Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 11:27 UK

Fan fury over festival 'rip-off'

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

The Verve singer Richard Ashcroft at V
More than 160,000 people were at the V Festival, where The Verve headlined

Hundreds of music fans have been left angry and out of pocket after their tickets for last weekend's V Festival failed to turn up.

The SOS Master Tickets agency has attracted furious complaints from fans who ordered festival passes on its website, which has now gone offline.

Graham Burns, chairman of the Association of Secondary Ticket Agencies, said it was a "rip-off".

Islington Council's Trading Standards team is investigating the company.

More customers are now resigned to not receiving tickets from SOS for future events, such as the Reading and Leeds festivals and concerts by Madonna and George Michael.

The agency offered weekend passes to V for up to 180 each.

The festival took place at twin sites in Essex and Staffordshire on Saturday and Sunday and was headlined by Muse and The Verve.

When customers did not receive the tickets with a week to go, they were told to go to their venue, where they would receive tickets in person.

Fans at V Festival
The event took place at two sites, in Essex and Staffordshire

But the company's representatives did not turn up and their mobile phones went unanswered.

Between 400-800 people were estimated to have been locked out of the events, according to Mr Burns.

He said the public had been "fleeced", adding: "The fallout has been quite spectacular."

Fans at Hylands House, near Chelmsford, were told to collect their tickets from a man called Richard, while those at Weston Park, Staffordshire, were told to meet Jay.

"I got down to Hylands House to an entrance to find about 30 people also waiting for Richard, and waited, still trying to get through," said one fan, Jo Kay.

"Eventually, at 1930 approx, the phone was the switched off."

The SOS Master Ticket chap had not turned up and disappointed hundreds of people
Laura Stock
SOS customer

Another fan, Laura Stock, from Leicester, said: "On arrival at the venue, Jay's phone was switched off and could not be contacted, so I paid [an] extra 10 to park so I could look for him.

"Once parked, I could still not find Jay, so I made my way to the ticket collection point at the main entrance and a man from Ticketmaster told me that the SOS Master Ticket chap had not turned up and [had] disappointed hundreds of people."

Secondary ticket agencies such as SOS are not official ticket outlets, but snap up and sell on tickets to sold out events at inflated prices.

Fans who paid for tickets with credit cards or Visa debit cards should contact their card issuers for refunds, Mr Burns said.

The Association of Secondary Ticket Agencies (Asta) has a code of practice and a code of ethics for its members, but SOS had not signed up to the organisation.

We're sorry for those who may have been let down from certain sites and recommend checking if it's an official site
Bob Angus
V Festival director

Bob Angus, director of the V Festival, said: "We're aware that unofficial outlets claim to have had V Festival tickets for sale.

"As concert promoters, we urge the public not to get tickets from these secondary ticket outlets, whether that be unofficial ticket outlets or through auction sites, as it could well lead to disappointment.

"We're sorry for those who may have been let down from certain sites and recommend checking if it's an official site on in future."

Customers who bought V tickets from SOS were sent an e-mail from the company's managing director, listing a Spanish address, promising refunds and compensation.

But their website has been taken down and all phone and fax numbers are unavailable. The BBC was unable to contact them to comment on the complaints.

The company is registered to a residential address in Islington, north London.

A spokesperson for Islington Council said: "Trading standards are aware of SOS Master Tickets and are in the process of carrying out an investigation into their activity."

Other fans have also paid hundreds of pounds to SOS for tickets to other upcoming events. Many are expecting to be disappointed, with some already claiming refunds from their credit card issuers.

A selection of your comments:

After receiving the e-mail telling us to meet someone at the event because tickets had been received too late to be posted, we got an e-mail on Thursday - the day before the festival opened - telling us that in fact they hadn't been able to get any tickets this year. The day before! So even though they knew they didn't have tickets they made people travel to the event just to be let down.
Robert, London

I ordered tickets from SOS Master Tickets in March for the Leeds festival for my daughter's 16th birthday. No tickets arrived. Parted with 379.95 plus shipping costs of 4.95. The contact telephone number is now unobtainable and the web page has disappeared. Feel very angry about those who are responsible.
Stephen Moss, Lymm

Please warn as many people as possible to be careful and only buy from a recognised seller, otherwise they could end up like hundreds of us, ticketless and penniless.
Yvette Burgin, Scunthorpe

I paid 200 for a Leeds festival weekend ticket which needed to be here today as the event starts tomorrow for weekend tickets in order to pitch tents. I have no means of contacting them to find out where my ticket is as their phone numbers and website are no longer available. I had sent to e-mails before they went offline but have received no reply.
Stephen, Lancashire

I bought two tickets for the Reading festival, which I do not expect to receive following latest developments with SOS Master Tickets and the V Festival. Have initiated contact with my credit card company to claim a refund.
Violette Boidin, Tunbridge Wells

Still waiting for my two George Michael tickets. I've e-mailed SOS twice over the past month, asking them where the tickets are. I received an e-mail from them last week, saying they'd be through my mailbox yesterday latest. Guess what, no tickets as yet! Have tried to call the number on the bottom of the e-mail but it's dead. Not holding my breath. Paid with my HSBC Visa and rang the bank. They said they've had a lot of calls about SOS and are already dealing with the them, with a view to getting the tickets out before the gig(s) or SOS making a full refund.
Scott Neilson, London

I purchased two tickets (150) for Madonna's Cardiff concert this coming Saturday (23rd August). No tickets received and unable to contact agency.
Sarah Haeney, Llanelli

I ordered for Reading and am really angry as to how this kind of thing can go so blatantly unchecked by the standards watchdogs. How do i go about getting a refund for my "ticket" ?
Aaron Bowen, Cleveden

I bought 5 tickets for the Leeds festival and had resigned myself to not getting them before reading this report. This has just confirmed my fears. I paid through Visa Debit so I hope I should get my money back, but I have heard this is only possible within the first 120 days which is too late for me.
Paul Nelson, Glasgow

I bought a weekend ticket to Reading festival from SOS Master Tickets for 200. When they still had arrived last Thursday I tried to contact them, after an hour of calling someone finally answered. He told me the tickets would be sent by recorded delivery the following afternoon and I should receive them on Saturday morning. He did not ask for my booking reference or any information, which made me even more dubious. Then I found a forum saying that others had been having the same problems, when the tickets did not arrive on Monday morning I tried to contact them only to find the number had been disconnected and any contact information removed from their website. Thankfully I paid by credit card and can get a full refund but this doesn't make up for the fact that I will now be missing Reading Festival with my friends.
Megan Wharton, High Wycombe

We had this carry-on a few years back with another "tout site". When will people learn that for big events like this you should always use official outlets? Paying over the odds to an unofficial site can only lead to disappointment.
Ian, Newark

We were also left disappointed and have lost nearly 400. Luckily we received and e-mail on Thursday night which advised us that the tickets would no longer be available. So at least we did not travel all that way for nothing, that would have made things so much worse.
Renee Baker, Chislehurst

I feel that this highlights a much greater issue - the lack of regulation in this industry makes it possible for virtually anyone to set up a website claiming to sell tickets to events, making thousands and thousands of pounds with absolutely no repercussions when they fail to send the tickets to customers. There must be greater regulation of this industry, and protection of customers who have purchased in good faith. Organisers of these events should also take a share of responsibility for making it so difficult for the general public to get hold of tickets to events.
Stephen Lynch, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

I purchased two tickets for my daughter for the Reading festival they have not arrived. The last communication I got advised me not to worry as they would arrive five days before the event. I have contacted Mastercard and am waiting to hear if I receive a refund of 411. In the meantime I am desperately trying to get her a ticket elsewhere.
Hayley, Norfolk

My boyfriend and I did not receive an e-mail saying there were no tickets until the Friday morning we were due to go to V. After hours of searching to find alternative tickets we gave up, leaving our friends to go without us.
Lara, London

I bought tickets to V with a some friends. They bought the tickets with their Egg card. Having spoken to my bank they know all about SOS, so hopefully we'll all get our money back. How companies like this are able to operate is beyond me.
Paul, London

So everyone complains that Eavis makes it all very complicated to get Glastonbury tickets, what with pre-registering, having to upload photos etc - but what does putting that little bit of effort in mean? Oh, that's right - no touts can buy the tickets to sell on at a hideously inflated price or cause this sort of misery by taking people's hard-earned money and not having any tickets to issue to them in return. Learn your lesson and buy tickets properly!
Sarah, Bristol

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