The ticket-selling website www.ticketmaster.co.uk, offered tickets to see ‘The Cure’ on 28 March 2014 at the Royal Albert Hall.
The complainant, who had attempted to buy tickets for the concert as soon as they were released, found there was no availability. They had then been directed towards more expensive tickets from an online ticket marketplace owned by the same company. The complainant challenged whether the claims to offer tickets for the concert on www.ticketmaster.co.uk were misleading and could be substantiated.
Ticketmaster UK Ltd said they were allocated only some of the tickets available for sale for the event in question. They provided copies of correspondence between their staff, the venue and the event's promoter which confirmed their ticket allocation.
Ticketmaster confirmed that their tickets had been available to purchase from their website and call centre from 9:30 am on 31 January 2014. They supplied documentation showing the breakdown of ticket sales over the course of 31 January, as well as the number of visits made by consumers to the website and the specific event page on that day. They commented that the high volume of traffic to the page indicated that the event was very popular and that tickets had been in great demand. They noted that over three-quarters of their initial allocation of tickets had been sold via the website by 9:45 am on 31 January, and said by that time the remaining number would either have already been sold by their call centre or would have been placed in customers' online shopping baskets. They explained that tickets placed in consumers' baskets were temporarily reserved by the site for a period of 15 minutes, in order to allow the consumer to complete the transaction, and so during that time were unavailable to purchase. The tickets would be released back onto the site if the transaction was abandoned, failed Ticketmaster's security checks or for any other reason was not completed.
Ticketmaster said it appeared that the complainant had not been able to purchase tickets from their website because at the time they were looking on the site all tickets had been sold or were in other customers' shopping baskets. They pointed out that in that scenario the message displayed recommended that the search was performed again, because "another customer may have been viewing the tickets you want and then decided not to buy them", or repeated at a later date, because "new tickets often become available for purchase as the event date nears". They said those recommendations appeared alongside the message regarding potential availability of tickets on the online ticket marketplace, which together were only displayed at times when no tickets were available through the Ticketmaster site. They confirmed that they had not allocated any of their tickets for sale via the online ticket marketplace, and that tickets listed on that site would have come from another source.
The ASA noted that the complainant reported having logged on to the Ticketmaster site before 9:30 am on 31 January 2014 and having not been able to purchase any tickets, even after they had been released, despite repeating the search a number of times. We understood that the complainant had seen, alongside the general advice that they repeat their search on the Ticketmaster site, information directing them to the online ticket marketplace, on which they were able to view a number of available tickets for the concert.
We noted the documentation supplied by Ticketmaster in respect of their ticket allocation, the high volume of traffic to their website, and the sell-through of tickets over the course of the day. We noted that almost 90% of the initial ticket allocation had been sold, either through the website or their call centre, by 9:45 am and considered from the high volume of traffic to their website that it was likely the remaining number had at that time been temporarily reserved in customers' shopping baskets. The complainant reported having repeated his search a number of times for 30 minutes, and we noted from the data supplied by Ticketmaster that by 10 am the vast majority of tickets had been sold.
We noted that Ticketmaster was not the only ticket seller for the concert, although we understood that the other official sellers had also planned to release their tickets for sale at 9:30 am on 31 January. We noted that, whilst the complainant had seen tickets listed on the online ticket marketplace to which he was directed by the Ticketmaster website very shortly after that time, the availability of those tickets appeared to be spread across a number of individual sellers rather than having stemmed from one larger allocation. We considered that that did not indicate any direct transferral of tickets by Ticketmaster to the online marketplace. We also noted that the documentation supplied by Ticketmaster accounted for the sale of their entire initial allocation of tickets on 31 January in transactions of up to four tickets at a time, which we understood was the maximum number that could be purchased per transaction.
Whilst we acknowledged the complainant's frustration in not having been able to purchase any tickets for the concert, we were satisfied that the evidence supplied indicated that tickets for the concert had been available through Ticketmaster from 9:30 am on 31 January and had been sold by that company directly to individual customers. We therefore concluded that the ad had not breached the Code.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 3.30 3.30 Marketers must not use the technique of switch selling, in which their sales staff decline to show the advertised product, refuse to take orders for it or to deliver it within a reasonable time or demonstrate a defective sample of it to promote a different product. (Availability), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.