New restrictions have been placed on secondary ticketing sites in the U.K. after an investigation by a British advertising watchdog.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is one of several regulatory bodies looking into bad practice in the secondary market in the U.K. following scores of complaints from consumers and representatives of the live music industry.
Earlier this year, ASA slammed Ticketmaster as “misleading” for describing its Platinum service as offering “the best available” tickets.Now the independent regulator is taking action against the U.K.’s four leading secondary sites — eBay-owned StubHub, Switzerland-headquartered Viagogo and Ticketmaster-operated platforms GetMeIn! and Seatwave — by banning them from using misleading pricing to sell tickets.
The prohibited practices include: “not making clear the total ticket price at the beginning of the customer journey”, “not including the booking fee (inclusive of VAT) upfront” and “not making clear the applicable delivery fee.”
ASA said it reached its decision after a formal investigation revealed “advertisers were not upfront and clear with consumers about additional ticket fees and charges” added at the end of the booking process.
Viagogo, which is widely regarded as one of the worst offenders in the sector and famously failed to turn up at a Parliamentary hearing into secondary ticketing, is additionally banned from using the claim “official site” and from advertising a “100% Guarantee” when selling tickets in the U.K.
Citing the example of tickets that Viagogo advertised for an Ed Sheeran concert — where fans were warned at the point of sale that tickets bought from a secondary site other than his official resale partner would be turned away — the ASA said Viagogo could not guarantee consumers would gain entry.
“For Ed’s shows we’ve taken every effort to cut out the online touts and ensure that his fans can buy tickets at the price we set,” said Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp in a statement.
Welcoming today’s ASA’s ruling, he went on to say that combating scalpers remains “a major challenge when so-called secondary ticket sites like Viagogo blatantly mislead the public.”
Campaign group the FanFair Alliance also backed the ASA’s toughened stance and said it was aware of thousands of U.K. music fans who feel “ripped off” by secondary ticketing sites.
“Almost without fail, these victims share three recurring complaints: They were directed via Google advertising towards these sites, they thought they were purchasing from an authorized seller and they were misled on pricing,” said the spokesperson.
“What’s absolutely crucial now is enforcement. Without proper sanctions, we fear that much-needed reforms will not be implemented, particularly by Viagogo and the public will continue to be duped,” they went on to say.
Responding to ASA’s announcement, a spokesperson for Ticketmaster said the Live Nation-owned company “welcomes all efforts that bring transparency and ease to fans buying tickets.”
Defending Ticketmaster’s selling practices, they stated that its “ticket resale sites already ensure fans know exactly what they will pay at every stage of the buying process,” with all fees displayed as soon as the customer selects the number of tickets they want to buy.
A spokesperson for StubHub said the eBay-owned company also “supports any measures which make ticket buying easier, more convenient and more transparent for fans” and that it will be “fully compliant” with the ASA’s decision.
The spokesperson added, “We hope that other players in the ticketing industry, including primary issuers, follow suit.”
Viagogo didn’t respond to requests to comment.