Fans are put off buying tickets by hidden extra fees, says Which?

Eight in ten people who booked tickets online last year feel the compulsory fees charged are a rip off and often bigger than they were expecting, with nearly half saying additional charges had put them off buying tickets for an event altogether. Research by consumer guide Which? found extra charges can be hidden or unclear and the publication is now campaigning for ticket agencies to Play Fair on Ticket Fees.

Pic: Images Money

Mystery shoppers purchasing 15 different music, comedy or theatre tickets through 20 ticketing companies uncovered extra charges which in some cases were more than a third of the ticket’s face value. Seven of the agents didn’t always reveal the size of additional fees upfront, and of 78 individual bookings, only twice were customers charged the ticket’s face value without additional compulsory fees for booking or delivery. Some gig-goers were even charged up to £2.50 to print out tickets at home or £3 to pick them up from the box office – charges which most people saw as unfair.

Which? surveyed people who had paid a booking fee on an event ticket. Two thirds said the fees seemed expensive in relation to the ticket’s face value, and the overwhelming majority agreed that companies should always show any extra compulsory charges upfront. Executive director Richard Lloyd said: “Consumers tell us they are feeling ripped off by the level of ticketing charges and the lack of transparency means it is almost impossible for people to compare prices when booking online.”

The campaign is calling for ticket companies and entertainment venues to show all compulsory charges upfront, giving a clear explanation of what they’re for and setting them at a fair level. More than 37,000 people have already signed an online petition.

Pic: Micah Taylor

A Ticketmaster spokesman told GigWise the average fee it charged was 11%, adding: “To suggest that ticket fees are hidden is utterly misleading and factually incorrect. Before a customer purchases a ticket, any additional fee is always displayed clearly.”

See Tickets, highlighted for adding 38% surcharges on £25 Jimmy Carr tickets, has since changed its advertising policy. All prices displayed on the See Tickets site include booking fees, with transaction fees clearly displayed before the purchase is initiated. Campaigners hope many others will have followed suit by the end of January.

Michael Nabarro, MD of web-based box-office software company Spektrix, told vendors should be seeking to incentivise the more efficient online transaction, leaving operators free to offer a better quality interaction to telephone bookers. “Purging online booking fees entirely will help improve customer relationships and encourage return attendance. Our sector needs to make hidden, last-minute top-up fees a thing of the past.”

In the meantime, the best way to avoid extra charges is to go to the venue in person if possible, and pay cash for your tickets. If you have to buy online, always try the venue or promoter’s own website first.

See also our article on why the face value of tickets is often so high.



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