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ASA rejects complaint against Ticketmaster over secondary ticket promotion

By | Published on Friday 16 May 2014


The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected a complaint against Ticketmaster UK, which accused the company of misleading customers by saying that it had tickets for The Cure’s Royal Albert Hall show on 28 Mar, while actually directing fans towards more expensive tickets on its secondary ticking site Get Me In.

The complainant said that they had logged onto the Ticketmaster website in time for when tickets went on sale for the Cure show at 9.30am on 31 Jan. However, despite repeated searches, they were never offered tickets directly, and instead given the option of going to Get Me In. They inferred that Ticketmaster itself may have listed at least some of its tickets for the concert onto its secondary site before anyone had had a chance to buy them on the primary site.

In response, Ticketmaster pointed out that it only had a certain allocation of all the primary tickets on offer for the show, with various other outlets also selling them, and that demand meant that 90% were sold by 9.45am. The remaining 10%, data provided to the ASA showed, were at that time reserved in other customers’ shopping baskets, meaning that they were temporarily unavailable for purchase (the site holding tickets for fifteen minutes before returning them to general sale if they are not bought).

The company added that as well as suggesting users go to the Get Me In website to see if any tickets were available there, it also recommended that customers search the main Ticketmaster site multiple times to check if tickets previously reserved in another customer’s virtual basket had become available again. However, the vast majority of primary tickets for that particular show were gone by 10am.

In its response, the ASA said it was happy that the Cure tickets available on Get Me In were being offered by various resellers, and not Ticketmaster itself. The Authority wrote: “Whilst the complainant had seen tickets listed on the online ticket marketplace to which he was directed by the Ticketmaster website very shortly after [they went on sale], the availability of those tickets appeared to be spread across a number of individual sellers rather than having stemmed from one larger allocation. We considered that that did not indicate any direct transferral of tickets by Ticketmaster to the online marketplace”.

The ASA also went on to add that it was confident that the primary Ticketmaster site had been selling tickets to the Cure show at that time, even if they had been hard to come by. “Whilst we acknowledge the complainant’s frustration in not having been able to purchase any tickets for the concert, we were satisfied that the evidence supplied indicated that tickets for the concert had been available through Ticketmaster from 9.30am on 31 Jan and had been sold by that company directly to individual customers”.

This is not the first time that Ticketmaster has faced complaints of this type. In 2009 in the US, Bruce Springsteen got angry that fans buying tickets for two of his gigs in New Jersey via his official ticket agent – Ticketmaster – were pointed towards the TicketsNow website (that being Ticketmaster’s US secondary ticketing website), where tickets for said gigs were being sold at a mark up, even before Ticketmaster’s allocation of normal priced tickets had sold out.

That resulted in several investigations and civil lawsuits, and eventually saw the US Federal Trade Commission order Ticketmaster to refund the difference on marked-up secondary tickets to people who bought them to gain access to one of fourteen Springsteen shows. It also put forward new guidelines on the sale of tickets via secondary sites in the US.

In the UK, meanwhile, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse is currently pushing for new secondary ticketing regulations in the UK. Earlier this week, the government did reveal some new rules for secondary sites, though Conservative Mike Weatherley MP and Labour’s Sharon Hodgson MP said that these new guidelines did not go far enough.