Ticket pricing


INSIGHT
Published
Apr 10th '24
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In addition to any pricing legislation that they might have to comply with, and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Guidance For Traders on Pricing Practices, marketers must ensure that any pricing claims comply with the rules on prices in the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code. These rules state that quoted prices, including “from” prices, must not mislead, and must include all non-optional fees, taxes and delivery fees.

 

Include the booking fee

Quoted prices must include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers. If a booking fee or other additional charge is not optional, ticket prices must include any fee, unless the fee cannot be calculated in advance.

 

If such fees cannot be calculated in advance, the ad must make clear it is excluded from the advertised price and state how it is calculated . Quoting the face value of the ticket and stating in a footnote that the price was subject to additional and undisclosed fees is likely to be unacceptable.

 

If each ticket is subject to an extra charge, that charge should be included in the advertised price of tickets. An ad for the secondary ticket provider Seatwave was considered misleading because the quoted ticket price did not include the booking fee. Whilst the per ticket booking fee depended on the number and price of tickets purchased, because it was possible for the booking fee per ticket to be calculated in advance of displaying the ticket prices, 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).

 

In 2013, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated the “Online Booking” section of a theatre tickets website. Because it was primarily directed to customers seeking to book online, the ASA ruled that the compulsory £2 commission per ticket for online bookings should be included in the quoted prices. The theatre could provide a separate itemisation of the headline price which made clear its components, provided that it was no more prominent than the headline price. Alternatively, it would be acceptable for them to quote booking-fee exclusive prices, provided those prices were clearly targeted to box office, as opposed to online (Charing Cross Theatre Ltd, 27 February 2013).

 

If each transaction is subject to an extra charge, irrespective of the number of tickets purchased, that fee (and not just its existence) should be stated clearly at key points during the purchasing process. In its investigation into a theatre production’s website, the ASA considered a one-off transaction fee that was levied on internet and phone bookings. Because it was unrelated to the number of tickets bought the fee could not be incorporated within individual ticket prices. Despite it being possible to avoid paying the transaction fee by purchasing tickets at the box office, the ASA considered that most consumers would understand the price to refer to all methods of purchasing; it considered claims like “book now” compounded the impression that the prices shown on the website were available for telephone or internet bookings (AKA Group Ltd, 27 February 2013). See also The Old Vic, 27 February 2013.

 

Marketers may state solely the face value of a ticket without qualification only if no extra charges, such as booking fee, exist for any booking method featured in the ad.

 

CAP understands that the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations brought into force a ban on surcharges on consumer credit and debit cards with effect from 13 January 2018. This means that merchants must not charge consumers a fee in addition to the advertised price of a transaction on the basis of a consumer using a credit or debit card. For information about this ban, please seek legal advice. See Compulsory costs and charges: Credit and debit card fees.

 

Include VAT if necessary

All quoted prices must also include VAT. Quoted prices must only be VAT-exclusive if all those to whom the price claim is clearly addressed pay no VAT or can recover VAT.  Such VAT-exclusive prices must be accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable.

 

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 customer’s 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. Therefore the UK rate of VAT should have been included in the ticket price. This was particularly the case because Viagogo would already know the address of registered Viagogo customers who had signed in at the beginning of the customer journey. (Viagogo AG, 07 March 2018).

 

See Compulsory costs and charges: VAT.

 

State the applicable delivery fee

Ads quoting prices must also state all applicable delivery fees or postal charges, 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. In a 2018 ruling, the ASA considered that the UK delivery fee could be calculated in advance, as the seller’s location and ticket type were known to the advertiser prior to the buyer providing their personal details. Thead for event tickets should therefore have stated the applicable UK delivery charge alongside the ticket price. Because it did not, the ad was considered misleading (GETMEIN! Ltd, 07 March 2018). See also StubHub (UK) Ltd, 7 March 2018.

 

Use “From” prices correctly 

Price claims such as “up to” and “from” must not exaggerate the availability or amount of benefits likely to be obtained by the consumer (Rule 3.22). In practice, when using a “from” price, advertisers must ensure a significant proportion of sale items are discounted at the maximum saving, and that these claims represent the true overall picture of the price promotion. What constitutes a significant proportion is determined by the ASA on a case-by-case basis.

 

In 2024, the ASA investigated Eurostar’s ‘TREAT YOURSELF TO A EUROPEAN GETAWAY…FROM JUST £39 EACH WAY’ claim. The ad stated this applied to journeys in August or September to Paris, Brussels or Lille. The ASA said consumers would understand the claim to mean a significant proportion of fares would be available at £39 throughout the specified months, that tickets at that price would be available across a range of dates and times, and that they would have a reasonable chance of obtaining a seat for £39. Given the seats available at £39 made up a very small percentage of total seats available, Eurostar failed to demonstrate that a significant proportion were available at the ‘from’ price. The ad was considered misleading (Eurostar International Ltd3 January 2024).

 

Similarly, the ASA investigated an ad for the Newcastle to Amsterdam ferry crossing which stated ‘From £47 pp one way + car’. The FAQs at the bottom of the page said this ‘from’ price was calculated ‘as one-way with 4 people per cabin and car’. The ASA thought consumers from the headline claim would think it was possible to purchase a one-way ticket for one (plus a car) for £47.00, and that a significant number would be available at that price. However, the explanatory text in the FAQ was deemed insufficiently prominent, as it was not sufficiently clear that the ‘from’ price only applied when four people booked a cabin (DFDS Seaways Ltd t/a DFDS, 13 September 2023). See also Midland Red (South) Ltd, t/a Megabus.com, 28 March 2018.

 

If offering ticket prices for an event in which the ticket prices are of a set value, and vary according to the ticket type purchased (for example, based on the seat location in a theatre), the lowest price should be stated as a “from” price.

 

See also Guidance on ticket pricing in marketing communicationsPrices: General and Compulsory costs and charges: Secondary ticket providers.

 

Source: CAP

 

About CAP

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is the sister organisation of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and is responsible for writing the Advertising Codes.

 

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 AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.

 

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