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StubHub ordered not to advertise tickets as “genuine”

UK advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), has ruled that secondary ticketing platform StubHub should not advertise tickets as “guaranteed genuine”, following a complaint from anti-tout platform FanFair Alliance.

The ASA ruled that StubHub cannot claim tickets are guaranteed genuine where there is a risk that buyers might not be able to gain entry into an event.

FanFair Alliance issued the complaint about a specific advert claiming it sells “guaranteed genuine tickets”. The complaint states that, as a third-party reseller, StubHub is unable to guarantee that tickets sold on its platform are genuine, rendering the claim  misleading.

In response, StubHub claimed that “genuine” refers to tickets not being fake or fraudulent, and does not imply that they are definitely valid for entry.

StubHub states its seller fraud rate is under 0.1% and all orders are backed by its ‘FanProtect Guarantee’, allowing fans to obtain a refund if they do not receive tickets on time or are unable to gain entry to the venue.

The ASA’s ruling considers that consumers would understand “guaranteed genuine tickets” to indicate the definite timely arrival of valid tickets guaranteeing entry to the relevant event.

“We understood that the claim was intended by StubHub to refer to a guarantee that buyers would receive valid tickets for the event or a comparable replacement ticket or refund,” reads an ASA statement. “However, this information had not been presented in the ad.”

StubHub has now removed the advert in question. A spokesperson adds: “Every marketplace order is protected by the FanProtect Guarantee, meaning that in those rare instances something goes wrong with a transaction, fans will receive a comparable or better replacement ticket or their money back.”

“Given the impact of the coronavirus on the live events industry, we have made the difficult but responsible decision to furlough a portion of our employee base”

StubHub is among companies to have temporarily laid off staff due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Celebrity Access, the ticketing platform has furloughed around two thirds of its work force.

“Given the impact of the coronavirus on the live events industry, we have made the difficult but responsible decision to furlough a portion of our employee base,” reads a StubHub statement.

“We continue to support our customers and partners and look forward to a time when we are able to return to the joy of live events and the special, human connections that come with them.”

The secondary ticketing platform is offering fans a StubHub coupon “worth 120% of your original order” for tickets to event cancelled due coronavirus. The coupon can be applied to one or more StubHub orders in within the next year. Those who have sold tickets to cancelled events will have their transaction reversed by StubHub.

If events are not cancelled, but fans no longer wish to attend due to concerns over Covid-19, the site will not offer refunds. Fans are encouraged to resell tickets on the StubHub platform.

Viagogo, the secondary ticketing site that acquired StubHub in a $4.05 billion all-cash deal last year, has announced that all its customers will receive a “full refund” for any cancelled events.

Earlier this month, Viagogo reported a 45% increase in fans listing tickets on its UK site.

“The live events sector has undoubtedly been impacted in the UK. We have seen an overall increase of 45% in fans listing their tickets in the UK this week, but that could be for a variety of factors,” said a Viagogo spokesperson.


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Viagogo not misleading consumers, rules ASA

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rejected a complaint by FanFair Alliance that adverts for secondary ticketing site Viagogo on Google search results could mislead consumers.

The ASA decision, which can be read on the ASA website, says the authority disagrees with FanFair’s claims that the disputed Google advert – which was headlined “Rolling Stones Olympic Stadium. Huge Selection of Tickets”, with smaller text underneath stating “On Sale Today And Selling Fast, Secure Your Seats Now As Prices Are Rising” – misled consumers into the assuming the ad was for a primary ticketing platform.

“[S]ites should avoid actively making overt misleading claims, for example by suggesting they were primary ticket sellers when they were not one to ensure that consumers looking specifically for primary ticketing sites were not misled,” reads the ruling. “We noted, in this case, that the ad did not feature any claims or other content that suggested Viagogo was a primary ticketing website. We therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to mislead consumers.”

The decision, which met with disappointment from anti-ticket touting campaigners, reverses an earlier draft ruling, sent to FanFair in June. The organisation has submitted an appeal to ASA reviewers urging today’s decision is overturned.

“We are struggling to make sense of this decision”

Adam Webb, campaign manager for FanFair Alliance, comments: “We are struggling to make sense of this decision. It defies all evidence and favours a controversial and potentially lawbreaking Swiss website over the interests of British consumers. An ASA stamp of approval flies in the face of everything we know about Viagogo, and implies that the site and its marketing practices meet the regulator’s standard of being ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’.”

Viagogo is currently facing legal action from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for alleged failures to “overhaul the way [it does] business” to comply with British competition law.

Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the Music Managers Forum, adds: “Viagogo continues to list touted tickets against artists’ wishes and the terms and conditions set by them to ensure fair and fan-friendly resale. The site does not follow UK law and continuously misleads consumers searching for tickets online.

“This decision by the ASA is hugely disappointing and we now urgently await the CMA action and injunction to tackle Viagogo’s misleading practices.”


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Advertising Standards secures changes to Viagogo pricing

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has revealed today that it has secured “significant changes” to controversial secondary ticketer Viagogo’s website, replacing what they deemed “misleading” pricing information with “transparent” figures.

The news follows the ASA’s decision back in May to list the ticketing website as a “non-compliant online advertiser,” for failing to state all fees associated with tickets upfront. The authority had received 23 complaints, some from the campaign group FanFair Alliance and promoters Festival Republic and Kilimajaro Live, taking issue with the website’s pricing strategy and its use of the word “official” in advertisements.

Under the new pricing arrangements, Viagogo will state “one single price … at the start of the consumer journey”, including VAT and booking fees

The ASA confirmed in a statement today that it has worked with the website “to bring about these material changes.” Under the new pricing arrangements, Viagogo will state “one single price […] at the start of the consumer journey” – which will include VAT and booking fees. With these amendments, the ASA has withdrawn its sanctions against Viagogo, including its referral of the secondary ticketer to National Trading Standards.

The decision does not, however, have any effect on the court proceedings brought against Viagogo by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Last week, the British competition authority marked the end of its year-long investigation into the Geneva-based company by announcing it would be launching proceedings against Viagogo for its continued failure to “overhaul the way [it does] business.”


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ASA clamps down on secondaries’ drip pricing

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today ordered the ‘big four’ secondary ticketing platforms to remove what it calls the “misleading presentation of pricing information” from their websites.

The ASA’s intervention – which follows a recent judgment against Ticketmaster over its description of Platinum tickets as the “best available” – is a response to concerns raised, including by anti-touting campaign group FanFair Alliance, about “misleading pricing” by secondary ticketing sites, says the advertising watchdog.

Following an investigation in which it discovered additional fees and charges were added at the end of the booking process – so-called drip pricing – the ASA has banned Viagogo, StubHub UK and Ticketmaster’s Get Me In! and Seatwave from not making clear the total ticket price at the beginning of the booking process; not including the booking fee upfront; and not making clear the applicable delivery fee.

In addition, the authority has barred Viagogo from calling itself an “official site” (something also outlawed by Google in its recent overhaul of its AdWords policy) and making the claim its tickets have a “100% guarantee”, when in fact promoters have been known to invalidate tickets bought on the site, such as with Ed Sheeran’s Divide tour.

British advertising rules now require quoted prices to include non-optional taxes and fees that apply to all, or most, buyers, as well any delivery fees.

“The message is simple and clear: the price you see at the start should be the price you pay at the end”

The UK drip pricing crackdown follows similar enforcement actions in Canada and the Netherlands.

Commenting on the decision, ASA chief executive Guy Parker (pictured) says: “Many of us will recognise the frustration of being happy with the initial price of tickets on a secondary website only to be stung by hefty fees when we come to book. The message from our rulings is simple and it’s clear: the price you see at the start should be the price you pay at the end.”

Adam Webb, campaign manager for FanFair Alliance, adds: “FanFair Alliance is aware of thousands of UK music fans who feel ripped off by so-called secondary ticketing platforms. Almost without fail, these victims share three recurring complaints: they were directed via Google advertising towards these sites; they thought they were purchasing from an authorised seller; and they were misled on pricing.

“While we welcome today’s ASA ruling and hope it goes some way to addressing this latter issue, what’s absolutely crucial now is enforcement. Without proper sanctions, we fear that much-needed reforms will not be implemented, particularly by Viagogo, and the public will continue to be duped.”

“For Ed’s shows we’ve taken every effort to cut out the online touts and ensure that his fans can buy tickets at the price we set,” comments Ed Sheeran’s manager, Stuart Camp. “That’s a major challenge when so-called secondary ticketing sites like Viagogo blatantly mislead the public, and why we strongly back both the FanFair Alliance campaign and this ASA ruling.”


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ASA finds against TM over Platinum ‘best tickets’ claim

Ticketmaster UK has been ordered by an advertising watchdog to withdraw an advert claiming its dynamically priced Platinum service offers the “best available tickets” for an event, after finding the claim is misleading and cannot be substantiated.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched an investigation into the ad – pictured on Ticketmaster.co.uk in March 2017 and still live in other markets, such as Denmark – after three people took issue with the company’s claim that “Ticketmaster Platinum offers fans the best available tickets for an event direct from the artist”.

While Ticketmaster “believed consumers were likely to interpret the claim ‘best available tickets’ to mean the best available at the time they were making their booking”, rather than “the best tickets that had ever been sold for that event”, the ASA disagreed, ruling the wording is “unqualified”, and that “for the seating tickets, there could be Platinum tickets on sale at the same time as general tickets, with no discernible difference between the two in terms of customer experience”.

“We therefore considered that while the Platinum tickets were among some of the best seats at the venue, they did not offer a tangible benefit compared to some of the general seating tickets, and the experience offered by the Platinum tickets was no better than the experience offered by some of the general tickets,” reads the ASA ruling.

“There could be Platinum tickets on sale at the same time as GA, with no discernible difference in terms of customer experience”

“We also considered that in the case of some Platinum tickets, the experience offered, when viewed objectively, was worse than the experience offered by some of the general tickets, because they were further from the stage or did not offer as good a view of the stage.

“Because of that, we concluded that the claim that the Platinum tickets were ‘the best available tickets’ had not been substantiated and was misleading.”

The watchdog adds that the advert must not appear again in its current form, and “welcome[s] Ticketmaster’s changes to their advertising”.

Ticketmaster UK managing director Andrew Parsons told IQ in December 2016 that Platinum’s dynamic pricing – where prices fluctuate based on market demand, as is common with airline tickets or hotel rooms – works because it’s about “selling the best seat. That’s understood by both consumers and artists.” With general admission, he added, “it’s harder to do”, but he’d “love to think” there will be a time when Ticketmaster’s GA tickets are also dynamically priced.

Why hasn’t dynamic pricing taken off in music?

A Ticketmaster spokesperson tells IQ: “We thank the ASA for their time and attention to this matter and the opportunity to explain our Platinum product. Platinum is one of the solutions Ticketmaster developed for artists and event organisers to get tickets, which are priced dynamically in some of the most in-demand areas, directly into the hands of fans. We constantly strive to be transparent and clear with the consumer. The wording in question on our website was changed over a year ago.”


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