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[April 19, 2014]
FIGHT BACK: More! More! Rip-off fees the ticket agencies charge on top: Festival-goers are becoming increasingly angry at the extra 'admin costs' they are forced to pay. Melanie Wright reports
(Observer (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ¦ Compare costs "If you're buying tickets through an online agency it's worth comparing the final price on several sites," says David Black of market research company Consumer Intelligence. Include all the add-ons.
¦ Pay in person If you are able to visit the venue and pay in person you should do so, as you can often avoid paying a booking fee by going direct.
¦ Ask for your money back If you've been charged fees which you weren't made aware of at the time of booking, complain to the company involved. You may be entitled to some money back. Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 can help with this, and can also pass your complaint to Trading Standards, which investigates and prosecutes dishonest companies.
¦ Report the company to the ASA If you think a booking website is not being upfront about compulsory fees and charges, you should complain to the Advertising Standards Authority. You can file a complaint with the ASA using its online complaints form at asa.org.uk. Alternatively, call 0207 492 2222, or write to them at Advertising Standards Authority, Mid City Place, 71 High Holborn, London WC1V 6QT.
A Which? campaign demanding that online ticket sellers "play fair on fees" is gathering momentum. Nearly 50,000 people have signed up since December in an attempt to get all ticket companies and entertainment venues to show their compulsory charges up front, and to justify their fees.
Anyone booking tickets to a summer festival or event this weekend risks being charged expensive extra fees.
Sharon Alston is furious about "rip-off" fees after paying an additional pounds 62 when she booked for the Rewind Festival. The three tickets cost pounds 117.50 each through Ticketline.co.uk, with a booking fee of pounds 11.75 for each. Campervan passes bumped the cost up even more, as did a pounds 5.95 delivery fee. "I fully appreciate that these sites need to make money, but to be charged a separate fee for every ticket just seems ridiculous," she says. Alston complained, but Ticketline refused to waive the fees.
Several online agents apply fees per ticket, so if you are booking a handful of tickets you could face charges amounting to as much as a third of the cost of a ticket itself. Amounts vary depending on the agreement the site has with the promoter of a particular event.
Tickets to see Stevie Wonder at the Calling Festival on Clapham Common, London, on 29 June through Ticketweb.co.uk cost pounds 69.50 each, including a pounds 7 fee. If you book five tickets, fees amount to pounds 35 - with an extra charge of pounds 1.95 for postage.
Meanwhile, an adult weekend ticket for Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle is pounds 205 through Ticketline.co.uk, including a pounds 10 booking fee.
If you buy five tickets for this event, total charges amount to pounds 50, with an extra pounds 5.95 delivery. On top of that, buyers are charged for insurance against cancellation due to accidents or illness, at pounds 19.75, unless they un-tick a box on the booking page for "TicketPlan refund protection".
Ticketline's website states: "The charges cover all the costs associated with running our business, including providing an order service seven days a week, processing orders, developing the technology to make the order process as simple and efficient as possible, distributing tickets and credit card commissions to name but a few." Consumers are also often stung by a fee for printing out tickets at home. Londoner Nigel Cannings, 45, was caught out by this when he was charged pounds 2.25 by Ticketmaster to print out a ticket to go skating at the Natural History Museum. "Paying an extra pounds 2.25 to print something which saves them postage, paper and people time? It's a disgrace," he says.
Simon Presswell, managing director at Ticketmaster, says: "In certain cases, such as print-at-home tickets, a fee is included because tickets printed at home using our TicketFast option must be scanned and validated at the venues by our access control technology. Ticketmaster installs this technology at our own cost and the fees paid by the ticket buyer contribute to the cost of this service." As a result of the Which? campaign, several companies now display all their fees upfront, including Ticketmaster, BH Live, ATG, See Tickets and ticketSOUP.
Since September 2013, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has been conducting comprehensive enforcement work to make sure that ticket sellers are upfront about compulsory admin fees so that consumers aren't misled.
A spokesperson for the ASA says: "We've undertaken a comprehensive sweep of the sector, including assessing 130 websites, including major ticket agents and London theatre websites, and have worked directly with 55 businesses to correct the pricing on their sites; but there is still work to be done. We're now conducting the same exercise with regional theatre websites, where around 50% of 650 sites are being contacted to bring them into line." Captions: Fees for Stevie Wonder at the Calling Festival are pounds 7 per ticket. Getty Images (c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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