Hidden charges hit ticket buyers with extra costs

An 18 per cent charge was added on some tickets to see Dolly Parton in Glasgow. Picture: Getty
An 18 per cent charge was added on some tickets to see Dolly Parton in Glasgow. Picture: Getty
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Hidden charges of up to more than a third of a ticket’s face value are added to bookings for music, theatre and comedy events, an inquiry by consumer group Which? has revealed.

One online retailer, Stargreen, charged 32 per cent on top of the base ticket price for a performance of The Lion King at Edinburgh Playhouse in January, while See Ticket’s added an 18 per cent charge on top of the face value of a ticket to see Dolly Parton at the Glasgow Hydro Arena in June.

Eight in ten people who have booked online in the last year say the level of compulsory fees charged are a rip-off, Which? said as it launched a campaign to end hidden charges.

The highest fee found was a 38 per cent charge on a performance by comic Jimmy Carr at Wolverhampton Civic Hall.

At some venues, people were charged to print tickets out at home or to pick them up from the box office, the report found.

Nine out of ten people polled believed it unfair to be charged for printing tickets out at home and a similar number felt the same about being charged to collect tickets from the box office.

“Consumers tell us they are feeling ripped off by the level of ticketing charges and the lack of transparency means it is almost impossible for people to compare prices when booking online,” said Which? executive director Richard Lloyd. “We want to see the ticketing industry Play Fair on Ticket Fees, so that all charges are displayed upfront and with a clear explanation of what they’re for.”

Which? said that of the 20 ticketing companies it investigated, seven – BH Live Tickets, See Tickets, ATG Tickets, Ticketmaster, Stargreen, Ticket Soup and Ticket Web – do not always reveal the exact cost of their additional compulsory fees upfront, making it difficult for customers to compare the cost of tickets between different firms.

Names for the fees found during the research included “fulfilment fee”, “transaction fee”, “service charge”, ‘handling fee” and “administration charge”.

Ticketmaster said the fees “paid to cover the cost” of services to the venues, including distribution, payment processing, printing and sending tickets and the technology used when people enter venues.

Hidden charges on ticket bookings are regulated by the Committee of Advertising Practice Code (CAP Code) as enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority. This states that all compulsory fees, whether fixed or variable, should be clearly disclosed at the outset when the ticket price is first displayed.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Playhouse said: “More than 50 per cent of our customers do not pay booking fees. These are customers who buy their tickets in person at our venue box offices.”

John Langford, director of concerts, events and ticketing at the Glasgow Hydro Arena, said: “As is the case with almost every event in the SSE Hydro, the event promoter books the space, and then allocates the available ticket inventory to a number of authorised ticket agencies.

“The 18 per cent fee listed alongside this Dolly Parton date appears to be the highest fee charged for this event in the Hydro by one of the 20 ticketing companies surveyed by Which?”

The Society of Ticketing Agents and Retailers, which represents online ticket sellers, said: “Compliance with the CAP Code is already a requirement of the STAR Code of Practice and our members are continuing to work to the new guidelines.”

A Ticketmaster spokeswoman said: “Before a customer purchases a ticket, any additional fee is always displayed clearly. The fees cover a wide range of costs to provide the services which ensure the best and easiest possible experience for customers, from purchasing a ticket to accessing the event.”