Frequently Asked Questions
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questions you might want to ask. You can scroll down or go straight
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About ticket agencies
About buying tickets
A ticket agent operates on behalf of its clients to provide
tickets for a wide range of events. Agents serve many types of
client, including individuals, businesses wanting tickets for their
own clients or staff, and group organisers putting together large
parties for theatre or other entertainment events.
The way tickets are made available to the public has changed
substantially in the last 20 years or so; box office
computerisation has enabled new methods of booking to be developed
and booking by post and in person have been largely superseded by
steadily increasing phone and online bookings. Customer
expectations have also risen in that time: ticket buyers want the
same facilities and levels of service as in other industries, with
tickets available through a range of different media and often at
all times of day and night. They expect to be able to buy tickets
easily, with systems and websites that work properly and phones
that are answered rather than just constantly giving an engaged
Providing the facilities and staff for these levels of service
is too difficult and too costly for many entertainment producers,
venues and promoters on their own, so using a range of ticket
agents ensures distribution of tickets and helps consumers to buy
them as easily as possible. It would be uneconomical and ultimately
more expensive for the customer if each venue tried to provide the
required level of service on its own.
Just as there are many types of customer, there are also many
types of agent to meet their needs, with agents specialising in
group sales, hotel and inbound tourist sales, corporate business,
discounts and special offers, 24-hour call centres and internet
sales. Some agents also specialise in specific sectors of the
entertainment industry, such as sport, theatre or music.
- What is a ticket
Retailers are those who have some direct responsibility for the
event for which tickets are being sold. This may be as a venue, a
producer or a promoter. Most retailers will be venue box
- What's the
difference between primary and secondary ticket
Tickets for entertainment events are often sold in a variety of
ways: for example, from a venue's box office - by phone, online,
post and to personal customers - and through agencies, mainly
online and by phone, sometimes to personal customers, rarely by
post. In London, tickets are also often available through the
concierges of major hotels, who act as sub-agents for some of the
bigger agencies. For some music events in particular, tickets may
be available through other types of business, such as music stores
or travel agencies.
You may come across the terms "primary" and "secondary" ticket
agencies, especially in press comments or articles, though these
terms are not generally used by agents as a means of identifying
A primary ticket agency obtains its allocation of tickets for an
event directly from the venue, promoter or producer, with whom it
has a direct contractual arrangement to sell tickets to the public.
As well as advertising events on their own websites or promotional
material, in many cases - especially for music festivals and tours
of major artists - the primary agency (or agencies) selling tickets
will be advertised in the event's own publicity. Sometimes one or
more agencies will be the only outlets for ticket sale authorised
by the venue or promoter apart from the venue's own box office (or
in place of it, if the venue has no box office of its own, as is
often the case with festivals).
When you buy from a primary agency you are buying from an outlet
which has a direct line of accountability to the event's promoter
or the venue at which it appears. In many cases, your ticket(s)
will be printed on the agency's own ticket paper, but for some
music events and festivals you will probably receive the venue's
own tickets - although often not until very close to the date of
the event, as a security precaution (see Advice on buying
A primary agency will do its best to look after its customers;
STAR members sign up to the STAR Code of Practice which promises
fairness and transparency in all sales. It always remains a
customer's responsibility to make sure that an event hasn't been
cancelled or re-scheduled, although agencies will do their best to
let customers know if there is a change and they have time to
contact people beforehand. But this also means that, if an event is
cancelled or postponed, a primary agent will do their best to deal
with refunds or re-bookings, if that is what the promoter or venue
You can identify a STAR member by their use of the STAR logo on
their website and often on their own printed publicity material or
on their office, shop or window display. You can also check the
list of STAR
members on this website or by contacting the STAR helpline on
0870 603 9011 (+ 44 870 603 9011 from outside the UK).
A secondary ticket agent is a re-seller of tickets, operating in
the open market and often buying and selling tickets in response to
current demand. Many sellers - especially those operating only
through websites - claim to be able to obtain tickets for events
which are otherwise sold out or for which ticket availability is
scarce. The prices charged will almost always reflect this by being
many times higher than a ticket's face value (the original selling
price at the venue). It is usually not possible to be sure where
the agency obtained the tickets it sells. Some secondary sellers
operate as "ticket exchanges", offering a service for people
selling tickets to be matched with people wanting to buy them, and
some offer guarantees about the authenticity of tickets and about
the security of the sales transaction.
With the exception of tickets for football matches and events at
the 2012 Olympics, re-sale of tickets is not illegal in the UK.
However, apart from the danger of fraudulent transactions (see Advice on
buying tickets in person and Advice on buying tickets online), if you
buy from a secondary agent it may be harder to obtain compensation
or get problems sorted out if something goes wrong than when
dealing with a primary agent. For instance, customers buying from
secondary sellers should realise that, if an event is cancelled or
re-scheduled, they may not have the same chance of obtaining a
refund or re-booking as the original buyer of a ticket - often
promoters are only prepared to respond to people who bought either
directly from the venue or from one of its authorised agents.
Always remember that if you buy from a STAR member the Code
of Practice requires them to refund at least the face value of each
ticket should an event be cancelled.
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- What does "face
The face value is the basic price printed on a ticket which the
event's producer, venue or promoter has set before the addition of
any booking fees, service charges or other extra costs (eg for
mailing). Generally, tickets are sold by a venue's box office to
personal customers at face value but most other methods of sale
(online, by phone or through an agent) will incur a booking fee or
service charge in addition to the face value.
The STAR Code of Practice requires all members
to identify the face value of a ticket separately from any
additional booking fees or charges, before it is sold. This means
that customers can see how the price of a ticket relates to the
position or quality of a seat, for instance, or to the price of
tickets for other events, or compare the cost of buying similar
tickets from different agents (not all agents charge the same
booking fees - see How much
should a booking fee be? below) before buying. STAR members are
also obliged to refund at least the face value of a ticket if an
event is cancelled and the promoter has authorised refunds (but
note that this refund may not include mailing costs, for instance,
if tickets have already been sent to customers).
Running a ticket agency costs money - the costs of premises, IT,
staff, communication, credit card commission, etc, have to be
covered - and, in addition, agents provide a service to their
customers which has value. Ticket agents are also commercial
enterprises, which often have the interests of shareholders to
consider. A fee, often calculated as a percentage of the price of
each ticket, is therefore added by agents on top of a ticket's face
value to cover both their costs of sale and as a charge for the
- What is the
difference between a booking fee and a service
Very often these are the same thing but they may be termed
differently from agent to agent. The phrase 'booking fee' is
normally used to describe charges which relate to each ticket sold
whereas a 'service charge' might describe charges which are made
for specific services provided for an entire booking, such as
- Why am I sometimes
asked to pay a credit card fee?
This is most common when obtaining tickets directly from a
venue. The charge is levied to cover the commission which the venue
has to pay to the credit card companies and, for fairness, this
charge is not made to those paying by cash or cheque. Most
retailers choose to include these costs within the ticket price
charged to all customers rather than to levy an additional charge.
Ticket agents normally include the credit card commission in their
- Why are there
booking fees for some events and not for others?
When a venue or promoter makes tickets available through ticket
agents, they consider whether or not they wish the costs of the
service provided by the agent to be absorbed in the price of the
ticket (an inside commission) or whether the charge should be met
directly by the customer (an outside commission). The actual deal
struck between the agent and the venue or promoter may depend on
the volume of tickets distributed through that agent and this means
that the costs of buying a ticket with the same face value through
different agents can vary.
If all distribution costs were absorbed in the ticket price then
the price of tickets would have to increase. However, by keeping
booking fees on the outside of the ticket price it is possible for
customers to pay more or less depending on the method by which they
are buying their ticket and the service they receive. Customers
going in person to the box office at a venue are likely to find
that they can buy tickets at their face value and with no
- How much should a
booking fee be?
Since May 2008, the principal legislation covering booking fees
and the reselling of tickets has been the Consumer Protection from
Unfair Trading Regulations. These regulations do not place any
limit on the amounts that can be charged over and above the face
value of a ticket; guidance in the legislation only states:
- 2.2.20 - If you sell or resell tickets at a price higher than
the face value, you should also make clear in any price indication
what the face value is.
Furthermore, the Competition Act 1998, prohibits "agreements
between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings
(such as trade associations), and concerted practices which
prevent, restrict or distort competition, or are intended to do so,
and which may affect trade within the UK."
The level of booking fees is therefore a matter of individual
contractual agreement between the original suppliers of the tickets
(venues, promoters, producers, etc) and ticket agents. On the
whole, most contracts for West End theatres limit booking fees to a
maximum of about 25% of the face value of the ticket being
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STAR - the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers - is the
leading representative body for the UK entertainment ticketing
industry, with members including the major ticket agencies and
numerous venues, box offices and sales outlets across the
STAR was formed in November 1997 by a number of ticketing
companies and organisations to promote high standards of service to
consumers and to enhance and promote the public perception of the
ticket agents' industry. It works with other industry bodies, as
well as the Office of Fair Trading and the Department for Culture,
Media and Sport, in promoting consumer confidence and on ways of
combating ticket fraud and mis-selling.
All STAR members operate within a Code of Practice that requires
them to deal transparently and fairly with customers and to operate
to high standards of service and good practice.
You can find more information on STAR in the About STAR
section of this website.
- How do I know if I am
buying from a STAR Member?
You can identify a STAR member by their use of the STAR logo on
their website and often on their tickets, advertising and printed
publicity material or on their office, shop or window display. You
can also check the list of STAR members on this website or by
contacting the STAR helpline on 0870 603 9011 (+ 44 870 603 9011
from outside the UK).
- What are the benefits
for STAR members?
The main purpose of STAR is to provide self-regulation to the
entertainment ticket industry and to provide the ticket buying
public with an assurance of standards of service and an independent
means of redress in the event of an unresolved complaint.
Membership of STAR indicates compliance with its Code of Practice,
which provides for standards of customer service as well as the
handling of customer complaints and the protection of client funds.
STAR can also help in arbitrating unresolved complaints between a
ticket seller and a customer.
Since its inception in 1997, STAR's Code of Practice has been
supported by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and subsequent OFT
and governmental initiatives have strengthened this support. Many
entertainment venues, promoters and producers now seek assurance
that agents are members of STAR before agreeing to offer
allocations of tickets. This level of support is extremely
important in ensuring the distinction between the reputable and the
disreputable by helping stem the flow of tickets to those who do
not provide the levels of service dictated by the Code of
You can find more information on STAR membership in the Join STAR
section of this website.
To contact STAR, you can use the contact form on this website, you can
e-mail us at email@example.com, phone the
helpline on 0844 879 4272 (+ 44 844 879 4272 from outside the UK)
or write to us at
Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers
PO Box 43