Fair Trading

The advice sheets below have the latest information on fair trading. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Enforcement & Regulatory option).

The sale and resale of tickets

In the guide

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 affect you if you sell or resell tickets for events. These Regulations not only affect the person who resells the ticket, but also the promoter or venue that sells direct to the consumer.

Under the Regulations, it is illegal to give consumers misleading information. It is also illegal to make a misleading omission, which means hiding or omitting material information that the average consumer needs in order to make an informed choice. Consumers must not be misled as to the price, location, terms, adverse factors, etc that may affect their enjoyment of the event.

Where you sell tickets at a distance - for example, over the internet or by phone - the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 also apply. These Regulations require certain information to be given to the consumer before you make a contract, and they require additional charges like booking fees to be disclosed up front. In most cases, however, event tickets are exempt from the cancellation rights that normally apply under the Regulations, as events are usually booked for a specific date or within a specific time period. 

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, where a ticket is offered for resale on the internet through a secondary ticketing facility (rather than being offered direct for first sale by the event organiser), certain information must be given to the consumer. A secondary ticketing facility is a website, app, etc (such as eBay or StubHub) where tickets are offered for resale, rather than where the first sale of the ticket is made by or on behalf of the event organiser.

The Act makes it illegal for an event organiser to blacklist a consumer or to cancel a ticket on the grounds that a consumer offers a ticket for resale, unless certain conditions are met. Operators of online secondary ticketing facilities must report any illegal use of those facilities to the police.

There are additional requirements for online secondary ticketing marketplaces and there are restrictions on organisers blacklisting consumers or cancelling tickets.

Pricing

You must give consumers clear and accurate price information before they buy a ticket. You must also ensure that information is complete, and not misleading, before the consumer makes a decision in relation to a prospective purchase (for example, clicking through an advert on your website).

If you quote a range of prices, or a 'from' price, you should make sure that a reasonable number of tickets are available at the lower price. Bait marketing (attracting consumers with a lower price with low or limited availability, or other restrictions that are not disclosed until later) is illegal.

Where you quote a ticket price, this must include all non-optional extra charges such as taxes and booking fees. If it is impossible to calculate the fee at this stage (for example, where a booking fee applies for a whole booking, rather than per ticket) then the existence of this charge and the method of calculating it must be clearly stated alongside the ticket price.

Additional charges such as booking fees and postage charges must not be selected automatically for the buyer by the use of pre-ticked boxes or in any other way. If you do not have the consumer's express agreement to an additional charge, then you will have to refund it.

If you make surcharges for some methods of payment (for example, credit cards) those surcharges must also be stated clearly, and they must not exceed the actual additional cost to you in processing the payment by that method. See 'Payment surcharges' for more information.

Descriptions & terms

Before the consumer buys the ticket, you must provide full and clear information about the ticket and event. This must include, for example and where applicable, timings, locations and seat numbers.

If there are any factors that might adversely affect the consumer's enjoyment of the ticket - such as restricted views or limited access - these must also be brought to his attention before purchase.

Similarly, if you or the promoter want to rely on any terms and conditions on the ticket, these must be pointed out to the consumer before purchase. For example, you may wish to set out rules about whether and how a named ticket can be transferred to someone else, or particular requirements for taking part in the event (such as special clothing, equipment or insurance that is recommended or required).

Reselling: secondary ticketing facilities

There are additional rules that apply where event tickets are resold through a secondary ticketing facility on a website, app, etc intended for the resale of tickets. These rules apply even where the person selling the ticket is a private individual. These requirements are part of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Where a ticket is offered for sale through a secondary ticketing facility, the following information must be given to the prospective buyer before a contract is made and the ticket sold:

  • where the ticket is for a particular seat or standing area, there must be enough information to allow the buyer to identify that seat or area
  • information about any restriction as to who can use the ticket (for example that the ticket is for a child or student, or that no under-18s are admitted)
  • the amount stated on the ticket as its price (its 'face value')

If the seller is, or is acting on behalf of, the operator of the secondary ticketing facility, a connected business or person (including an employee or contractor), or the organiser, then this fact must be made clear too.

Event organisers often want to ensure that tickets are sold to genuine fans rather than to individuals who simply want to buy and resell the tickets. Some organisers take steps to blacklist speculative buyers so as to prevent them buying and reselling tickets in future, and they may also cancel tickets that are offered for resale.

However, even genuine buyers sometimes find that they cannot attend an event and want to resell the tickets, and blacklisting or cancellation often comes as a surprise to these individuals. Therefore an event organiser cannot cancel a ticket or blacklist a seller (in other words, take steps to prevent or restrict the person acquiring tickets for any event in the United Kingdom in the future) just because that person sells (or offers for sale) a ticket on a secondary platform unless both of the following conditions are met:

  • there was a term of the original contract when the ticket was sold by the organiser that permitted the organiser to cancel or blacklist in these circumstances
  • the term was not unfair

It is unlikely that any such term could be effective or fair if it has not been communicated clearly to the person offering the ticket  for sale on the secondary ticketing facility (who might not be the person who originally bought if from the organiser). An assessment of fairness may also take into account any other relevant circumstances. For more information on contract terms see 'Unfair contract terms'.

Operators of online secondary ticketing facilities must report illegal use of that facility to the police. As soon as the operator is aware that a person is using the facility in a way that commits any offence, the operator must report the identity of the person committing the offence (if they know the person's identity) and the fact they know that an offence has been or is being committed. The same information must also be disclosed to the event organiser unless the operator of the secondary ticketing facility has reasonable grounds to believe that doing so would prejudice any criminal investigation.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS, which was known as the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills at the time) has produced more detailed guidance for this area: Consumer Rights Act: Secondary ticketing guidance for business.

Helplines

If you provide a telephone helpline for consumers to contact you in relation to a contract that they have entered into with you, this must be charged at no more than the basic rate. This means a geographic telephone number beginning '01' or '02', a non-geographic number beginning '03', or a mobile number. An 0800 or 0808 Freephone number can be attractive to some customers.

Premium rate numbers beginning '09' and numbers beginning '084' and '087' do not meet the 'basic rate' requirement.

Package travel

If you are offering event tickets in combination with transport and/or accommodation, you may also need to comply with the regulations on package travel - see 'Package tours & holidays'.

Sporting events

The resale of tickets to certain events such as football matches is subject to special control. Contact your local trading standards service if you wish to deal with these types of events.

Licensing

If you intend to sell tickets on the street - for example, outside the show for which you are selling tickets - then you need a street-trading licence. Contact your local authority for more information.

Penalties

If you fail to comply with the requirements above you could be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which could result in prosecution. If found guilty the maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

If you fail to comply with the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 in relation to distance contracts, trading standards services can apply for a court order requiring you to comply. If the order is not complied with the maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

If you fail to comply with the rules for secondary ticketing facilities, trading standards services can require you to pay a financial penalty of up to £5,000.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: March 2017

PixelPlease note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.