Music fans need clearer information about booking fees added to the price of concert tickets, an MP has said.
Concerts by artists like Kylie Minogue prompt huge demand
Labour's Ben Chapman said costs added to the ticket's face value should be spelt out, as should alternatives to buying through an agency.
In the House of Commons, Mr Chapman said huge demand had put venues and agencies in a "powerful position".
Trade and Industry Minister Margaret Hodge said the industry was examined by the Office of Fair Trading in 2005.
She added that current regulations would be strengthened by the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive in 2008 which would require consumers to be able to make an "informed purchasing decision".
Mr Chapman, the MP for Wirral South, said that more than one third of the £1.5bn spent on advance ticket sales was collected by agencies.
TICKET PRICES AND BOOKING FEES
Barbra Streisand - £600 ticket price + £25 booking fee (Big Mouth)
The Police - £70 + £7 (Ticketmaster)
Elton John - £65.50 + £5 (Ticketline)
Prince - £31.21 + £3.50 (See Tickets)
"We now have a situation, for example, where Kylie Minogue's comeback concert sold out in six minutes. If there were as many tickets as there were punters willing to pay upwards of £50, several Wembley stadium could be filled.
"Given the massive discrepancy between supply and demand it's paramount that we keep a careful check on those who, quite properly, seek to make commercial gain in this market."
He said he wanted to see clearer advertising of booking and administrative fees as well as an industry standard wording for fees.
"My constituency is in Merseyside, and Liverpool, the European Capital of Culture 2008, presents a mixed picture with some charging low or zero fees and others providing little option other than to pay fees through buying from an agent," he said.
"In most other markets this demand would be met by greater supply. In respect of pop concerts, and to a lesser extent other top end productions, this has put not only the acts themselves but ticket agents, through exclusive deals, in a powerful position.
Nick Blackburn, managing director of the See Tickets agency, said all companies belonging to The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers were "obliged by their code of practice to show the face value of the ticket, plus any additional fees".
He said his company always made additional fees known to the customer, whether they booked online or over the phone.
Paul Burns is chief executive of the Seatem Group, which owns ticket agencies Applause and Keith Prowse.
"The regulations are already in place and all reputable ticket agents adhere to them," he said.
"Anything that can be done to enforce those regulations is actively supported by all ticket agents who are members of The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers."
Mr Burns said the real problem lay with unofficial ticket agencies and touts, adding that Mr Chapman would "direct his energies better" by suggesting new laws to ban them.
In a statement, Ticketmaster UK managing director Chris Edmonds said: "We provide our customers a convenient, reliable, safe and authorised service for those consumers who choose to use us to purchase tickets."
Paul Betesh from Ticketline said his staff always "confirm details" with the customer, giving them the opportunity to back out of the booking.
"We don't generally get feedback from customers or people complaining that they don't know what the margins are, because it is clear," he said.
Booking fees are not the only issue. Ticket agencies (which are sometimes the venue themselves) often charge a booking fee AND a credit card handling fee. In at least one instance I have also been charged an additional (and excessive) sum to post tickets by recorded delivery, only to find they were posted with a 2nd class stamp. The only way to avoid fees is to purchase direct from the booking office and pay with folding money.
Mr Nick, England
I don't mind being charged a booking fee, however when it's charged per ticket rather than per transaction then that is wrong. I bought 4 Prince tickets in 1 transaction, but was charged 4 times - That is a ticket fee, not a booking fee.
It's about time something was done! I buy a lot of tickets for gigs and I am sick of the "hidden charges" that cannot be avoided. The booking fee is often charged to each individual ticket rather than per transaction and if an event is cancelled by the promoter - this is not refunded, this has always seemed very unfair! Often even if you collect tickets from the venue they still slap on a fee, why not include these costs in the ticket value and not be so sneaky about it!
Jane B, Wales
Recently a concert that I had booked tickets for was cancelled due to the performer's (genuine) illness. Tickets were never printed, or sent out. Nothing was done to warrant a fee, yet the booking fee was not refunded with the ticket price.
I, perhaps stupidly, through the official ticket agency TICKETMASTER have paid over SIX HUNDRED pounds for TWO tickets with a printed face value of £65.00 each. This is to see Genesis at Twickenham. Ticketmaster ran an "auction" for the front blocks. It is, in my opinion, a scam and ripping off the fans. The gig was sold out in minutes, however other unofficial agencies were already allocated large numbers of tickets and were selling them immediately, also at vastly inflated prices. This has to be sorted out!
Stephen Heliczer, UK
I've just bought 2 Download Festival day tickets that had £17.50 additional costs! It really does leave a bitter taste. Why is there a booking fee per ticket, rather than per transaction?