A website selling event tickets, www.ticketmaster.co.uk, seen in March 2017, stated "ticketmaster PLATINUM. THE BEST AVAILABLE TICKETS ... Ticketmaster Platinum offers fans the best available tickets for an event direct from the artist. Platinum Tickets enable market-based pricing (adjusting prices according to supply and demand) for live event tickets. The goal is to give fans fair and safe access to the best available tickets, while enabling artists and other people involved in staging live events to price tickets closer to their true value ...".
Three complainants challenged whether the claim that the Platinum tickets were "the best available tickets" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Ticketmaster UK Ltd believed consumers were likely to interpret the claim “best available tickets” to mean the best available at the time they were making their booking. They believed the claim was relevant only to that specific point in time and was not a retrospective statement. They did not believe consumers were likely to interpret the claim to mean they would be purchasing the best tickets that had ever been sold for that event.
They explained that their clients (the event organisers) arranged for tickets to be distributed through a number of outlets, including, for example: fan club sales, event/venue sponsor customer pre-sales, VIP and package providers, and primary ticket agents, such as Ticketmaster.
They said that many of the most popular events sold out very quickly when tickets first went on sale to the general public (often several months before the event took place), leaving many fans disappointed. In order to address that concern, they launched their Platinum product, which was a dynamic pricing service which enabled their clients to sell a small proportion of the most sought after tickets to their events at market rates that reflected the demand for those tickets. As a result, Platinum tickets did not sell out as fast as ordinary/standard tickets, and that allowed customers to continue to purchase the most in-demand tickets up until much closer to the time of the event. They said dynamic pricing products were offered across the primary ticketing industry.
Platinum tickets were dynamically priced at a granular seat level (i.e. each block and row had its own price) and prices might increase or decrease from time to time depending on market demand, whereas general/standard tickets had a set price that never changed. Platinum seated tickets could often be on sale at the same time as general tickets, whereas Platinum standing tickets could only go on sale once Ticketmaster's allocation of general standing tickets had completely sold out. The release of Platinum tickets was often phased so that a steady stream of tickets was available for sale to the public in the run up to the event, long after general tickets had usually sold out.
Ticketmaster asserted that "best" was a subjective term and depended on the type of event in question, as well as a fan's specific preferences. However, they believed their vast experience, and that of their clients, of event ticketing for all types and genres of events, allowed them to know which tickets were likely to be considered the "best" for any given event. For example, at a rock concert "best" would often mean a standing ticket or a ticket closest to the stage, but for other genres (such as acoustic or where full sight of the stage was important), it would mean seats which were further away from the stage. They said that was reflected in the individual tickets that were comprised in their Platinum allocations from their event organiser clients. Whilst their clients consulted with them in relation to Platinum allocations, it was ultimately their clients who made the decision on the exact number and location of tickets allocated to Ticketmaster for sale via the Ticketmaster Platinum service, and that varied by client and event.
Recently their clients had begun requesting that a greater proportion of tickets be made available through the Ticketmaster Platinum service. The proportion of Platinum tickets was never more than nine per cent of total tickets and, only in very rare cases, exceeded five per cent of the total saleable capacity for an event. They believed the Platinum allocations continued to represent tickets from among the best in the venue. However, they recognised that, as the size of Platinum allocations were increasing and were likely to continue to increase, there might come a point where Platinum allocations for certain events comprised "the better and best" tickets, rather than just the "best" tickets for the event. They had, therefore, moved away from referring to these tickets as the "best" and had begun to describe them as "in-demand tickets" instead.
They explained the allocation of Platinum tickets for each of the two events referred to by the complainants. They believed that for the events in question, the Platinum tickets were among the best tickets for the event. They did not believe the claim implied that the tickets offered a better or different experience than the general tickets for an event. However, they believed there were benefits in purchasing Platinum compared to general tickets.
In the context of standing Platinum tickets, they said the benefit to customers was that they were able to purchase tickets that were otherwise completely unavailable, because they were only released once all the general tickets had sold out. In relation to the seating tickets, they explained that Platinum customers were able to purchase tickets from a separate hand-picked allocation of tickets which only included seats in the most in-demand areas, whereas customers purchasing standard tickets would enter a general queuing system for tickets from all areas of the venue (except the Platinum allocation of tickets) and they asserted that the chances of those customers being able to obtain tickets in the most in-demand areas of the venue were significantly reduced. They also pointed out that once standard seated tickets had sold out, Platinum customers remained able to purchase tickets that were otherwise unavailable.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to interpret the claim that the Platinum tickets were "the best available tickets" to mean that those tickets were better than any other available tickets for the event generally; not that they were the best available at the time that consumers were purchasing them, that they were more easily obtained than general tickets because there was less competition for them, or that they were tickets in some of the most in-demand areas of the venue. In particular, we noted that the claim was unqualified and we also understood that for the seating tickets, there could be Platinum tickets on sale at the same time as general tickets, with no discernible difference between the two in terms of customer experience.
We appreciated that what was considered "best" depended on the genre of the event, and to some extent, individual preferences. However, we considered consumers were likely to view "the best available tickets" in the context of the ad to mean that, when viewed objectively, those tickets offered a tangible benefit compared to other tickets on sale and were therefore better than all the other tickets available for the event, because, for example, they were closer to the stage, or offered a better view of the stage.
We understood that the seating Platinum tickets had dynamic pricing, and therefore could increase or decrease, according to demand for the event. We considered that in many cases, particularly for popular events, they were likely to be more expensive than the general tickets for that event, which had a fixed price that never changed. We understood that the Platinum standing tickets were only released for sale after the general standing tickets were sold out.
In relation to the Platinum standing tickets, we considered the claim was misleading because, at the time of sale, they were the only tickets available and the experience offered by those tickets was no different to the experience offered by general standing tickets and therefore those tickets were not better than the general standing tickets.
In relation to the Platinum seating tickets, we understood that they were often on sale at the same time as the general seating tickets and that each row in each block of seats had its own price. We considered the examples provided and noted that whilst some of the seat allocations were among the best seats at the venue, because they were in blocks closest to the stage, or in direct sight-line of the stage, there were blocks/rows of general ticket seats which were as good as the blocks/rows of Platinum ticket seats, in terms of proximity to the stage and/or line of sight to the stage. We also noted that there were some blocks of general seats that were better than some of the Platinum seats, because they were closer to the stage or offered a better view of the stage.
We therefore considered that whilst the Platinum tickets were among some of the best seats at the venue, they did not offer a tangible benefit compared to some of the general seating tickets and the experience offered by the Platinum tickets was no better than the experience offered by some of the general tickets. We also considered that in the case of some Platinum tickets, the experience offered, when viewed objectively, was worse than the experience offered by some of the general tickets, because they were further from the stage or did not offer as good a view of the stage. Because of that, we concluded that the claim that the Platinum tickets were "the best available tickets" had not been substantiated and was misleading. We welcomed Ticketmaster's changes to their advertising.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Ticketmaster UK Ltd not to claim in future that their Platinum tickets were "the best available tickets" if that was not the case.