Google deals a tough blow to ticket resellers

Ticket resellers will have to jump through hoops if they want to advertise on Google Search.

Search giant Google has dealt a blow to profiteering resellers by pressuring them to reveal the markups they apply to tickets, display prices in local currency and disclose that they are not official partners.

The development comes after state and federal regulators issued warnings about ticket resellers, prompting NSW and Victoria to legislate a 10% cap on ticket markups and roll out enforcement programs.

But Google's announcement will throttle the dubious conduct of Viagogo, arguably the most offensive of all third-party resellers, as it operates from Geneva, Switzerland, a haven safeguarding it from Australian authorities.

Ticket resellers worldwide will have to follow stringent rules if they want to advertise on Google's search engine, where two-thirds of all music, entertainment and sporting tickets are purchased.

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Resellers will have to disclose they are not the partner for an event – bucking a popular practice that led to almost one-in-two shoppers being swindled – and then reveal that the tickets being sold are more expensive.

They will also need to break down the pricing structure to let fans know the value of the tickets, fees and taxes before they process a payment. 

These changes will come into effect in January 2018, but by March, ticket resellers wanting to advertise on Google's search engine will also have to publish the official prices tickets are being sold for, so that shoppers can compare how much extra they will be paying to resellers.

"This policy will apply globally, across all accounts that advertise ticket resale from early next year," a Google spokesperson told CHOICE.

"We believe these changes strike the right balance between helping Google users find tickets to their favourite bands and acts online, while protecting their interests and those of artists."

CHOICE has campaigned for reform since undertaking an investigation into the industry in March. Tom Godfrey, the head of media at CHOICE, says Google's changes will protect fans from unscrupulous resellers.

"Given the extent of poor practice across the ticket resale industry, it's great to see Google is playing its part to dry up their site traffic," he says.

"Once you land on a resale site you don't really stand a chance with resellers using tricky tactics such as disguising buttons to look similar to authorised sellers, not disclosing the full price before you pay, or making 'official' claims."

Update, 2.30pm: This article was updated to include a comment from Google.