ABOUT TICKET AGENCIES
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.
Providing the facilities and staff to deliver a high standard of service is too difficult can be 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 consequently 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.
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.
Tickets for entertainment events are often sold in a variety of ways: for example, from a venue’s box office – by phone, online and to personal customers – and through ticket agencies, mainly online and by phone and to personal customers. In London, tickets are also often available through the concierges of major hotels, who act as sub-agents for some of the bigger 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.
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 also be advertised by the event organiser. 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 even organiser or the venue. In many cases, your ticket(s) will be printed on the ticket agent’s 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 very 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.
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 the unauthorised resale of tickets for designated football matches, the 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 understand 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 event price of each ticket should an event be cancelled and the organiser authorises refunds.
The face value is the price printed on a ticket. Some people continue to refer, wrongly, to the face value as being the price originally set for the ticket by the event organiser or venue before the addition of any booking fees, service charges or other extra costs. However, for clarity, we refer to that as being the ‘event price’.
‘Face Value’ is defined in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 as ‘the amount stated on the tickets as its price’.
The STAR Code of Practice sets out the way information, including prices, are provided to customers. This reflects the various ways that tickets are sold and that prices may be inclusive of all charges. Advertising regulations require that it is this inclusive price – which we refer to as the ‘ticket price’ – that is given clearly to customers at the beginning of a transaction. Some event organisers may require ticket sellers to also show the event price so that the amount of booking fees can be identified.
STAR members are obliged to refund at least the event price of a ticket if an event is cancelled and the promoter has authorised refunds.
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. So, the cost of the ticket is not earned by ticket agents, they only receive the booking fees.
Booking fees are therefore not just unnecessary added extras, they are an important factor in the distribution mechanism for tickets and usually an unavoidable part of the cost of a ticket.
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.
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 may find that they can buy tickets at the event price and with no additional charges.
Regulations do not place any limit on the amounts that can be charged over and above the event price.
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.
Booking fees vary depending on these arrangements but are generally in the range of between 5% and 25% of the event price.
The STAR Code of Practice requires that you are refunded at least the event price of the ticket you purchased if an event is cancelled. Some ticket sellers will also refund any per ticket booking fees you were charged but others will not. If booking fees will not be refunded for cancelled events, this fact must be included in the seller’s terms and conditions of sale so that you are able to be aware of this before completing your purchase from them.
If a ticket has already been delivered to you then charges relating to delivery may not be refunded. This can include charges for printing tickets at home.
Check in your online account with the ticket seller you purchased from – this might be a ticket agent or the venue. You may be able to track the status of your tickets in your account.
Check whether you should be expecting paper tickets or e-tickets or whether there is some other arrangement for you to get your ticket – such as collecting it from the ticket desk at the venue.
Some ticket agents include information about ticket delivery for events on their websites. Because they are selling for many different events in many different venues, dispatch arrangements may vary. Sometimes venues or events don’t supply their tickets to the agents until close to the time of the event.
If you are expecting paper tickets, check that the details in your account are correct. If they are incorrect, check with the ticket seller about how to update them.
If you are expecting e-tickets, they may already be in your account or they will be emailed to you or put into your account closer to the event date.
Most sellers have further information, FAQs or help sections on their website which may provide the answers you need.
As events return, ticketing companies and venues have been receiving an extremely high number of enquiries. Please remain patient and kind with customer service representatives as they work hard to process your requests in a timely manner. This may mean that they will need to prioritise enquiries about events happening in the very near future before those that are further ahead.
You can get in touch with them using all available contact details provided on their website (online form, phone, email, etc). Some companies do also offer limited customer support through their social channels. Due to the current challenging situation, some requests may take longer to deal with and you may experience delays. If you can, make sure you allow plenty of time for customer service agents to respond.
First of all, don’t panic. Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods and nobody is immune to ticket fraud – you are not alone. Secondly, report the source of fraudulent activity (it could be a person, a website, or a phone number) to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre at www.actionfraud.police.uk with as much information as possible.
Even if you notice some suspicious activity, please report that too, to prevent other buyers from falling victim to ticket fraud.
If you have been in touch with a fraudster via social media, you can also block and report their account. For more information on this topic, read our blog about identifying ticket fraud on social media and what to do about it.
Tickets are usually sold on the basis that they cannot be cancelled by the customer and they are exempt from the 14-day cooling off period that covers most other purchases you might make. However, some sellers do offer some exchange options, so check with your point of purchase.
Reselling tickets may be possible, but please always check the original terms and conditions of sale to see what is and isn’t allowed. Some event organisers put in place rules to prevent the exploitation of events and customers through tickets being sold for high prices. This may include names being tied to tickets or prohibitions on resale for profit. However, there should always be a way of disposing of a ticket you can’t use and authorised resale is usually the option for this.
Sometimes it is possible to offer tickets for resale to someone else who wants to attend. Most major ticket agents now have their own resale platforms which help with this process and they are usually ‘capped’ so that you can’t resell for more than you paid originally. However, there may be some limits on when you can resell, especially if the event is imminent. Also, please keep in mind that they are facilitating you reselling your ticket, they are not buying back your ticket to resell it themselves. If your ticket doesn’t sell, you won’t be paid.
There may also be independent resale marketplaces that are STAR members and abide by our Code of Practice. Reselling your tickets through a STAR member ensures that you are dealing with an authorised trader that abides by our Code and means you also have access to our Alternative Dispute Resolution service.
As a result of the pandemic, some events are allowing exchanges to other performances if you can’t attend because of some COVID related reasons.. Check with your point of purchase for details.
Sometimes there are many different companies selling tickets for events and each may have a different number of tickets available to them to sell. This means that ticketing companies will sell out at different times. So, even though one company may indicate they are ‘Sold Out’, you can try other authorised sellers, possibly including or buy the venue. Very often, if sales demand is high, extra seats or dates can be released by promoters. To make sure you’re buying from a safe and legitimate source, make sure your ticket seller is a STAR member. View our full list of members here: https://www.star.org.uk/all-members/
Yes, as long as it is done through a trusted and secure platform. Some ticketing companies, who are also members of STAR, allow people to resell their tickets in case they can no longer attend an event. These tickets are usually sold at the same price (or less) the original buyer paid.
Some other resale platforms and marketplaces may list tickets for sale at considerably higher prices than the original cost. It’s always worth doing a bit of research about the company you are buying from, particularly if they are not a STAR member.
However, be aware of people trying to (re)sell their tickets through informal channels, such as social media, listing websites or word of mouth, as they will very likely increase the price of the ticket to make a profit. In some cases, you may be promised a ticket and once the payment has been made, you may not receive any tickets, nor hear from the seller again. To avoid this stressful situation, make sure you are buying your ticket from a reputable source, such as a STAR Member.
Buying sports and entertainment tickets from a STAR member – in person, by phone or online – ensures you are buying tickets from a safe, legitimate and reliable source. All STAR members sign up to our Code of Practice, which requires them to treat customers fairly and make all transactions clear and straightforward, giving you peace of mind.
You also get access to an Alternative Dispute Resolution service to support you in case you have an unresolved problem following your purchase from a STAR member. This service is only available once you have reached the conclusion of the ticketing company’s own internal complaints procedure. STAR is approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute as an Alternative Dispute Resolution provider.
Most STAR members display the STAR logo on their website, usually in the footer section at the bottom of the page. You can also find the full and up-to-date list of STAR members here: https://www.star.org.uk/all-members/
Some ticket sellers offer ticket protection for an extra cost. This ensures that, if you are unable to attend because you are ill, or for other reasons included in the product (always check the terms), you will be reimbursed for your ticket.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
You should always contact the ticket seller from whom you bought your ticket(s); as most problems can be sorted out with your point of purchase. You can search for customer service contact details for STAR members here.
We can only help you once you have fully exhausted the STAR member’s own internal complaints procedure and received their final decision on the complaint. From the point at which the member provides a final response on the complaint to the customer advising that they cannot resolve the dispute, you will have a maximum of one-year to submit your complaint to STAR’s ADR process.
No, we can only provide support when you are in dispute with a STAR member. Before approaching us, you must try and resolve the issue with the venue / ticket agent directly. However, if this is inconclusive, we are here to help. If the venue or ticket agent is not a member of STAR, we cannot help you further and would recommend getting in touch with them directly, or contact your local Trading Standards Office.
If you are unable to reach a resolution to a dispute directly with the company you bought a ticket from, you can raise a dispute with STAR provided they are one of our members. STAR works to help resolve disputes between its members and ticket buyers and is approved by Government under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015.
No, this service is free of charge to all STAR members’ customers. For detailed advice on our Alternative Dispute Resolution service, visit https://www.star.org.uk/alternative-dispute-resolution/
COVID 19 SUPPORT
Venues generally detail the COVID-secure measures they have put in place, on their website and/or on your ticket confirmation or other dedicated email communications, particularly if those COVID-secure measures are linked to an entry requirement. For more information, read our blog on returning to events safely.