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Consumer rights and event tickets

The summer months bring with it a number of music festivals, open air concerts and various other events, all of which appear to sell out before tickets are often issued. Bands and artists such as Ed Sheeran, The Rolling Stones and Take That have a huge international following, meaning tickets for such events are often re-sold on the secondary ticket market.

Tickets are typically sold by a concert or event promoter on behalf of the artist. Prices for such tickets are set and closely managed by a concert venue or the promoter, with terms and conditions applied to such ticket sales. Such tickets are then released to the general public, with demand often outstripping the supply of tickets to popular events. It is not unheard of events selling out within minutes of release of such tickets.

However, a recent trend has emerged that tickets are often available before general release by a promoter on secondary websites, such as GetMeIn, Seatwave, StubHub and Viagogo. Tickets on such sites are often advertised at vastly increased prices, with additional booking fees and charges applied by such companies. This has prompted artists and promoters to think of alternative ways of ensuring tickets for their events do not end up on such websites.

Ed Sheeran’s latest nationwide tour has received significant coverage in the way he and his promotors have cancelled thousands of tickets sold on the Viagogo website. The promoters, Kilimanjaro, made it clear that any tickets purchased through the secondary market would be deemed void and entry would be refused to whoever purchased such tickets. If tickets were purchased this way, they would be stamped as void and a new ticket issued, at face value, with the stamped ticket holder encouraged to recover their ticket price from Viagogo or their credit card provider. GetMeIn, Seatwave and StubHub all agreed not to sell Ed Sheeran tickets to avoid such inconvenience for customers. However, Viagogo refused to agree such terms, deeming Ed Sheeran’s approach unlawful.

Another example of artists trying to limit the resale of tickets on the secondary market has been the Arctic Monkeys attempts to restrict sales by limiting the number of secondary sellers allowed to sell their tickets to one company, as well as all ticket holders entering the venue at the same time as the lead buyer for the tickets. Adele has also limited entrance to her gigs to those whose names match the ID shown at the time of entry to the event.

Such attempts and restrictions are legal, but the secondary ticket market appears to be one step ahead of each artist in finding ways to manipulate such restrictions. In addition, secondary ticket websites have lobbied the Government to limit legislation in this area, with the majority of companies (save for Viagogo) agreeing to voluntary checks and restrictions on sales and transparency of fees in an effort to avoid legislation on such ticket sales.

However, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 introduced a number of provisions which have since been amended and updated to include the practice of online ticket selling with the aim of providing transparency for consumers when buying resold tickets on the secondary market.

Consumer Rights Act position before 6 April 2018

On the 27th May 2015, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 introduced a number of new provisions which would regulate online resale of event tickets in the UK. A few of the provisions enacted to support consumers include:

  • The information to be provided to buyers when tickets are resold online;
  • The circumstances where event organisers are permitted to cancel tickets sold by secondary resellers or to blacklist such online resellers; and
  • Potential penalties which could be imposed on a reseller for non-compliance with the Consumer Rights Act.

In summary, the above provisions have the effect of assisting buyers to identify particular seats or standing area at an event, whether the ticket can only be used by the named buyer printed on the ticket, the face value of the ticket as well as providing details of any relationship between the reseller or event organiser – for example, GetMeIn is a company owned by Ticketmaster, who is a primary seller of tickets on behalf of promoters.

The Act further also provides a prescribed method where tickets which are resold or offered for resale, a right to cancel the ticket or to blacklist the initial buyer will not be permitted unless:

  • The right is included in the original ticket’s terms and conditions; and
  • The term was not unfair.

The latter of the above restrictions is somewhat vague and unhelpful as limited guidance has been provided by the Government. However, the Competition and Markets Authority have suggested where a term seeks to undermine a consumer’s right to sell what they own, this has the perception of being unfair. Any restriction on resale of tickets should therefore be necessary and proportionate to the legitimate interests of the event organiser in order for such a restriction to be enforceable.

The Position after 6 April 2018

On the 6th April 2018, the Digital Economy Act 2017 made amendments to the Consumer Rights Act giving effect to a new provision that buyers of secondary or resold tickets must be provided with information detailing “any unique ticket number that may help the buyer identify the seat or standing area or its location”.This may well be an amendment the Government hoped would protect consumers, but there is no requirement on resellers to provide a unique ticket number where the event organiser does not provide such a number where it would assist in identifying the seat, area or location of the ticket.

Best approach to buying event tickets…at face value

Whilst it is tempting to purchase tickets to a sold out event or for that ‘once in a lifetime’concert from a secondary ticket reseller, there are significant risks in doing so. Below are a few hints and tips on ensuring that you do end up seeing the artist or concert you had hoped, rather than be refused entry:

  • Check the concert promoters’ website for authorised ticket sellers and resellers;
  • Check if the promoters have restricted access to named individuals printed on the ticket only;
  • Before purchasing any tickets, research the face value of such tickets, along with delivery charges, before committing to purchase any tickets;
  • Check whether the listing/tickets you intend to purchase have the seat or standing area details as well as the original face value of the ticket printed.
  • If purchasing tickets online, ensure you are using a website with a secure payment section, with a padlock shown in the browser or the web address contains the ‘https//’ prefix at the start of the address.
  • Where possible and if the transaction exceeds £100, use a credit card to pay for the tickets. This will provide additional protections under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 if for any reason your tickets are cancelled. Credit Card providers will be jointly liable with the ticket reseller to refund the purchase price in such circumstances.
  • For tickets costing less than £100, you may be able to claim a refund from your card provider under the chargeback scheme. This is a voluntary scheme, but most banks and card providers participate in such a scheme.
  • Never make a direct transfer or payment for tickets online, as consumer rights will not cover such transactions.
  • Always buy from a reputable reseller platform. The Government have recently urged consumers to avoid using Viagogo due to their failures to comply with consumer legislation, whilst other websites listed above have agreed to new regulations and restrictions on reselling event tickets.
  • Artists and promoters refer buyers to authorised resale websites such as www.twickets.live or the artist’s or promoter’s own website for tickets to be resold at face value.
  • Enjoy the event!

This article was written by Deian Benjamin.

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