The ACCC has been targeting drip pricing, the practice of online booking sites adding additional fees and charges insidiously throughout your purchasing process, since February this year. There's finally some movement on this — Ticketmaster and Ticketek are being forced to clean up their act when it comes to online ticket prices.
Ticket machine image via Shutterstock
Today's action specifically concerns Ticketmaster and Ticketek, which are some of the worst offenders when it comes to adding 'processing', 'handling' and 'delivery' fees on top of online ticket prices. If you've ever bought tickets to a concert or a football game, you'll know how egregious these charges are — paying a printing fee for a ticket that you're going to print yourself, on your own printer, with your own ink, is enough to make you break something.
This process is called 'drip pricing', where fees are added in in small drips and lead to the overall cost being substantially higher than the original or advertised cost. The ACCC on drip pricing:
Drip pricing is where a headline price is advertised at the beginning of an online purchasing process and additional fees and charges (which may be unavoidable for consumers) are then incrementally disclosed (or ‘dripped’). This can result in consumers paying a higher price than the advertised price or spending more than they realise.
The ACCC's victory is a double-edged sword. For Ticketek and Ticketmaster, the processing and handling and associated fees must disappear, but it looks like they'll just be absorbed into the minimum advertised price for each ticket that goes on sale. So you're still paying too much, but it's just upfront in the price shown to you from the get-go.
Drip pricing was one of those grey areas in Australian Consumer Law, which states that prices presented to potential customers must be complete and a single value. Since Ticketmaster and Ticketek's various add-on fees were unavoidable, the ACCC considers that they should be presented in a straightforward fashion — and so it goes.
Here, courtesy of the ACCC, are a few tips you should keep in mind whenever you're buying tickets or making other bookings online in the future. Jetstar and Virgin are already in court over the practice, so maybe something will come of that soon enough as well.
- Be aware of misleading drip pricing practices when shopping online for services, particularly in the airline, ticketing, accommodation and vehicle rental sectors.
- Shop around and be aware that you may need to pay more than what was advertised. Consider ALL the charges together. Don’t just focus on the advertised price – the cheapest advertised price may not be the cheapest final price.
- Be prepared to back out of the transaction, especially when you start to encounter additional charges.
- Look out for pre-selections and make sure you reject anything you do not want to purchase. Thoroughly check your booking before you make any final payments.