They have been coming for some time, but Friday 13th June 2014 saw arriving into UK law the European Union Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013. Europe-wide these fundamentally ban hidden fees and charges – no more drip pricing – and pre-ticked check-boxes on websites. Perhaps the more surprising one for some ticket offices will be the ban on premium rate numbers and lines which pay part of the call cost back to the seller – consumers must now be able to call directly on local rate phone lines where they only pay the basic rate.
It may seem sad that many of these practices are part of the desperation on the part of venues to increase retained income as on-line sales have soared, and there have been a steady series of consumer protection measures to deal with the multiple ways customers are charged or additionally opted-in without their obvious consent.
The UK Government hurriedly introduced regulations banning specifically named card charges for paying by debit and credit card in April 2013, if these charges were for more than the actual cost of processing. Now the legilsative push is for no hidden charges, so customers can see the full price they will pay before they start the purchase process.
Inclusive pricing is starting to be a practice adopted internationally – StubHub and Live Nation have done so in the US – and @WhichCampaigns in the UK are continuing their action against agencies like Ticketmaster and See for charging excessively and having multiple charges including for ‘Print-at-Home’. Ironically, Ticketmaster is in the final stages in a long running Court battle in the US to compensate 50 million customers for order processing and convenience fees which were simply profit centres, despite being referred to as, for example, UPS “delivery charges”.
This also means practices must change for options such as adding ticket insurance to transactions – no more pre-ticked boxes – and Round-Up donations must be an Opt-In. UK venues which had already changed their presentation of web donations at the end of ticketing transactions had in fact seen some increase in consent and the value of donations after providing explanataory information.
Some ticket re-sellers may find themselves caught by the detail: Retailers will be required to provide certain prescribed information to a consumer before the consumer can be bound. Such information will include in particular: (i) the main characteristics of the goods; (ii) the identity of the trader; (iii) the total price of the goods/services (inclusive of taxes); and (iv) all additional delivery charges and any other costs. This seems potentially likely to inhibit some secondary market practices.
It is also less clear how some of the new requirements for extended “cooling off” periods and for refunds will apply to ticket purchases made on-line. But one thing is clear: Consumer Protection regulations are steadily impacting on ticketing, joining action in the UK by the Advertising Standards Authority in a drive to inclusive pricing and the removal of excessive charges around ticket purchases.