Memorandum submitted by Scarlet Mist
I am the founder and CEO of Scarlet Mist, a
free face-value ticket exchange service. The service was set up
in 2003, with the specific intention of getting a Glastonbury
ticket for a friend, and has been expanded to cover other festivals.
It is designed to cut touts out of the loop by providing a facility
for customers with tickets they can no longer use to find a buyer.
There are a number of reasons why ticket touts
1. At an economical and philosophical level,
touts exist because the face value of tickets is lower than the
"market" value. If ticket prices were increased to a
true market value then there would be no scope for touts. However,
this situation is unlikely ever to occur, since most artists do
not want to be seen as selling out or profiteering, and they deliberately
hold down prices to ensure that their core fans can attend their
gigs. The same considerations apply to sport. This puts performers
in a difficult position. Many performers are actively opposed
to touts, and yet are not prepared to see prices rise.
2. Touts also exist because of the "convenience"
factor for some customers. Concert-goers often leave it until
the last minute to decide whether or not to attend an event, by
which time it may have sold out. They may be quite happy to pay
a premium price for the convenience.
3. Promoters and venues do not typically
offer a refund or exchange policy. Customers finding themselves
with a ticket they can no longer use have a series of possible
choices. If they attend the event, and try and sell their ticket
to another customer, they may be accosted by the police, or by
a ticket tout. Neither of these are pleasant thoughts. Scarlet
Mist came into being specifically to address this need.
4. Ticket touts may deliberately cash in
on an event which they know will be oversubscribed. They have
the time and expertise to buy multiple tickets (often with collaborators).
5. The actual face-value purchase price
of tickets is very obscure. It is hard to see the "on-the-road"
price. The purchase price is made up from the ticket price, booking
charge, handling charge, delivery charge etc. Advertisements often
show prices that are lower than can actually be realized. This
makes it confusing for customers, and allows touting to flourish.
6. Ticket touts, unlike genuine traders,
pay no taxes. They work entirely in the black market. I would
like to see this addressed. In particular, I would like to see
eBay and similar sites be compelled to provide details of high-earning
touts on to the Inland Revenue.
My impression is that the public have an ambivalent
and contradictory view. Surveys have shown that the public feels
a distaste for touting, but there are many calls to keep it legal.
There are specific risks that customers take
when buying from touts, including forgeries, fraud, cancellation
of the event and general consumer rights.
1. While tickets are non-refundable and
non-exchangeable, customers should have the right, under general
consumer law, to be able to resell their tickets. Promoters should
not forbid this, unless they themselves are prepared to handle
2. In principle, customers should not be
permitted to resell them for a higher value. In practice, unfortunately,
this is extremely difficult to enforce, for the following reasons:
(a) The "face value" of tickets
is often unclear.
(b) Tickets can be sold or resold as part
of a "package", which may include hospitality, beverages,
transport etc. This makes it difficult to determine the separate
price of the ticket.
(c) In any event, this would be time-consuming
and hard to police.
3. The resale of tickets is more acceptable
in cases where there is a genuine need to sell unusable tickets,
rather than when there is blatant or deliberate profiteering.
The difficulty arises in distinguishing these two scenarios.
The internet has allowed ticket sales to boom.
It permits thousands of people to make purchases simultaneously,
allowing popular events to sell out within minutes. It also allows
casual users, who would not have been prepared to travel to the
box office, to buy tickets. It greatly facilitates all sorts of
touting, especially the "bedroom tout". The internet
has also lowered the cost for promoters of ticketing.
In my view, these terms are unfair, unless the
promoters themselves are prepared to offer refunds.
Whether or not they are enforceable is up for
debate. Glastonbury has pioneered the use of personalised tickets,
and there are other technological methods to enforce non-interchangeability.
All of these are expensive; they cause delays at the turnstiles,
and do not address the fundamental unfairness of non-interchangeable
2012 GAMES, SHOULD
There are specific public order issues relating
to football, which do not apply to most other events.
I would like to see Street Traders of tickets
treated in the same way as Street Traders of all other products.