Richard Lloyd: Fans are out of line-up thanks to ticket scams

People struggle to get tickets to gigs without paying hugely inflated prices on dedicated websites, writes Richard Lloyd

Tickets for Rod Stewarts latest tour were quickly snapped up by ticketing websites. Picture: Getty
Tickets for Rod Stewarts latest tour were quickly snapped up by ticketing websites. Picture: Getty

Have you ever struggled to get tickets to see your favourite band or wondered why there are always hundreds of tickets available at inflated prices, but none at face value? You could be one of the many Scots who have suffered the secondary ticketing market stitch-up.

We spent eight weeks monitoring four of the biggest secondary ticketing websites and found evidence that fans are missing out. When we scratched under the surface on the sites Get Me In!, Seatwave, StubHub! and Viagogo, the anti-consumer tactics we found being used by touts were: tickets appearing on re-sale sites before they were officially released, tickets appearing on primary and re-sale sites at the same times, suspicious ticket release patterns and re-sale restrictions being blatantly ignored.

Some of the worst examples we found of these in practice were for Rod Stewart’s latest tour. Stubhub! had 364 tickets available on the day before the presale began, and 450 tickets were up for sale on Get Me In! the moment the presale began on the primary site. Two days later this had risen to 2,305 tickets.

If you were after tickets to the Riverdance tour, then you would have found eight tickets on sale, for each of the 28 dates, on Get Me In! within a minute of an O2 Priority presale. Suspiciously, each listing had exactly the same price.

Tickets were listed for sale on Viagogo for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet at the Barbican, despite the venue imposing strict resale restrictions and asking for photo ID on the door. We found tickets costing up to £1,500 (despite the original face value of £62.50). If your ticket breaks a venues restrictions then the outcome is simple, you might get turned away no matter how much you’ve paid.

But don’t just take our word for it, we have a very high-profile artist supporting our findings. Prince has made his own views on ticket touts known, and postponed the sale of tickets for his tour dates as he was worried about fans not being able to get them at face value. Unfortunately, it seems this Controversy is a Sign ‘O’ The Times.

So, how are so many tickets being funnelled on to secondary sites before the average fan has had a chance at getting them for face value? Well, we think some of the selling patterns are only possible because of the use of “botnets”. This is software that is readily available on the internet and makes it difficult for genuine fans to buy tickets on primary sites.

It isn’t illegal to resell tickets for profit but under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, consumers must be notified of any restrictions on the tickets, all seating details and the original face value of the ticket. We found these rules being repeatedly flouted on all the major secondary ticketing sites. There’s also a risk of fraud on ticket resale sites because sellers don’t have to prove they actually have the tickets that they list.

Scots are getting frustrated by losing out on popular tickets, particularly when they end up on sale at the same time on secondary sites at higher prices. We need the UK government review to crack down on those who resell tickets at inflated prices on an industrial scale. We’ve shared this evidence with them as part of their investigation into secondary ticketing.

In the meantime, if you want to beat the touts then there are a number of things you can do. Firstly, if you’ve got a favourite artist or a preferred venue, sign up to the fan club newsletter and you may get priority booking. You can also try to buy tickets at the venue’s box office as these are usually cheaper, or if you miss the initial sale, use sites like to deal directly with other fans for face value tickets.

Richard Lloyd is executive director of Which?