Some websites advertise tickets sold by individuals or companies who have purchased tickets and wish to sell them on. These can allow people the chance to buy tickets at the last minute or giving them a chance to re-sell tickets they can no longer use. These providers must include enough information about the price of the ticket to ensure that customers are not misled.
The rules require that quoted prices must include non-optional taxes and fees that apply to all or most buyers. If these cannot be calculated in advance, the ad must make it clear that these apply and how they are calculated. This includes booking fees and VAT. Ads with prices should also state applicable delivery fees, and secondary ticketing operators should include clear and relevant information about all additional fees at the beginning of the customer journey before the consumer makes a decision concerning whether or not to proceed further.
Include booking fee
Ticket prices must be stated inclusive of any booking fee, unless the booking fee cannot be calculated in advance. If they cannot be calculated in advance, for example because they depend on the customers circumstances, the ad must make it clear that this is excluded and how it is calculated.
An ad for the secondary ticket provider Seatwave was considered misleading because the quoted ticket price did not include the booking fee. Whilst the booking fee depended on the number of tickets purchased, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) considered that it was possible for the booking fee per ticket to be calculated in advance of displaying the ticket prices and that the web page should have presented the total ticket price including this fee. Even if the price had not been calculable in advance, the ad would have breached the Code because it did not state how the booking fee was calculated (Seatwave Limited, 07 March 2018).
All quoted prices must include VAT, unless the majority of those to whom the ad is addressed do not pay, or can recover VAT. This means that all quoted prices for tickets must include VAT. This also applies to any additional non optional fees, such as booking fees. Complaints about ads for tickets sold by viogogo Ltd were upheld because the initial quoted ticket price did not include VAT.
Whilst viagogo argued that the rate of VAT could not be calculated in advance because it depended on the customers county of residence, the ASA considered that, given the claims appeared on the UK version of the website, most buyers would be from the UK and would therefore pay the UK rate of VAT and as such the UK rate of VAT should have been included in the ticket price. Furthermore, viagogo would already know the address of registered viagogo customers if they had signed in at the beginning of the customer journey. (Viagogo AG, 07 March 2018)
State applicable delivery fee
Code rule 3.20 states that ads which quote prices must also state all applicable delivery fees, or, if these cannot be calculated in advance, state that these charges are payable. These delivery fees should be clearly stated in the initial marketing material. An ad for event tickets on the Get Me In website stated “Prices may vary from face value and exclude order & delivery fees [hyperlink] (applicable per transaction). The ASA considered that the UK delivery fee could be calculated in advance, and as such the ad should have stated the applicable UK delivery charge alongside the ticket price. Because it did not, the ASA found the ad misleading (GETMEIN! Ltd, 07 March 2018)
Make total price upfront straight away
The total ticket price, including all non-optional fees must be stated at the beginning of the customer journey. It is not sufficient to add these fees on to the price later in the customer journey, and customers should know the total price before they make a transactional decision to proceed.
An ad for the ticket provider Stubhub was upheld because the additional service and delivery fees were added to the total ticket price on the third page of the customer journey. Whilst there was a “filter button” on the first page which would display the total ticket price including these fees, the ASA considered that the ticket price inclusive of the service fee and the cost of delivery should have been made clear as soon as ticket prices were quoted, prior to selecting the “filter” button before the consumer had made a transactional decision to proceed further and concluded that the ad was misleading (StubHub (UK) Ltd, 07 March 2018).
Don’t imply you are an official primary ticket outlet
Secondary ticket providers should not include anything in their ad which could misleadingly imply that they are official primary ticket outlets. An ad which stated “Ed Sheeran Tickets 2017 – Buy Now, viagogo Official Site – viagogo.co.uk” was upheld by the ASA because the ad did not provide any information to indicate that viagogo.co.uk was not a primary ticket outlet, or that the website was a marketplace where second-hand tickets were bought and sold.
The ASA understood that the ad appeared on Google alongside primary ticket outlets and other second-hand ticket outlets after consumers searched for Ed Sheeran tickets and that in that context consumers were likely to understand the claim “official site” to mean that viagogo.co.uk was an official primary ticket outlet. As the ASA considered consumers would have more confidence buying from an “official site” than they would from a secondary ticket outlet, the complaint was upheld for being likely to mislead consumers (Viagogo AG, 07 March 2018).
Source: Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s Advice Online entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
How can we help!
Whether or not something breaches the Code in this way can often be a fine line – marketers who are unsure whether their ads are likely to breach the Code are invited to contact the Copy Advice team.