Office of Fair Trading
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OFT announces clearer terms for ticket-buyers

Consumers buying tickets for concerts, theatres, events and attractions will receive fairer contract terms following the conclusion of discussions between the OFT and the body representing businesses selling or re-selling tickets.

The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), represents businesses selling or re-selling tickets to the general public or agents, whether through websites, box offices at entertainment venues or ticket booths.

Members of STAR, who include Lastminute.com, Ticketmaster, and the Big Bus Company, have agreed to implement revised terms and conditions that the OFT views as clearer and fairer under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations. The improvements include:
  • clarifying what happens if an event is cancelled or rescheduled
  • clarifying the circumstances under which consumers can seek redress in the event that things go wrong
  • providing recourse to dispute resolution to consumers in the event of problems, and
  • clarifying circumstances in which tickets can be re-sold by a consumer.

Mike Haley, Director of Consumer Protection at the OFT, said:

'The experience of buying tickets for live performances and events is usually trouble free. However, there is a need for consumers to have recourse to fair and clear terms and conditions in the rare occurrence that an event is cancelled or should any unfortunate or unforeseen problems arise.'

STAR members will phase in the model terms over the next 12 months.

NOTES

1. Members of STAR claim to sell more than 30 million tickets a year. Members include Encore Tickets, TKTS, lovetheatre.com, lastminute.com, Ticketmaster, The Ticket Factory, TicketSOUP.com, Live Nation and Cameron Mackintosh Limited. Membership of STAR can be recognised by the use of the STAR logo and a list of members is available at the STAR website or by phoning the STAR helpline (0870 603 9011). STAR members must comply with STAR's Code of Practice which ensures that they:

  • Clearly identify the face value of any tickets purchased and any additional booking fees
  • Highlight any terms and conditions, including transferability, cancellation and viewing restrictions, and
  • Handle bookings in a polite and courteous manner, giving the highest standards of professional service.

2. The OFT published a report on ticket agents in the UK in January 2005 looking at the services provided to consumers. This can be viewed at the Ticket agents in the UK page. It highlighted that a number of ticket agents' contracts contained potentially unfair terms under the UTCCRs. The research also revealed a general failure to offer consumers their refund rights as set down in the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000. One of the OFT's recommendations was that STAR produce model terms for its members. These model terms have been entirely formulated by STAR and its members.

3. Consumer Direct has published advice to consumers on avoiding pitfalls when shopping for tickets at the Consumer Direct website.

4. The OFT has previously used the UTCCRs to help improve terms and conditions for ticketing. In relation to football matches, the OFT secured agreement from Tottenham Hotspur on fairer ticket refunds for fans and from Manchester United FC to season ticket season ticket terms and conditions to make them clearer and fairer for fans.

5. The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 (UTCCRs) came into force on 1 October 1999. UTCCRs apply to standard contract terms used by businesses with consumers in contracts made after 1 July 1995. A term is unfair if it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations under the contract, to the detriment of consumers. An unfair term in a contract covered by the UTCCRs is not binding on the consumer. Ultimately, only a court can decide whether a term is unfair. The OFT, together with Local Authority Trading Standards Services and certain other bodies, can take legal action to prevent the use of potentially unfair terms.

6. Consumer Direct is the government-funded telephone and online service offering information and advice on consumer issues. Consumer Direct is funded by the OFT and delivered in partnership with Local Authority Trading Standards Services. For information or advice contact 08454 04 05 06 or see the Consumer Direct website.