Thinking of booking panto tickets via Viagogo? Think twice as website can charge 15% fees on top of ticket price
- Sellers also typically see 10%of the purchase price taken as commission
- Competition regulator wants to tighten rules for secondary ticketing websites
- Buyers should always use a credit card to make a purchase
Theatre and concert-goers looking to book tickets in the New Year – lockdown restrictions notwithstanding – are being warned against using ticketing websites that can result in users paying over the odds for a service that fails to deliver.
Outfits such as Viagogo and StubHub can charge buyers a 15 per cent fee on top of the ticket price, which may well be inflated.
Sellers also often get a raw deal, typically seeing 10 per cent of the purchase price taken as commission by the website.
Outfits such as Viagogo and StubHub can charge buyers a 15% fee (Pictured: Jack and The Beanstalk pantomime at the Hackney Empire in London)
Many people are unaware until too late that these secondary ticketing websites make such a big mark-up in a market that is poorly regulated.
The Government-backed Competition and Markets Authority wants to tighten up rules to ensure resellers are banned from selling more tickets for an event than they can legally buy from the primary market.
It is also keen to ensure charges are clearly advertised.
Consumer group Which? has long campaigned against using such ticketing services.
Adam French, a consumer rights expert at Which?, says: ‘We advise against buying tickets from secondary ticketing websites, as your rights can be significantly reduced if something goes wrong.’
He adds: ‘The face value of a ticket should always be clearly displayed so that buyers – as well as sellers – know exactly how much extra they are paying.’
French says buyers should always use a credit card to make a purchase. This is because, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, a card company is equally liable with the trader if there are any problems with the tickets – such as them not turning up.
Unfortunately, the protection only kicks in if you spend more than £100.
Buyers should always try to purchase tickets through an official source first – for example, the venue holding the event.
While secondary websites are legal, they might not help if you are unhappy with the tickets purchased – such as not getting the seats requested.
If you want to change tickets or get a refund you will also be left to fend for yourself.
A better course of action is to look for an agent signed up to the code of conduct overseen by the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (Star). These can be identified through a star-inside-a-lock logo.
These agents pledge to be open and transparent about booking fees, handling charges and postage costs.
A spokesman for Star says: ‘If the reasons for extra charges are not made clear then walk away from the purchase.’
A reputable ticket trading website should also offer a refund guarantee in case a ticket you receive turns out to be a fake.
You do not automatically get this if you buy through a secondary ticketing website.
A Viagogo spokesperson says: ‘As a regulated marketplace, we offer a safe and secure platform for customers to compare ticket prices and gain access to events they otherwise may have missed out on. All tickets sold through us have a ‘Viagogo Guarantee’ offering industry-leading consumer protection.’
This has not stopped Viagogo and StubHub from being criticised by the Competition and Markets Authority for providing potentially misleading information on ticket availability for advertised shows.
How to avoid touts selling forgeries
For anyone buying theatre tickets in London, the official discount shop – TKTS in Leicester Square – offers half-price, same-day tickets and discounts for West End shows. It is currently open seven days a week.
If you are happy to leave it to the last minute, you can also gamble on turning up at the theatre’s own box office half an hour before the curtain rises for a chance to get a cut-price return or spare ticket.
Secondary ticket websites can help those willing to pay over the odds for a ticket to a sold out show and you might find bargains for events where there are still spaces, but you need to be wary.
Ticket touts outside theatres and other events should be avoided at all costs. A common trick is for touts to dress up cheap seats as ‘best in house’.
In some cases you might end up with a forgery – and be turned away at the door.
George Lusty, a director at the Competition and Markets Authority, says: ‘With more live events expected next year we want to strengthen the laws governing secondary ticket sales.’