We Need A Royal Ticketek Commission

Image: iStock

Looking to purchase tickets any time soon? Well, here's something to remember: Ticketek charges a pretty high price for you to print your tickets using your own printer, in your own home. This is insane.

You don't think it's being too hyperbolic to say we need a royal commission, right?

Ticketek sell over 23 million tickets yearly to some of the biggest events in Australia - be it sport , concerts, theatre or arts. If you've ever bought a ticket to, well, anything you know they don't come cheap.

Most of the time, it involves painful refreshing of web pages and a lot of crossed fingers. When you finally get through and select the tickets you want, you feel like you're safe, you're home free and you've got tickets to that Justin Bieber concert of your dreams.

Then you get slapped with a fee for printing the tickets.

At home.

Why?

A photo popped up on Reddit yesterday, showing that Ticketek charge $7.20 for customers to receive a PDF and print their ticket at home. The cost of the event, the Dollop, that this particular customer is attending is $41, so the price to get a PDF is 17.6 per cent of the actual ticket price?

That's before factoring in the cost of paper and ink that you, yourself, have to provide to actually print the ticket. It's something I've experienced in the past too, especially when it comes to AFL games throughout the season. I never understood. I never took a stand.

But the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

And we cannot accept this.

This is daylight robbery.

Digging into the legalities of this on the ACCC website demonstrates that what Ticketek is doing here may actually not be legal. At the very least, it's a legal grey area. From the website:

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 are then incrementally disclosed (or 'dripped'). This can result in paying a higher price than the advertised price or spending more than you realise.

I went to purchase a ticket to The Dollop through the Ticketek website and was greeted with this landing page:

Note that the price is $41. It doesn't say "From $41" or "$41 plus applicable fees". The $41 itself doesn't have any superscript that leads to an explanation. Of course, that superscript comes in the form of a small cross next to the 'Price Per Ticket/Item'. Following that cross leads to an expandable box that states:

For this event, a one-off service & handling fee of $7.20 per transaction applies on all purchases. The actual service and handling fee may vary depending on the venue and method of delivery selected, or where you add other items to your basket. All ticket/item prices displayed for this event are subject to change at any time without notice.

It's only when you click through and select a ticket category that the page expands to demonstrate the extra charges.

We could be lenient and say that, yes, $7.20 is a reasonable price for Ticketek to charge to print and send the tickets to your mailing address. It's a little harder to justify the $7.20 for merely printing the ticket at the box office and making me come and collect it, but, okay, I kind of get it. But to print the ticket at home? Why are we paying $7.20?

I contacted Ticketek and received this response (free of charge!) from a Ticketek spokesperson:

The fee reflects the end-to-end cost of Ticketek providing customer services related to the fulfilling the event ticket. This includes the not inconsiderable cost of providing staff and infrastructure at venues to ensure a smooth customer experience at the event.

Other significant costs are related to operating and continually upgrading complex e-commerce platforms, communications platforms, agencies and call centres.

The fees are a legitimate cost recovery in providing these services. This is a normal feature in the consumer economy whenever a customer does banking, buys an airline ticket or uses a thousand other services. When you pay $10 for a bank cheque, you don’t assume it is a charge for the ink in the printer and the small piece of paper. It is for the total service behind the issuing of the bank cheque.

This response sheds some light on the fees associated with purchasing tickets through Ticketek. The fee isn't attributed to the method in which you receive your tickets at all, rather, it's a service fee that is tacked on to the price as a 'cost recovery' method.

The major problem then is transparency.

Putting the service and handling fee in the very first price the customer sees would seem like an appropriate step to take. At the very least, it would be nice to see these fees explicitly stated as such on the website rather than putting them under a header that suggests they are part of ticket collection. This would prevent the confusion around ticket prices, such as what was seen on Reddit yesterday.

We need a royal commission.

[Reddit]

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