Clipping the ticket duopoly spells less competition
Add-on fees should be clearer and disclosed up front.
The duopoly nature of Australia's ticketing industry and an array of extra handling charges levied on customers - including one to print their own tickets at home - is hurting competition, according to a CHOICE report.
It says consumers have almost no choice about ticket prices and services when the market is dominated by Ticketmaster and Ticketek, which have exclusive ticketing rights with many sport and entertainment venues.
In addition the full price of tickets from a variety of agencies is not transparent enough because of a range of extra charges including print-at-home, postage, online and credit card fees, which are not revealed until the online checkout.
To get exclusive ticketing rights the two national agencies pay venue owners, such as the SCG and Telstra Dome in Melbourne, the equivalent of "key money", which is recouped through higher ticket profit margins.
"The result of these two major ticketing agencies dominating the market is a duopoly which does little to encourage competition. Event producers may have a choice of venue but consumers often have no choice of ticket seller where exclusive rights are involved," said CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn.
CHOICE wants the add-on fees to be made obvious upfront to make price comparisons more straightforward. Ticketek includes a booking fee in its prices but charges handling fees of up to $8.50 for phone bookings; $4.95 for printing tickets at home and $6.95 to pick them up at the box office.
Ticketmaster levies a booking fee of up to $9.15 per order but charges no extra for ordinary mail, print at home or outlet pick up. Other state and territory-based agencies charge different but generally lower fees.
A ticket for a major Bondi dance party, Shore Thing, cost $129 plus $5.60 in booking and credit card fees if purchased through Moshtix, one of the smaller ticketing agencies. At Ticketek a ticket to the same event cost $139 plus an extra $8.50 to pick it up - a difference of almost $13 per ticket.
"It's a curious feature of the ticketing industry that customers are stung with extra charges for online sales when they are effectively serving themselves," said Zinn.
The report also looks at the allocation of tickets and the so-called "best available" seating systems. Over two million complimentary and sponsor tickets were distributed by promoters and event producers to non-sporting events in 2007.