a. A website for ATG tickets, www.atgtickets.com, offered tickets to a play for "£10 - £85". When clicking on a specific performance date three options of "General Tickets", "Premium Seats" and "Theatre Card Members" were listed with further price ranges described as "excluding fees". When clicking on the words "excluding fees" a text box appeared which stated "Tickets are subject to booking / transaction fees, details of which are given during the purchase process".
b. When clicking through to continue the booking process and selecting a particular seat for the performance the ticket price was shown and described as "Full Price".
The complainant, who understood that a transaction fee of £3 was applied later in the booking process, objected that the price claims in ads (a) and (b) were misleading.
The Ambassador Theatre Group Ltd t/a ATG Tickets (ATG Tickets) said that ad (a) showed the face value, and this was the total price paid by any customer who purchased tickets in-person at any Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) theatre box office and by any ATG TheatreCard member who booked by phone or online. They said there were currently over 75,000 TheatreCard members. They said the website served as the website for the venue box offices of all theatres owned or managed by ATG and was therefore distinct from other, solely ticketing, websites. They said many of their customers looked up the face value of tickets on their website before booking in person at a box office, where no additional fees were applied. They said only 20% of visits to their website resulted in a sale, and that many customers used it to look up ticket prices, check start times and theatre locations, etc. They said the website was also referenced on all their printed advertising material as a source of additional information and that the target audience of such material included customers who regularly bought tickets in person at box offices, which was an option open to all customers. They said when customers clicked on specific performance dates in ad (a) it then displayed the purchasing options available for online bookings. The options "General Tickets" and "Premium Seats" stated "excluding fees" next to the price. They said that at this point in the booking process it was not possible to determine the total per ticket price that would be applied to the online booking because the total fees and charges were dependent on the number of tickets purchased in a booking and the per-ticket fees were dependent on the face value price of a ticket. However, they were willing to make changes to their show pages, such as ad (a) to include a new tab giving detailed price information, including fees and charges. They said the transaction fee was added to the basket at the final booking stage, and that this was the earliest opportunity to add this fee without causing confusion.
The ASA welcomed ATG Tickets' willingness to make changes. The CAP Code required that quoted prices included non-optional fees and charges. However, we understood that in this case the transaction fee was a one-off charge for internet and phone bookings unrelated to the amount of tickets bought and could therefore not be incorporated within individual ticket prices. We considered that customers should be notified of the existence and amount of the transaction fee at the beginning and end of the booking process. We understood that it was possible to avoid paying a transaction fee by purchasing a ticket in person at the box office, but considered that most consumers visiting the site to view prices would primarily view it as a ticketing website. Although TheatreCard members did not have to pay transaction or booking fees, we considered they would be aware of this as it was a selling point of the card, and also noted that when clicking on a specific performance date an option for "TheatreCard members" was available that specified there were "no booking fees". We considered that, because ad (a) was the first time a price claim appeared, the price range given needed to be immediately qualified with a reference to the existence and amount of the booking fee. For example, by stating "£10 - £85 plus booking fee*" and linking with an asterisk to information that included the amount, or by stating clearly at the top of the list of performances that a booking fee was payable and linking an asterisk to the amount. Because they did not do so we concluded the ads breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.17 3.17 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product featured in the marketing communication. 3.18 3.18 Quoted prices must include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers. However, VAT-exclusive prices may be given if all those to whom the price claim is clearly addressed pay no VAT or can recover VAT. Such VAT-exclusive prices must be accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable. and 3.19 3.19 If a tax, duty, fee or charge cannot be calculated in advance, for example, because it depends on the consumer's circumstances, the marketing communication must make clear that it is excluded from the advertised price and state how it is calculated. (Prices).
We told ATG Tickets to ensure that the first reference to prices for a performance were immediately qualified with the amount of the transaction fee or any other fees or charges.