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Google cracks down on secondary ticketing websites

Google is banning secondary ticketing websites from implying they’re primary ticket sellers, and instructing them to be more transparent about pricing. Buying tickets for an event will often start with a simple online search, but the first page of results will usually feature secondary marketplaces such as Viagogo, GetMeIn, Seatwave and StubHub alongside official ticket agents – even if the event hasn’t yet sold out. Last year, lobby group FanFair Alliance found that a secondary ticketing website had paid to top Google rankings for 77 of 100 UK tours.

Which? has previously warned that fans don’t always know they’re buying resale tickets[1] – when we asked for feedback from people who have faced issues with reselling sites, nearly half (49%) told us they thought they were buying from the official ticker seller. Consumers are also directed to resale sites from comparison sites such as SafeTickets.net, CompareTickets.net, BigTicketShop.uk and Tickx.co.uk, some of which fail to make it clear that users are being pointed towards second-hand tickets.

Google’s advertising policy updated

The world’s largest search engine has today updated its AdWords policy[2], forcing resale ticket sites to abide by a new set of regulations that prevent them from posing as official sellers if they wish to advertise through Adwords.

To be certified by Google, all event ticket resellers must:

  • Not imply that they are a primary marketplace
  • Prominently disclose themselves as a ticket reseller/secondary marketplace
  • Prominently disclose that prices may be above face value
  • Provide both the total cost and breakdown of the price including fees and taxes before requiring payment information
  • Prominently provide the face value of the tickets being sold in the same currency (this will be required from March 2018)

Google has specifically prohibited the use of words like ‘official’, as well as the artist or venue name, in the website’s URL (for example ‘AdeleTickets.com’). These rules don’t apply to primary ticket sellers, however they do apply to any businesses that sell tickets both as a primary provider and a reseller (eg Ticketmaster, which owns resale site GetMeIn!). Aggregators of event tickets, auction sites, and marketplaces that allow ticket resales are also required to be certified.

Elijah Lawal, Google spokesperson told Which?: ‘When people use our platform to purchase tickets, we need to make sure that they have an experience they can trust. ‘We think that event ticket resellers that agree to these new transparency requirements will provide a better and safer user experience on our platform.’

Which? response to Google’s policy update for ticket resellers

Alex Neill, Which?

Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said: ‘Google’s changes to its secondary ticketing policy are a step in the right direction, but websites must make it absolutely clear to consumers whether they are a primary or secondary seller. If secondary sites don’t also provide clarity on ticket restrictions, ticket location and seller information, they could be in breach of the Consumer Rights Act[3].

‘With people increasingly finding that they have to buy tickets through secondary sites, it’s right that the Competition and Markets Authority is investigating the sector and taking action against companies that aren’t playing by the rules.’

The problem with ticket resale sites

Following a year-long investigation into the sector, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced in November 2017 that it will take enforcement action against a number of resale sites[4] for breaches of consumer law. The secondary ticketing market has made a few improvements since we investigated resale sites back in 2015[5], but it has a long way to go before it might be described as transparent. The CMA has decided to take a closer look at a number of additional issues beyond the scope of its original investigation:

  • Pressure selling – whether claims made about the availability and popularity of tickets create a misleading impression or rush customers into making a buying decision
  • Difficulties for customers in getting their money back under a website’s guarantee
  • Speculative selling – where businesses advertise tickets that they do not yet own and therefore may not be able to supply
  • Concerns about whether the organisers of some sporting events have sold tickets as a primary seller directly through a secondary ticket website, without making this clear to consumers

The CMA will decide whether further enforcement action is required once it has assessed evidence on these additional issues.

It’s working alongside both the Advertising Standards Authority, which is investigating whether secondary ticketing websites have broken advertising rules, and Trading Standards, which is looking at the practices of businesses that buy and sell tickets in bulk.

How to avoid being ripped off

While Google has made an assertive move and the CMA is putting pressure on resale sites, it’s still important to tread carefully if you want to avoid being ripped off. Sign up for ticket alerts Join the fan clubs and mailing lists of your favourite artists, festivals, venues and primary ticket sellers for reminders of when tickets go on sale.

Bag pre-sale tickets For some events, tickets are reserved for pre-sales a few days before being released to the general public. Check for advance notice on gettothefront.co.uk[6] and beatthetouts.com[7], and sign up for O2 Priority[8] (you need an O2 Sim card to do this).

Buy from authorised ticket agents The venue’s box office is often the cheapest and most secure option, but you should find a list of all official ticket agents on the artist’s or venue’s website. Use search engines wisely

Before you click, check whether you’re dealing with a primary agent or a secondary marketplace and watch out for sites like SafeTickets.net, CompareTickets.net, BigTicketShop.uk and Ticx.co.uk, which link to resale sites. Don’t assume it’s sold out Tickets can be allocated to a number of primary agents, so they might be ‘sold out’ via one agent but not another – and they could still be available from the venue.

Alternatives to touts

If a show really has sold out, you can find cheap last-minute tickets on StubHub[9] and GetMeIn[10] – but free fan-to-fan exchange site scarletmist.com[11] only lets users buy or sell spare tickets at face value or less, so check there first.

Twickets.co.uk[12] and TicketSwap.com[13] also offer cheap resale tickets for a small fee (Twickets takes 10% from buyers, while TicketSwap charges both the seller and buyer 5%) and mobile ticket app DICE[14] offers face-value tickets to fans on the waiting list for sold-out shows.

References

  1. ^ fans don’t always know they’re buying resale tickets (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ AdWords policy (support.google.com)
  3. ^ Consumer Rights Act (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ take enforcement action against a number of resale sites (www.gov.uk)
  5. ^ investigated resale sites back in 2015 (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ gettothefront.co.uk (www.gettothefront.co.uk)
  7. ^ beatthetouts.com (www.beatthetouts.com)
  8. ^ O2 Priority (priority.o2.co.uk)
  9. ^ StubHub (www.stubhub.co.uk)
  10. ^ GetMeIn (www.getmein.com)
  11. ^ scarletmist.com (scarletmist.com)
  12. ^ Twickets.co.uk (www.twickets.live)
  13. ^ TicketSwap.com (www.ticketswap.uk)
  14. ^ DICE (dice.fm)

How to save on flights

Discover handy tips to make sure you get the best deal on your airfare. Covering everything from the best days to fly to avoiding pricey airline extras, read on to make sure you never pay over the odds for a flight again.

Time it right

Airfares are dynamically priced, fluctuating with demand, so it’s impossible to predict when you’ll get the best price. Instead set up price alerts so you’re notified when a fare changes.

Simply click the price-alerts button on the results page of your flight search and enter your email address. For flexible dates, Kayak will let you watch upcoming weekends, a certain month, or a whole year.

Be flexible

Many sites will show you a graph of the cheapest days to fly over your chosen month, with Fridays and Sundays typically the most expensive. Sometimes you can save a bundle simply by flying one day earlier.

If you don’t have that luxury, consider being flexible in other ways. Momondo’s ‘anywhere’ search will find the cheapest destinations for your dates. Meanwhile Kayak’s Explore button will filter results by budget.

Type in your home airport and set your top limit in pounds, keeping your dates/duration as broad or as narrow as you like.

Look for alternatives

There’s no rule that says you have to fly in and out with the same airline, or to and from the same airport for that matter. Secondary airports aren’t just blessed with shorter queues -beloved by low-cost airlines, they’re often cheaper too. Just be mindful of extra travel time and costs.

For example, Girona and Reus – sometimes referred to as Barcelona North and South – are more than 60 miles from the city.

Avoid airline extras

For budget flights, either pre-book your checked bags or – better still – take hand luggage only. Choosing your own seat will cost you – up to GBP21 each way with British Airways. But an early check-in could see you seated together at no extra cost.

Just set a reminder on your phone for the minute it opens.

Airline Check-in bag Pre-booked seat In-flight food Easyjet 19.99 (20kg) – GBP31.99 (23kg) GBP4.49 – GBP14.49 (extra leg room) GBP7 Ryanair GBP25 (20kg) GBP3 – GBP20 (extra leg room and priority bording) GBP10 BA GBP20 (23kg) GBP10 – GBP21 (extra leg room) GBP7.50 Jet2 GBP26 (22kg) GBP8.50 – GBP19 (extra leg room) GBP6.50

All prices are based on one-way flights from London to Barcelona on 4 May 2018. In-flight food is based on the mid-range price for a sandwich, crisps and soft drink, or equivalent meal deal where available. Four biggest airlines based on sample size from Which? airline survey.

Be in the know

Signing up for airline or discount-club mailing lists, like Secret Flying or Jack’s Flight Club, means you’ll never miss a bargain.

Both send out bargain alerts and details on error fares, where flights are mistakenly flogged at rock-bottom prices.

If the airline chooses not to honour them, you’ll get your money back.

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