International action on dodgy ticket scalping websites

Add your voice to the chorus of people who've been ripped off by ticket scalping websites.

Ticked off

Been ripped off by online ticket scalpers? Bought tickets that never got delivered? Been denied a refund for a dud ticket, or ignored by non-existent customer service? We want to hear from you.

An international coalition of consumer groups has come together to catalogue complaints about shonky ticket scalping websites.

CHOICE has teamed up with its counterparts Consumers New Zealand and WHICH? in the UK to survey fans and people working in the sport and live performance industries about their experiences with ticket resale sites.

Whether you're a fan or an industry insider, we want to hear about your experience with online ticket sales - visit our Ticked Off campaign page.

In the wake of an investigation into the secondary ticket market, people began contacting CHOICE, complaining they'd been taken a ride by Viagogo and other resale sites. Issues ranged from undisclosed fees illegally dripped in during the sale process, tickets not being valid at the venue, to tickets never arriving at all.

However, the worldwide reach of websites like Viagogo, Stubhub and Ticketmaster Resale means that problems aren't restricted to just one market.

"From outrageous ticket price mark-ups of over 300% to denying refunds and selling fake tickets, the time has come to say fair's fair and stop these resale websites are ripping off consumers from Melbourne to Manchester," says CHOICE head of media, Tom Godfrey.

The survey will collect stories from consumers and employees in the industry around the world, to get an understanding of the scale of problems in the ticket resale market. The results of the survey will be delivered to regulators in each market to help drive the necessary reforms needed to protect fans.

"Whether you're a fan, an artist or part of the industry, we want to hear more about your experience of the ticket resale market," says Godfrey.

"Clearly it's not in the interests of fans, artists or venues to have ticket holders turned away from venues having fallen victim to the predatory business practices of ticket resale sites."

Fair access

Music industry insiders have long been frustrated with the growth of ticket resale websites, and many feel it takes undercuts the principle of fair access, where the opportunities to see a show or game shouldn't just go to those who can afford to pay the most.

"Frontier believes that the only person who should be able to decide what a fan has to pay to see a show is the artist. The secondary market takes away an artist's right to set the price," says Dion Brant, chief operating officer at Frontier Touring, which organises Australian shows for big name acts like Midnight Oil and Green Day.

Last month Wil Wagner, frontman of the Melbourne group The Smith Street Band, lashed out at scalpers profiteering from their upcoming tour. In response to reporting by Triple J, a Ticketmaster spokesperson appeared to put blame on the artists whose tickets they sell, for selling them for less than they were worth and allowing the secondary market to exist.

"We don't and will never see it that way," says Brant. "If an artist chooses to maximise every dollar they have that right, but if an artist chooses to set the price lower, to make the shows accessible to as many fans as possible and not just wealthy fans, they also should have that right. Ticket scalping and the websites that enable it to flourish take what we see as a basic right away from the artist."

Vivid warning

Viagogo is home to some of the trickiest sales tactics found online, which they use to drive consumers to purchase tickets at massive mark-ups.

Tickets to the Vivid Sydney opera event The Nixon Tapes are being sold on Viagogo at over four times the face value. On Viagogo you'll pay more than the total cost of the original ticket in booking fees alone.

Viagogo flashes warnings that "Tickets are likely to sell out soon!" and that some sections are already sold out. Pop-ups, countdowns, and virtual queues add to the artificial sense of urgency, making users think they have to buy now or risk missing out.

In fact, this means only that there are a few tickets left on the resale site. At time of writing, official seller Sydney Opera House still has many tickets available, including in the supposedly "sold out" sections. The Opera House has a strict anti-scalping policy, with customers reportedly being told by staff that anyone fronting up to the box office with on-sold tickets will have them voided.

Resale sites "go out of their way to ensure that fans don't know they're not legitimate," says Brant. "The brands sponsor sports teams, events, issue press releases about hot shows, buy advertising, anything to make them look like a legitimate part of the industry.

"Pressure tactics are used to close the sale, you are told thousands of other people are looking at the same events as you are – it must be legitimate right? All of this effort to look legitimate and yet the bottom line is that fans may be buying tickets that don't get them into the gig, and even if they are buying legitimate tickets they are almost certainly paying too much."

Brant says resale sites that use underhanded sales tactics are damaging consumers' faith in the rest of the industry: "It is inevitable that trust is damaged and the audience for that artist and live events more generally is diminished as a result."

Tips for buying tickets online

  • Sign up for presale ticket alerts to avoid disappointment.
  • Buy tickets directly from the venue or the official ticket seller.
  • Check with the venue about resale restrictions before buying a resold ticket.
  • Don't assume the first search result is the official seller: resale sites often buy the top spot on Google searches.
  • Travelling overseas? Be especially wary when buying tickets to events outside the country.