Ticket touts scalp music fans on internet

17 Aug 2006

Ticket touts are profiteering without having to parade in front of concert venues giving their trademark call: “Anyone buying or selling tickets!” By using auction websites such as eBay, they can make a profit without venturing further than their nearest postbox to mail the tickets off.

At present there are 73 people selling concerts for the upcoming Electric Picnic music festival in Co Laois. While most of these are probably genuine punters who have changed their mind or cannot attend, it’s conceivable many bought the tickets with the option of making a quick buck.

More worrying is the potential for professional touts to buy up a lots of tickets with the sole intent of selling them at a profit on the internet once the events have sold out. This results in large swathes of tickets being denied the genuine fan at retail price.

One eBay seller has 14 tickets for the Electric Picnic event on sale for which he or she is charging a minimum €330, double the face value of the ticket. The €330 is a Buy Now option on the site but bidding could bring the price higher.

Quite clearly this is a quasi-professional operation as the seller runs an eBay shop called Irish Tickets where he or she also sells tickets for 12 other events, including Pearl Jam and George Michael concerts and tickets for the Ashes cricket test match in Melbourne in December. The eBay username also indicates the seller’s commercial priorities on the auction site: tickettrader5888.

EBay’s policy regarding concert tickets is cautious. It does not list them in the ‘restricted’ category of items but instead lists them as ‘questionable’.

The policy states: “Some items, such as event tickets, have terms printed on the item that may limit your ability to sell that item … eBay does not search for items that may raise these types of issues, nor can it review copies of private contracts, or adjudicate or take sides in private contract disputes. However, we want you to be aware that listing items in violation of your contractual obligations could put you at risk with third parties.”

A spokersperson for POD Concerts and Events, which promotes the Electric Picnic festival, said: “We are actively promoting awareness that buying tickets from such sources is not a good idea due to the potential for forgeries in the market and inflation of ticket prices to unaffordable and entirely non-consumer-friendly prices. We try really hard to put together an event that represents value for money with the quality of the site facilities and entertainment and as such ticket auctioning actively works against us.”

In the US some event promoters have attempted to curb touting by auctioning tickets online themselves to latecomers and declaring unofficially auctioned tickets void. Suggestions that this could be a solution over here have not met with popular approval, with several politicians and promoters saying they favour legislation to deal with the issue.

MCD said it would welcome the introduction of anti-touting legislation and its managing director Denis Desmond recently called for “all media to stop accepting adverts from ticket touts, which continues to provide a platform for the exploitation of both music and sporting fans alike”.

In the UK, business sellers offering tickets for sale on eBay must comply with the Price Indications (The Resale of Tickets) Regulations 1994, where the main requirement is that the face value of a resold ticket has to be made clear to the consumer at the point of sale. No such legislation exists in Ireland.

By Niall Byrne