The U.K.'s Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the independent anti-trust watchdog, is to launch a fact-finding investigation into the alleged exorbitant fees charged by ticket agents for rock concerts and

The U.K.'s Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the independent anti-trust watchdog, is to launch a fact-finding investigation into the alleged exorbitant fees charged by ticket agents for rock concerts and other entertainment.

The OFT on Thursday (June 17) launched a "short fact-finding study" into the country's £100 million ($183 million) ticketing business following consumers' complaints on ticket price mark-ups.

"The OFT has received a number of complaints about ticket agencies on issues including the level of excessive booking fees, lack of choice due to alleged exclusivity arrangements between ticket agents and event organizers, and problems with redress in the event of cancelation," the OFT says in a statement.

The extra booking fees and the handling charges can hike prices by up to 30%, some consumers claim.

Established entertainment online ticket operators such as See Tickets, which is partly owned by Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Really Useful Group, and Ticketmaster, say the average hidden costs for mailing tickets, handling credit cards and the Internet operation can be as much as 12%.

Results of the probe are scheduled to be published before the end of the year.

Should the OFT uphold the complaints, it is likely to refer the case to the government-appointed Competition Commission for a more in-depth inquiry that could overhaul the country's ticket sales practices.