A curtain call for obligatory ticket fees?

A curtain call for obligatory ticket fees?

Lexis®Commercial (£) recently interviewed James Ross, a barrister at Gough Square Chambers, about the ongoing Which? investigation into obligatory ticket fees. These extra charges can add considerable sums to tickets—whether they be for a mud-caked festival or (the typically cleaner option of) a classical concert.

In the interview, he believes that a fine commercial balance needs to be achieved between avoiding regulatory enforcement action by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)—with the associated negative publicity—and remaining competitive in the market. He says:

If ticket companies are too heavily regulated, they may cease to operate and consumer access to the market in tickets for resale will be reduced.

As always, if you have any comments, let us know below.

What are the key issues raised by the Which? campaign, ‘Play Fair on Ticket Fees’?

Which? have carried out an investigation which they say reveals that ticket companies charge a wide range of high compulsory fees. Which? say that they went through 85 online bookings and found that compulsory fees added 18% on average to face value ticket prices and, in some cases, compulsory fees increased the ticket price by more than a third.Over 50,000 people have signed the Which? online petition to ‘make ticket fees fair’.

Which? called on ticket companies to show all compulsory charges up front and several major ticket companies have committed to doing this.

Which? remain concerned that the market is not working well, so they are giving ticket companies one month from 16 June 2014 to justify their practices or Which? will refer their findings to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).Which? want companies to give a clear explanation of all additional compulsory charges, such as booking and delivery fees, and to set them at a fair level.

What is the current law in this area? And is there any regulatory guidance?

The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999, (the 1999 Regulations) are potentially applicable to unfair fees but regulation 6 provides that, so long as a term is expressed in plain intelligible language, the assessment of fairness of a term under the regulations cannot relate to ‘the adequacy of the price or remuneration as against the goods or services supplied in exchange’. There is therefore limited scope to challenge the fairness of high ticket fees under the 1999 Regulations.

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