Frequently Asked Questions

We've summarised some of the questions you might want to ask. You can scroll down or go straight to the topic you're interested in.

About ticket agencies

About buying tickets

About STAR

Ticket agencies

  • What is a ticket agent?

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computerisation has enabled new methods of booking to be developed and booking by post and in person have been largely superseded by steadily increasing phone and online bookings.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 tone.

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 retailer?

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 offices.

  • What's the difference between primary and secondary ticket agents?

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 themselves.

Primary agencies
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 tickets online). You may also receive your tickets electronically, to print at home or display on your phone, or entry may be by wristband.

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 authorises.

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 01904 234737 (+ 44 1904 234737) from outside the UK).

Online Resale Marketplaces
These marketplaces, which are part of the Secondary Market, offer the opportunity for people who wish to resell tickets they have already purchased to find potential buyers and offer a secure environment for resale transactions. They are subject to specific legislation in the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Some venues, sports clubs and others work closely with these companies as official resale partners.  Reputable online marketplaces offer guarantees to customers to ensure that they are supplied with the tickets they originally purchased or, if there is a problem with that supply, comparable tickets for the event or, in extreme cases, a full refund.

STAR is currently working to develop a Code of Practice for reputable resale marketplaces.

Secondary agencies
There are other companies and online sellers that 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.

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 that do not offer reliable guarantees 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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Buying tickets

  • What does "face value" mean?

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).

  • What is a booking fee?

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 service provided.

  • What is the difference between a booking fee and a service charge?

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 mailing.

  • 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 additional charges.

  • 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.

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STAR

  • What is STAR?

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 country.

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 01904 234737 (+44 1904 234737 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 Practice.

You can find more information on STAR membership in the Join STAR section of this website.

  • How do I contact STAR?

To contact STAR, you can use the contact form on this website, you can e-mail us at [email protected], phone the helpline on 01904 234737 (+44 1904 234737 from outside the UK) or write to us at

Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers
PO Box 708
St Leonard's Place
YORK
YO1 0GT
United Kingdom