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