Which? reveals event ticket over-pricing

Consumer advice company Which? revealed on Friday that it has found evidence that fans are finding it difficult to buy event tickets at face value and are being ripped off by secondary ticketing websites.

Tickets for the majority of UK events are released through the venue or through primary ticket websites such as Ticketmaster and See Tickets. However, when tickets from these sources are all sold, fans increasingly have to pay more for their tickets on the secondary market, where tickets are sold at a mark-up price. Originally, the secondary market was used as a fan-to-fan exchange where anyone could resell tickets.

Which? said it monitored four of the biggest secondary ticketing websites over eight weeks and discovered that these sites have attracted touts who operate on a large scale. The Which? investigation also indicated that certain ticket sites may be acting like touts.

Secondary ticketing sites Seatwave, Viagogo StubHub! and Get Me In! were monitored by Which? from August to October 2015. It found that tickets appeared on re-sale sites before they were officially released, or simultaneously on primary and re-sale sites. For example, StubHub! had 364 tickets on sale for Rod Stewart’s UK tour the day before the presale began. For the same tour, 450 tickets were available on Get Me In! as soon as the presale began on the primary site, two days later this had increased to 2,305 tickets.

The Which? research also showed that there were suspicious ticket release patterns. It looked at each of the 28 Riverdance tour dates and discovered eight tickets on sale on the Get Me In! site within a minute of an O2 Priority presale, with each listing having exactly the same price structure.

In addition, restrictions on re-sales were being ignored. Which? found that Viagogo listed tickets for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet at the Barbican, despite the venue imposing strict resale restrictions and asking for photo ID on the door. Tickets were priced at up to £1,500, compared to the original face value of £62.50.

Which? added that it isn’t illegal to resell tickets for profit, apart from football tickets without express permission from the club, but it believes that some of the selling patterns it encountered are made possible through the use of ‘botnet’ software, which is used by touts to harvest large amounts of tickets as soon as they go on sale.

Fans of popular shows are often left with no choice but to find tickets on the secondary market, with sellers regularly listing tickets at three or four times the face value. Which? stated that it even saw tickets with a 1,760% mark-up. In addition, the sites charge admin fees. Get Me In! charge buyers 15% to 18%, while fees at Seatwave, Viagogo and StubHub! vary depending on the event and ticket type. All four sites take a further 10% to 12% from the seller in admin or ‘success’ fees.

The evidence compiled by Which? has been sent to the Department of Culture Media and Sport as part of an investigation it is carrying out into secondary ticketing.