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StubHub to pay $1.3 million fine over drip-pricing in Canada

By | Published on Tuesday 18 February 2020


Viagogo completed its acquisition of StubHub last week (albeit subject to the ongoing merger investigation by the Competition & Markets Authority in the UK). To celebrate, StubHub’s Canadian division agreed to pay the competition regulator there CAN$1.3 million as penance for all the dodgy drip-pricing it used to do. So party time all round everybody.

Drip pricing is where you tell someone a ticket will cost them £50. Then they fill out a load of forms and click a load of buttons. Then you say, “oh, by the way, there’s a commission to pay on top of that £50”. And then “oh, and that price didn’t include tax”.

And then “oh, and we have to apply the sucker premium on that, because you’re a total sucker for buying overpriced tickets from this dodgy bastard, especially as there’s a very high chance that ticket won’t even get you into the venue”. OK, I made that last one up.

Consumer rights campaigners reckon drip pricing is totally anti-consumer and shouldn’t be allowed. Though what consumer rights law says about it all varies around the world. But in Canada, the Competition Bureau decided in 2017 that there were legal grounds for stopping the practice, and demanded that all ticketing sites – primary and secondary – start declaring the full cost of buying any one ticket upfront at the start of any transaction.

It then took Live Nation’s Ticketmaster to court seeking an injunction to force an end to price dripping on its websites in Canada. Last year Ticketmaster committed to ensure it was upfront about its prices on its sites and in its advertising, and also to pay a CAN$4.5 million fine to the Competition Bureau for all its past confusing of consumers.

Last week StubHub made a similar commitment and agreed to pay that CAN$1.3 million fine. The Bureau confirmed that the secondary ticketing firm had agreed to “ensure that prices for tickets to events in Canada will now include all mandatory fees throughout the ticket purchasing process. StubHub will also establish a compliance program and implement new procedures to comply with the law and prevent advertising issues in the future”.

The Bureau noted that StubHub in Canada did offer consumers an opt-in filter that meant the full cost of tickets – with all fees included – would appear at the start of the ticket-buying process. But, it said, offering the optional filter did “not prevent the initial prices from being misleading”. Plus, it said, “in some cases, consumers who filtered results to see inclusive pricing were still asked to pay more than the prices shown as inclusive of fees”.

Commenting on the settlement the Bureau had reached with StubHub, Canada’s Commissioner Of Competition, Matthew Boswell, said: “Prices advertised online for event tickets should reflect the true cost of buying those tickets. The Bureau is committed to challenging false or misleading pricing claims in the digital economy, and reminds all vendors to review their marketing practices”.