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Ticketmaster to refund booking fees in the Netherlands

The Dutch Consumers’ Association (Consumentenbond) has urged other ticketing companies to follow suit after Ticketmaster announced it would begin refunding customers’ booking fees in the case of cancelled or postponed events.

The association said last month there is “no good legal reason” not to reimburse service fees along with the cost of the ticket for called-off events, an opinion it said is shared by the Netherlands’ consumer watchdog, the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM).

According to the ConsumentenbondTicketmaster Netherlands has now become the first ticket seller in the country to adopt a policy of refunding fees along with the cost of the ticket. Service fees can range between €2 and €10 depending on the ticket price, it says.

“The Consumers’ Association calls on other ticket providers to follow the positive example set by Ticketmaster”

“The Consumers’ Association calls on other ticket providers who have not yet [committed to] reimbursing the service costs to follow the positive example set by Ticketmaster,” the association says in a statement.

Ticketmaster is the leading ticketing service in the Netherlands, followed by Eventim, which gained ground on its competitor last year, according to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2018.

The price of concert tickets in the Netherlands has increased an average of 3% this year, as the country’s rate of VAT – which includes “admission to cultural events” – rose from six to nine percent.

 


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FTC workshop calls for greater enforcement of bot ban

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Tuesday held its first workshop examining online ticket sales, inviting lawmakers, academics and industry representatives from both the primary and secondary markets to examine consumer protection issues in how event tickets are sold on the internet.

Announced last October, the 11 June event included contributions from Ticketmaster’s head of music in North America, David Marcus, Live Nation president of US concerts Bob Roux, SeatGeek founder Russell D’Souza and International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) chair Michael Marion, among others, and tackled alleged anti-competitive practices in the primary market, as well as greater enforcement on the US ban on ticket bots.

According to Law360 (via CMU), Joe Ridout of consumer rights group Consumer Action said the FTC being able to fine those using automated software to buy tickets is not a big enough deterrent. “The penalties just aren’t sufficient to deter bad actors without criminal penalties,” he told the panel, adding that the FTC should also bring tech firms into the debate on bots: “We need to do more if we’re going to get to the bottom of who’s behind bots”.

Addressing whether fees should be applied to the price of tickets up front, as in several other countries, Vox reports that both primary and secondary ticketers appeared to welcome a move towards that model. “Essentially every person on the panel agreed, appearing to politely beg the FTC to regulate them so that people would like them again,” the site reports, referencing customer dissatisfaction with ticket fees.

Gary Adler, executive director and counsel of the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB), which lobbies on behalf of ticket resellers, says both primary and secondary sellers appeared united on the need to increase transparency and end deceptive practices in the US ticketing market.

“There was a lot of mutual interest at the workshop, specifically around reducing fraud and deceit in the market and increasing transparency”

“I am happy the FTC invited me to participate, and I hope we can harness the momentum from the workshop to see some positive change,” he comments. “The workshop marks an an important day for anyone who enjoys live events and purchases tickets, or who works in the ticketing business and competes with large and powerful companies that control most of the supply of tickets and their price. There was a lot of mutual interest at the workshop, specifically around reducing fraud and deceit in the market and increasing transparency for consumers when it comes to ticket prices and fees.”

Adler says regulators must now push for a system in which consumers are informed of the number of ticket holdbacks and comps at the time they go on sale. “At the workshop it was revealed again that for high-demand events, oftentimes large percentages of tickets never go on sale to the public,” he comments. “Fixing this central problem should be a top priority so that consumers have the information they consider meaningful when deciding whether or not they are being offered a fair deal on tickets.”

Efforts to introduce similar transparency measures elsewhere have been unsuccessful: in 2017, Ontario, Canada, dropped plans for legislation that would have required ticket sellers to disclose how many tickets are available to the public for a given event seven days before they go on sale, allegedly under pressure from the primary sector.

“This begins most importantly with the first, initial sale of the ticket, but also during any resale of that ticket too,” continues Adler. “Hopefully the workshop is the catalyst for much-needed change in the ticketing system – as there is existing authority at the FTC as it relates to deceptive advertising and marketing practices which means the commission can act now, and where new authority is needed, there were renewed calls at the workshop for federal legislation to provide that authority or to create new rules for the ticketing market.”

 


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CTS facing €1m revenue impact after ticket fee defeat

CTS Eventim has told investors to expect a “limited” decline in revenue of around €1 million in its 2018 financial results, after Germany’s highest court ruled the ticket seller could not continue to charge a €2.50 fee on print-at-home tickets.

Eventim took its case to the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH) in Karlsruhe following defeats in the district court of Bremen, then the higher regional court of Bremen, in September 2016 and June 2017, respectively.

OLG upholds ban on self-printed ticket fees

The BGH ruling brings to an end the legal tussle between the company and the North Rhine-Westphalian Consumer Association (NRW) in Germany, although a similar lawsuit has yet to be settled in neighbouring Austria. Canadian promoter Evenko is similarly facing legal action in Quebec for charging ‘delivery’ fees on digital tickets.

“CTS Eventim acknowledges the BGH judgment and will implement it accordingly”

In a statement, an Eventim spokesperson says the decision will have “only a moderate financial impact”, as the ruling is “confined to ticket orders for which a print@home fee of €2.50 is charged”. “These,” they add, “represent a mere thousandth of group revenue” – around €1m.

While downplaying the financial impact of the ruling, the company says it could have a negative impact on its venue partners. “Proceeds from print@home make it possible for numerous venues in Germany” – many of which are publicly owned – “to offer their visitors an additional, very convenient and secure option for gaining admission,” adds the spokesperson.

“CTS Eventim acknowledges the BGH judgment and will implement it accordingly,” the company’s statement concludes. “As soon as the detailed grounds for judgment are released, the company will make the appropriate adjustments to its [print-at-home] Ticketdirect service.”

 


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Dice abandons no-booking fee model

Dice, the famously fee-free mobile ticketing platform whose founder, Phil Hutcheon, once criticised ticket fees as being “like a drug”, has quietly introduced booking fees of its own for some shows, saying its no-fee model meant it lost money on every ticket sold – and increasingly struggled to gain ticket allocations for bigger events.

Following a public Twitter back-and-forth with the band Shame, Russ Tannen, Dice’s UK managing director, has explained the move, saying the company’s growth, coupled with its recent expansion into North America, left a choice between introducing fees and Dice “being a small player forever”.

“As we grew (thanks to you guys) we discovered that to get a significant allocation of tickets for bigger shows, we had to agree to include a ‘booking fee’,” writes Tannen in a blogpost aimed at Dice’s customers. “This was particularly the case for our expansion in North America.”

“Ultimately,” he continues, “it was a case of either drop ‘best gigs’ or drop ‘no booking fees’. So we decided to start incorporating some fees to a small number of shows and dropped the ‘no booking fees’ line in January 2017. What didn’t change is our commitment to always try and be the lowest price.

“I wish we had written a blog post explaining all of this back then. And I’m sorry for not posting this sooner.

“So what are these fees? It’s essentially a small markup that covers some of our costs, and fulfils contractual obligations to some of our partners. We hate hidden extras and fake price breakdowns so the upfront price is always what you pay at the end. We believe in presenting one simple price to fans and there are lots of shows where we don’t have any mark-up at all.

“I hope this explains where we are right now. We started Dice to completely change how people discover and attend live experiences all around the world, and we’re as committed to this as we have ever been.”

 


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Another legal defeat for ticket fees in Austria

Another judge has sided with the Austrian Consumers’ Association (VKI) in its legal dispute with CTS Eventim over the fees it levies on print-at-home tickets.

In August Vienna Commercial Court, a court of first instance, found that the fees on tickets sold via CTS’s oeticket website, which charges €2.50 for ‘print @ home’ and mobile tickets and €1.90 for those picked up from branches of Libro or oeticket’s own box offices, are “unusual and disadvantageous” for consumers and inadmissible under Austrian law.

“We hope in the interest of consumers this judgment will be final”

The lawsuit by VKI against CTS Eventim last week reached the Higher Regional Court of Vienna (Oberlandesgericht Wien, OLG), which on 5 December similarly ruled the fees to be illegal, although the verdict is not yet legally binding.

According to VKI, the OLG took particular exception to the fact oeticket does not offer a fee-free delivery option, leaving the consumer with no option but to pay them.

“We hope in the interest of ticket buyers that this judgment will be final, meaning consumers are [finally] able to purchase tickets without these additional costs,” says VKI lawyer Joachim Kogelmann.

 


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CTS’s oeticket defeated in Austria over ticket fees

A court of first instance has found against CTS Eventim Austria, ruling that the practice of charging delivery fees on tickets – including those printed at home – is illegal.

The case, brought by the Consumer Information Association (VKI), concerns tickets sold via CTS’s oeticket website, which charges €2.50 for ‘print @ home’ and mobile tickets and €1.90 for those picked up from branches of Libro or oeticket’s own box offices.

According to to the Handelsgericht (commercial court) of Vienna, such charges are “unusual and disadvantageous” for consumers and inadmissible under Austrian law.

CTS Eventim will likely appeal against the verdict, which is not yet final, as it has in a similar case making its way through the courts in Germany.

OLG upholds ban on self-printed ticket fees

If and when the court’s decision becomes legally binding, affected consumers are expected to have up to 30 years to apply retroactively for refunds.

“Charing customers a fee to print their own tickets is very surprising,” says VKI lawyer Joachim Kogelmann, who adds that the judgment should lead to “more price clarity when buying a ticket”.

 


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Canadian promoter fined for illegal ticket fees

Canadian promoter and ticket agency Evenko has been fined more than C$10,000 for misleadingly pricing concert tickets, Quebec’s consumer protection agency has announced.

L’Aréna des Canadiens, Inc., trading as Evenko, was ordered to pay $10,056 after an investigation by the Office of Consumer Protection (L’Office de la protection du consommateur, OPC) found the company failed to offer a free delivery method for tickets to shows by Charles Aznavour and Enrique Iglesias at the Centre Bell (21,273-cap.) in Montreal in 2014. “In Quebec,” OPC notes, “it is prohibited for any merchant, manufacturer or advertiser to charge a higher price than that advertised.”

According to OPC, Evenko charged $5 to email the tickets or $7 to have them posted, with no option for picking them up for free at the box office.

“In Quebec, it is prohibited for any merchant, manufacturer or advertiser to charge a higher price than that advertised”

The case mirrors similar complaints brought against CTS Eventim – which was resolved in September by the district court of Bremen, Germany, ruling charging fees on print-at-home tickets is unlawful – and Live Nation/Ticketmaster, where plaintiff David Himber is arguing in a New York court that owing to ‘hidden’ booking fees “the advertised price is available to nobody”.

In Quebec, at least, the law is clear: “Traders are compelled to provide an ‘all-inclusive’ price” for tickets, says OPC, “which includes all fees except taxes. For example, in the case of a concert ticket, the price must include the service charge and [any other] fees related to the delivery of the ticket.”

 


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