaster, he tweeted:

Prince then followed by tweeting a link to our investigation:

What re-sale sites say

The re-sale sites we investigated promise refunds or replacements for fake tickets, and sellers are usually paid after the event to prevent false listings. But StubHub! admits that some ‘carefully vetted’ sellers are paid beforehand.

Under the Consumer Right Act you must be notified of restrictions, seating details and the original face value of the ticket. Ticketmaster told us its secondary sites Get Me In! and Seatwave would ultimately remove listings that fail to comply, yet we have found these rules being repeatedly flouted on all the major secondary ticketing sites.

Getting a fair deal

It’s frustrating when you lose out on popular tickets, and especially when they end up on sale at the same time on secondary sites at higher prices.

We think secondary ticketing sites should do more to ensure that listings adhere to the Consumer Rights Act so that fans understand what they’re buying. We’ve submitted our evidence to the Government as part of its ongoing review into secondary ticketing.

Do you think it’s fair that tickets appear on re-sale sites before or soon after they’ve gone on general sale?


I have highlighted this repeatedly with Which? and glad that you agreed with me that this is simply ‘legalised ticket touting’!

You are to be congratulated in persevering with your efforts to get this covered. Have you other sites where you flagged this up?

Now that Which? has once again confirmed that certain ticket agencies are creating false markets, what are they going to do about it? I question whether this form of selling is even “legalised touting” – it is illegal deception. Touts act as middlemen. The companies cited have cut out the middlemen and are trading their own stock at extortionate rates on the dishonest premise that all their seats have sold out. Perhaps it’s time to go for the artistes and acts because they’re in it too, up to their necks, through their agents who think an impression of excess demand builds up their clients’ status. There are so many layers to this from the promoters and venues through the ticket sellers and re-sellers to the performers and their agents exploiting the cult status of some acts that it’s a cynical network of greed ripping-off devoted fans and ordinary people looking for a good night out.

Hello John, secondary ticketing sites are currently being investigated by the Government. We have sent our evidence to the Department of Culture Media and Sport as part of its investigation. We would like to see the Government review crack down on those who resell tickets at inflated prices on an industrial scale.

These sites survive because there are enough mugs who just pay up, irrespective of the level of rip-off.

That’s the sad part about it and what makes it so exploitative and so extortionate. Somehow the idolatry of certain figures and groups has to be taken down to send a shock wave through the music and entertainment industries; the artistes cannot keep on appreciating the loyalty of their adoring fans and pretend they are innocent and unaware of the ticket selling scandal. Added to the high ticket prices and the travel costs are the inflated prices of merchandise sold at these events. It’s easy to say that people who pay these prices are fools and should stop doing it; that requires a level of maturity that will not be found in this market and the susceptible should be protected from their own vulnerability and from the dishonest and illegal activities of those who are taking advantage of them. We don’t have to have much sympathy for people who make bad choices in a fair and open market, but the ticket trade for big shows and events is neither fair nor open. It is rigged and it is manipulated in order to exploit.

If the law were that the maximum mark-up could only be £20 then this would limit the gross profits that encourage this scam. Obviously enforcement is an issue and therefore all tickets should be sold to a verifiable person.

Obviously people then get to dob in the person who sold them the ticket as the payment transaction would be on-line to the secondary seller. Matching tickets back to the secondary seller would be a piece of cake. Touts outside theatres and hotel touts could be picked up by wired undercover couples when they try to obtain illegal prices .

Not 100% efficient but surely a deterrent especially if the fine is £5000.

New laws are nice ideas but are probably not a priority. A Private Member’s Bill might stand a chance if they didn’t waste their opportunities on measures that are already in train [like course information for prospective university students]. What we need is something that is self-policing introduced within the secondary legislation of consumer rights where a Statutory Instrument can be made more easily. What about if a ticket sale breaches the rules then the transaction is void, the customer can keep and use the ticket, and the seller has to refund the buyer in full?

This is so simple to fix. It should be illegal to sell any ticket for admission to an event at more than its face value. There is absolutely no situation where a markup needs to be applied or any justification for doing so.

If you are a legitimate agent selling tickets on behalf of a promoter or venue, you should be offered the tickets at a discount and sell at face value.

If you are a consumer and have bought tickets in good faith but can’t go, then man up and accept the fact that you will lose the entire face value of the ticket, unless you can either sell it to a friend or pay a commission to an agency to find you a buyer.

I agree. These tickets are expensive at their face value and the profit can be shared out without charging an additional fee to the customer.

I see the virtue in that Em. It should lead to some creative marketing techniques. Tickets could be batched by reference to their forward release date so that thirty-day advance tickets are sold at, say, £40 each, twenty-day tickets at £50, fifteen-day at £60, and so on. There could still be a final clearance at a discount to ensure a full house. Given that blocks of seats in the venue are also divided into top price, bottom price, and several in-between prices, according to proximity to the stage or quality of the seating, the opportunity to manage the yield might actually be enhanced and greater profits made [very few events are actually a total sell-out]. At least the process would be both transparent and orderly and the opportunity for speculative touting greatly diminished.

Thank you both. I am not clear @John Ward, if you mean £60 face value tickets are sold at £40 or if you mean the venue releases tickets at higher prices as the date approaches.

Certainly, there is lots of scope for this and it seems to be current practice in one sense. I wanted a block of 3 tickets to see War Horse to take a friend before they returned abroad. I managed to book the last block of 3 seats in a good central position, and assumed they were cancellations. You can imagine my surprise when we turned up at the theatre and were surrounded by whole groups of school kids, who certainly weren’t paying £65 per seat. Fortunately, they were very well behaved and didn’t ruin the show for us. Otherwise I would certainly have made a complaint!

Sorry I did not make my suggestion clear, Em, but I did mean that the face value would be the selling price on the date of issue so that, as you say, “the venue releases tickets at higher prices as the date approaches”. The ‘value’ of a ticket is affected by its scarcity or desirability and that changes in a dynamic way in various dimensions towards the performance date [and this can have perverse effects as what started life as the cheap seats become hot tickets later on and might cost more than the best in the house which sold out first]. Promoters can also employ discounts against previous face values in order to clear unpopular blocks and fill the hall. That is all related to primary selling. Reselling is a different game and I would say that there is no justification for any mark-up over the price that the equivalent ticket would be selling for on that day – but that does need further consideration when all tickets in the specific block or section have sold out as obviously any returns will attract a premium. Reselling should only involve genuine returns and not withheld stock.

We have experienced the ‘school kids’ factor but I expect a deal was done to secure a sale of fifty seats that otherwise might have been empty. The same happens with pensioner groups who might not be so well-behaved of course! This is more likely at continuing shows that are on for a duration. ‘One Night Only’ events are much more difficult to manage and a whole raft of selling techniques comes into play.

Touring shows are another problem. In some towns and cities there is a poor choice of venues at the required date. The assembly house might be too small but the football stadium far too big depending on the attraction of the act, so ticket pricing becomes critical.

Once a show has “sold out” from primary sellers, stop trying, accept you’ve been unlucky. Then find out what’s on at your local smaller independent or Local Authority venue. They need your support more than ever and it’s a much better experience than paying both arms and legs to be three miles from the stage in row Triple Z.

Somehow, the notion that the spectator yearning for a glimpse of Rod Stewart will be happy with a Roy Orbison tribute act at the local leisure centre doesn’t sound very realistic.

An example of a markup of a recent concert that I managed to get tickets for before they sold out. Tickets for a band I wanted to see were advertised at £55 -125 and I was lucky enough to get a ticket and paid £80 for my ticket. Almost immediately similar £80 tickets were being advertised at a secondary ticket site for £143 each with an additional fee of £36 per ticket being charged by the secondary ticket site. A total cost of £179. You were limited to only 6 tickets for your initial transaction but there were several batches of 6 tickets being advertised on the secondary ticket site. Are you telling me that someone who bought 6 tickets at £80 each (£480) suddenly decided that he/she couldn’t go and offered them immediately on a secondary ticket site for £143 each (£858). A profit of £378. The secondary ticket site only walks away with £216 though. Imagine if ‘botnets’ are being used to buy tickets on an industrial scale, then the profit margin would be far greater? I rest my case.

On Front Row on BBC Radio 4 Harvey Goldsmith the promoter has agreed heavily that there should be a limitation on any re-sale of 10%.

The Which? spokesman did seem less engaged in clamping down however it did at least show Which? was being active in gaining the evidence. I did only part hear the section of the program so a re-listen may be worthwhile.

this happened to me tonight for small Coldplay gig up the road from me. radio 1 opened the ticket shop at 7.45pm. i was logged on from 7.30 and link was not on and appeared at 7.45pm on the dot. i clicked and it went to ticketweb and said due to unforseen demand you are held in queue. 25 mins later i get in and tickets are sold out but then i see on Viagogo tickets are exchanging for over £2k..and each person is selling only the one ticket as radio 1 rules said the person buying from ticketweb has to bring their id but can buy a pair so these touts are buying two, and selling one of them when i wanted to buy 2 so i can take my boyfriend but i do not want to pay £2k. So upset as i don’t mind losing to other fans but to resellers, thats unforgiveable especially when the tickets were on sale for £20 and being resold for 1000 times that.
I also noticed days before tickets went on sale tonight Viagogo already had tickets on there site for over £1k
How do they get away with this, and how can they get tickets when the general public struggle

this type of thing needs to be banned as fans are losing out

To everyone that wants to make a difference. The Government is currently running a consultation on the matter which closes on Friday the 20th of November at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/review-of-consumer-protection-measures-applying-to-ticket-resale-call-for-evidence .

Please email your evidence to ticketing@culture.gov.uk

I have never understood how a primary ticket seller owning one, or more, secondary selling sites can ever be in the public interest. This scandal has been going on for far too long and it is about time it was investigated properly and from protecting the interests of the consumer rather than the multi-national corporations benefiting from it.

Of course fans who purchase tickets but are no longer able to attend an event should have the opportunity to resell their tickets, but the industrial harvesting of tickets distorts an already limited market and skews everything in favour of the touts. I also wonder how many of those touts actually declare the profits they make from their activities to HMRC…

With so many dodgy websites these days, it must be very difficult to ascertain who is a legal seller or not. Many people seem to have paid large sums of money for tickets that are not even valid.

If all tickets including resales were only available from the actual venues it would go a long way to solving the problem.

Venues could still pay other websites to advertise available tickets but not sell them.

That’s a good idea Alfa but I think a lot of venues [like football grounds that only know about season tickets and turnstiles] do not have any administrative infrastructure for selling tickets for occasional big gigs and adjusting the prices as the date and demand converge. Many venues just don’t want the bother of it and are happy to outsource it to agents. It might also be wrapped up as a package in the contract with the promoter. I think Em [above] offered the best approach to the problem.

A further point is that many events are organised as tours using a lot of different venues. It is best that the ticket selling is managed consistently.

I wish Which success in getting this sorted out, My daughter paid £100 for tickets to a show in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh that she knew my wife and I would enjoy. She had no idea that she was on a resale site and that the ticket face value was only £33! A bit shocked therefore when the tickets arrived and then of course on page 4 of the website the truth was revealed in font size 5 at the bottom of the page.

Time that venues can only sell tickets directly from their box office to consumers ( or registered tour organisers etc) with a strict limit on number per card.

There is a very simple piece of legislation in Ontario, Canada that not only prohibits the resale of tickets at more than face value, but also carries various penalties for speculation in tickets.


I would like to see similar legislation in the EU. (We sometimes want to see events in France / Holland / etc. by international artists like Einaudi, if there are no UK tour dates.)

ive just received 8no new order tickets for their gig in manc next weekend. Seatwave advertised them at £69.95, which was duly taken from my account, the tickets arrive and say 8no x £35………ive rung and complained ive received lesser priced tickets than advertised, and essentially been charged double the pricew. Having spoke to them, they promised a call back which hasnt happened and the call centre just fully fobbed me off with their scripted rhetoric. I am really f-ing angry and want to them down. Any advice as it full on daylight robbery. Any ideas ?

Peter says:
11 December 2015

It’s a terrible rort, like an extra tax. The law should not allow a primary seller to own a secondary seller. That gives the incentive to sell direct to the secondary seller so they can have two sets of fees. The other thing to do is to put the onus of stopping botnet purchases on the primary seller. At the moment they have no reason to do anything about it.

Phil says:
5 January 2016

It seems obvious that a primary ticket seller should not be allowed to own a secondary selling site, and also that resale tickets should be legally limited in price, but i assume that this has become such a problem because there are actually people who are prepared hundreds? or even thousands??? to see the likes of Rod Stewart or ColdPlay or anyone for that matter.

Sue Potts says:
5 February 2016

I am a massive Rod Stewart fan and have been going to his concerts for over 40 years. I was on the computer this morning the moment the tickets for his 02 concert went on sale but within 2 minutes the only thing left on axs who sell 02 tickets was right at the very back in the gods so I thought I would try ticketmaster but the same and now they are all gone by 9.30 anyway. At 10am there are hundreds on sale on Viagogo with minimum double mark ups. This is an absolute outrage. I didn’t know about this bot thing. Ticketmaster get round it most of the time for Wimbledon tickets, why not concerts. Chelsea fc don’t use Viagogo any more, they have their own system where fans can exchange for face value. Something has to be done.!!!!!!

anthony says:
26 February 2016

as it happens Most events on these secondary websites actually get much cheaper as time gets closer to the event tickets nearly always sell below face value. this would never have happened with the old ticket tout that sat outside the venue.