/ 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?