Don’t get stung buying tickets online for your summer concerts and festivals
With the sun teasing us with varied and sporadic appearances we are now thinking of the many concerts, festivals and events that wait for us all over the country and further afield. However, to get to see your favourite singer, get all muddy rocking in a field somewhere, or broaden your horizons and explore something new you have to first buy that ticket. Buying tickets online can sometimes be almost a traumatic experience – ask anyone who has ever tried to get their hands on the now almost mythical Glastonbury ticket (many a tear has been shed and devices endangered!). With so much in the news lately about the resale of tickets and touting, we thought it would be the right time to provide some tips about buying tickets online and your rights.
This ebulletin will also look at how the European Commission Representation in Ireland celebrated Europe Day on May 9th . Retail Excellence Ireland also launched a new Irish eCommerce Trustmark so there will also be more on that.
The consumer success story of the month involves a consumer who, through the assistance of ECC, secured a refund for a faulty laptop while the consumer query relates to payment arrangements when booking accommodation online.
To find out more read on below or download your free copy of ECC Ireland’s May 2017 eBulletin.
Just the ticket, if you can get it! Resale of tickets online and tips to help you keep the faith
We’ve all been there. You get up at an ungodly hour, groggily set up your laptop, a tablet, or whatever device you can find and sit waiting, with credit card and fairy dust in hand, waiting and waiting. Then the ticket seller website finally opens the flood gates and thousands of fans commence battle to get their hands on those golden tickets. Then, those horrible words appear – ‘sold out’ or ‘not available’. You wonder how can this possibly be, in less than 10 minutes? Then the ultimate kick in the teeth – just minutes after going on general sale you see tickets on secondary ticket selling sites for double, triple, sometimes even quadruple the cost. This is a scenario which many consumers are very familiar with, and fed up about it.
The problem of ticket touting and fans being charged thousands for just one ticket has prompted some big names such as Adele and Ed Sheerin to speak out against this practice. Governments and other national enforcement bodies have also waded in with proposals and other actions in an attempt to prevent consumers being ripped off. The UK Government’s Department of Culture, Music and Sport is planning to impose unlimited fines on touts who use computer software to harvest concert tickets in bulk and resell them at vast mark-ups. The Irish Government is also looking into the matter. A consultation document was published earlier this year by Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister for Transport, Tourism, and Sport Shane Ross, and Minster of State Patrick O’Donovan. It outlines a number of options for dealing with secondary ticket selling including an outright ban and measures to tackle internet bots. A consultation period then followed with well-known ticket companies such as Ticketmaster, Stubhub, and Viagogo, having their say in submissions.
In January, The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) launched an investigation into the ticketing of live events to examine what it says is ‘suspected breaches of competition law’. Fine Gael TD Noel Rock, who has co-drafted a Private Members’ Bill outlawing ticket touting, even went undercover to confront ticket touts. So, it’s certainly a hot topic at the moment. Hopefully something can be done to regulate the sector and make it fairer for fans.
Watch TD Noel Rock confronting ticket touts by clicking on the video below (Source: Fine Gael Facebook videos page):
What is ticket touting and is it legal?
Ticket touting is the act of reselling tickets through unauthorised channels, typically for more than face value. The act of reselling tickets, even at significantly higher price than face value, is not illegal in most countries, including Ireland (for now that is). However, some event organisers may place restrictions to prevent this practice and some third party auction websites have also attempted to prevent the selling of tickets far above the face value.
The sports and entertainment industry for a long time has struggled to restrict ticket touts’ ability to snap up large quantities of tickets and resell them for overly inflated prices. In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of so-called bedroom touts who engage in bulk buying, typically using ‘bots’ that automatically sweep up large number of tickets when they go on sale. It’s big business which unfortunately leads to consumers being the losers when trying to buy hard-to-get tickets.
Common problems consumers face when buying tickets online
Overpriced tickets is not the only problem consumers face. Here’s a list of the most common scenarios:
- Non-delivery of the ticket – This is a particular problem when the consumer has purchased the ticket last minute and has arranged for delivery to the hotel or even the ticket office. When the ticket doesn’t show up there is also the added expenses of paying for the trip and accommodation as well as the inconvenience, particularly if it’s for a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary.
- There may be a delay in receiving the ticket you ordered, and then close to the event you’re told that the tickets you ordered are no longer available but there are other tickets at a higher price.
- Wrong tickets – the ticket states a different event or category. If you buy the ticket from an individual seller or unauthorised source they may be hard to trace if it turns out to be not what you ordered.
- Invalid or fake tickets – In the UK alone, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, £3.35 million was lost to ticket fraud in 2014, yet this figure would underestimate the scale of the problem as it is based on reported incidents only.
- Tickets for non-existing events or forged tickets.
- Duplicated tickets – A consumer could turn up to the event only to find someone else sitting in their seat or they could be denied access.
- Tickets for certain major events are personalised (for example, name and security code) so if you buy from unofficial sources you run the risk of being denied entry.
- Corporate hospitality services (business to business transactions) and private sellers (consumer to consumer transactions) do not fall under consumer legislation.
- The company has gone in to liquidation or the website is suspended by the time the consumer expects delivery of the tickets. Most sellers of ‘sold-out’ tickets have terms and conditions which state that tickets will arrive just before the event, but if this doesn’t happen, the seller may be long gone by then.
- No cooperation if something goes wrong.
- If the event is cancelled or postponed you may have problems getting a refund. In some cases, the original buyer of the ticket may have bought it by credit card and it is their card to which the refund will be made.
Tips for buying tickets online
If you’re buying tickets online, there’s a few things to keep in mind. Here are some tips:
- If you order tickets online the seller must provide you with a confirmation of your order in a written format (for example, email).
- Before buying the ticket the total cost should be clear. This should include information on booking fees, credit card fees, or a delivery fee (if applicable).
- You should also be given information that includes the seller’s identity and address if you have to pay for the tickets, arrangements for payment and delivery, and whether there is a right to cancel.
- Remember there is no cooling-off period for online contracts that apply to a specific date or period of performance so this would include concert tickets or tickets for sporting events.
- Always check the terms and conditions paying particular attention to what to do if things go wrong, how to cancel and what the process is, under what circumstances is a refund possible (if any) and how to request this, what happens if the event is cancelled or postponed, as well as looking out for further details about the trader.
- If you also need to make travel and accommodation arrangements it is important not to rush this purchase and check the terms and conditions. You should pay particular attention to payment arrangements – is it pre-payment or can you pay at the property? There are often options given for free cancellation or flexibility with dates, however, it is important to check the period of time during which you can avail of this. Knowing what to do will be vital if the event is cancelled or postponed and hopefully you won’t be hit twice.
If the ticket you want is being offered by an unauthorised source or unfamiliar website then it’s important to do your homework. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Do not assume that a website is based in the country indicated by the domain ending, for example, just because it ends in .co.uk. doesn’t necessarily mean that the trader is based in the UK.
- Check the trader’s address to make sure there is one and there’s not just a ‘contact us’ form, a PO Box, or a virtual office. You can also check the terms and conditions for more information about the trader.
- Look for other customers’ reviews on the internet. If enough consumers have had a bad experience then they’ll more than likely talk about, however, bear in mind that the opposite can also be true – many traders pay for fake positive reviews.
- Don’t be fooled by the prominent search engine ranking. Web based fraudsters may pay for search advertising so their sites appear at the top of search results.
- Use a secure payment method such as credit card or other payment services like PayPal as much as possible, as these can offer redress options such as chargeback in cases of non-delivery or tickets not as described – however, this is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Europe Day and Retail Excellence Ireland Trustmark launch
So what else happened this month? It’s been quite busy actually.
Europe Day 2017
To help celebrate Europe Day 2017 the European Commission Representation in Ireland held an event to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. Speakers included EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, Minister for State for European Affairs, Dara Murphy, and MEP Deirdre Clune.
In his speech, Commissioner Hogan said: “This is a significant day – Europe Day is an important annual opportunity to think about where we are, and where we are going, on the journey of European cooperation. This is a significant month – the EU has put Irish concerns at the heart of its Brexit negotiation text, while Emanuel Macron has won a crucially important pro-European victory in France. And this is a significant year, as we celebrate 60 years of European peace and prosperity. It has been a year where the people of Ireland have had to think very hard about what we want our relationship with the EU to be going forward.”
Retail Excellence Ireland
Retail Excellence Ireland, in conjunction with Ecommerce Europe, also launched its new Irish eCommerce Trustmark which retailers can display on their websites to indicate to the consumer that the website is compliant with the latest Irish and EU legislation.
ECC Ireland joined Minister for Communications Denis Naughton, Retail Excellence Ireland representatives, and some of its members, at the launch in Athlone on May 5th last.
The aim of the Trustmark is to promote cross-border trade but also to give consumers more confidence when shopping online.
You can find out more about the Retail Excellence Ireland Trustmark here.
Consumer success story of the month:
A consumer ordered a laptop from a UK-based company but it became faulty within a few months of purchase. When the consumer tried to return the laptop for repair or replacement, the trader stated that no faults could be found and therefore returned the laptop without repairing it. The consumer contacted ECC Ireland to enquire about her rights (Sale of Goods and Associated Guarantees Directive 99/44/EC). Colleagues in UK ECC liaised with the trader stating that due to the number of failed attempts to repair the product, the continued malfunctioning, and the inconvenience caused redress should be offered. The trader offered to give the consumer a full refund (the cost of the laptop which is €560.23) and to arrange a courier to pick up the product.
Consumer query of the month:
Q: I booked accommodation through a third party booking website and gave my credit card details thinking that it was only going to be used for security. It said it was ‘book now, pay later’! However, I was then charged a within one day of making the booking. I complained to the accommodation provider and to the website complaints department. The accommodation provider said it was their policy not to grant refunds while the website just said it was a special deal. What can I do?
A: It’s important to note that the right to withdrawal under the Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU does not apply in the case of holiday products and therefore the cancellation policy set out in the contract would apply. It’s very important to check the terms and conditions of the website you are booking with, or the details of the promotion/special officer you are availing of, as the payment arrangements and the cancellation policy may differ in these circumstances.
You should also ensure that you are booking a refundable booking if you cannot confirm the dates you are intending for a holiday and it is important to contact the website you are booking from, before you confirm your order, should you have any questions or concerns.
Press and Communications Officer
The European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which covers 30 countries (all EU countries plus Norway and Iceland), and offers a free and confidential information and advice service to the public on their rights as consumers, assisting customers with cross-border disputes. ECC Ireland is funded by the European Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the European Consumer Centre cannot be held responsible for matters arising from any errors or omissions contained in this publication. The information provided is intended as a guide only and not as a legal interpretation.
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This ebulletin is part of the action 670695 – ECC-Net IE FPA which has received funding under a grant for an ECC action from the European Union’s Consumer Programme (2014-2020).
The content of this ebulletin represents the views of the author only and it is his/her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the Consumers, Health, Agriculture, and Food Executive Agency or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.