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Cautious welcome for new Google resale restrictions

Industry leaders have tentatively greeted Google's much-awaited crackdown on resale sites misusing AdWords, as the ticketing world braces for its international roll-out

By Jon Chapple on 07 Feb 2018

Google's Googleplex HQ in Mountain View, California

Google's Googleplex HQ in Mountain View, California

image © WikiPancake/Wikimedia Commons

Google has pledged to provide consumers with a ticket-buying “experience they can trust”, as the first of its new restrictions on accepting advertising from secondary ticketing sites come into force.

The new measures, announced last November, see the search engine giant include ticket resellers in its ‘other restricted businesses’ AdWords category, requiring them to be certified before they can advertise through its AdWords platform.

To apply for certification, resellers must agree to inform customers that their prices may be higher than face value; break down prices to show included fees and taxes during checkout, and before the customer provides payment information; and refrain from implying they are the “primary or original provider of event tickets”.

As of March 2018, secondaries must also list the face value of the tickets, along with the reseller’s price in the same currency.

The crackdown comes on the back of UK politicians accusing sites such as Viagogo, StubHub, Seatwave and Get Me In! of violating Google’s Adwords policies on misrepresentation, as well as recent research showing the extent of resale sites’ domination of Google search results, achieved through AdWords advertising.

“We constantly review our policies to ensure we are providing good experiences for consumers,” says Google spokesperson Elijah Lawal. “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.”

“These new transparency requirements will provide a better and safer user experience on our platform”

The implementation of the new event ticket reseller policy – which goes live this evening UK time, with most of the effects understood to start being seen as of tomorrow morning (although the ‘big four’ UK resale sites have already added notices stating prices may be above face value) – has been well received by most industry groups, although several urged Google to go further to protect consumers.

“It’s great that Google has taken this action and have done so on a global basis,” says Jonathan Brown, chief executive of the London-based Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR). “Their requirements for clarity on resale websites should help customers searching for tickets, and it looks as though there’s more to come in March when they start requiring face value prices to be given as well.

“Obviously we’re looking forward to seeing what the real impact is once this new policy is fully implemented by Google.”

UK consumers’ association Which? welcomes the move as a “step in the right direction”, but says Google must force websites to “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,” says Which? managing director of home products and services Alex Neill.

“It’s still not clear enough to buyers when they are on a secondary site”

A spokesperson for StubHub, the world’s biggest ticket marketplace, says the company “has always put fans at the forefront of the business” and “welcome[s] any measures which help improve transparency and protect consumers”.

“StubHub has been engaged in discussions with Google on their new policy and we will be fully compliant once it comes into effect,” the spokesperson says in a statement.

Malte Blumenthal of CTS Eventim – whose FanSALE site was one of the first to be certified by Google – said last month the company welcomes “Google’s initiative for creating additional transparency in the ticketing market and to indicate clearly the differences between primary and secondary market platforms.”

However, a source close to a major UK association echoes Neill’s comments, telling IQ: “Our line would be similar to Which? – we want to see more.”

Despite the ‘prices may be higher or lower than face value’ that have appeared on StubHub, Viagogo, Seatwave and Get Me In!, they add, “it’s still not clear enough to buyers when they are on a secondary site.”

More reactions are expected tomorrow when the full impact of the new AdWords policy begins to be felt.


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