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The Importance of Secondary Resale Regulation

November 4, 2015

So, last week’s posting attracted a fair bit of attention – particularly my idea of the “ATR” number.

The idea, to save scrolling back, is that if someone cannot use their ticket and the box office doesn’t allow re-selling, then the box office issues an “Authorised Ticket Resale” (ATR) number. That number allows tickets to be resold safely on approved STAR (Society of Ticket Agents) “secondary ticket resale” member websites. You can’t sell without it, and it would mean the tickets would be genuine and guarantee admission as they are sanctioned by the box office.

More important, the box office can keep a check on who is re-selling, and refuse permission to those simply doing it on a commercial basis – i.e. ticket touts.

In light of the “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child” ticketing event (almost as exciting as the plays themselves, possibly), surely those who are now reviewing ticket re-selling – and who actually purport to care about consumers – must think VERY hard about their next moves.

What happened with Potter: From June to October, fans had to register for the right to buy tickets during a 48 hour “priority” period, ahead of the “general public.” The register closed on 24th October, and on 27th October, us fans were sent a further email, telling us to register with the booking website an email address and password. Early on 28th October, we were sent an exclusive “one time only” link to a booking website, and could click that link before the 11am on 28th October “tickets on sale” starting wand was waved.

At 11am, all those online were given a random number – their place in the queue. As luck would have it, I drew 649 – a friend got 11,487. When you reached the front of the line, you entered your email and password, and had 14 minutes to buy tickets. To those who set up this system, I salute you all. It really was the best possible thing you could have done under the circumstances. Many congratulations.

Trouble was… within minutes, tickets started appearing on StubHub and other secondary resale sites that STAR wants to extend membership to, and at prices making even Dumbledore say something rude.

OK, so the Potter producers say they will cancel every ticket that appears on such websites, but can they? I hope so, but… And there, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the acid test of integrity for every would-be regulator.

I fully understand that the Government’s consumer advisors want a safe method for ticket buyers to be able to “mitigate losses” if they cannot attend an event – so rule out a “no resale ban.”

BUT “Harry Potter” will be putting a system in place to allow exchanges – consumers were aware of this before purchase. So, that is that one sorted out, there at least. No need to use a secondary site if, a millisecond after you booked, you realised you couldn’t use the tickets for next August…

… If an authorised return system wasn’t available, I feel strongly that adopting my ATR number system or something similar, it would prove the integrity aspect of wishing to regulate the secondary market.

The purchase of tickets for immediate re-posting at unfair prices will end, and by introducing the system, there will be proof positive that this is not about regulating ticket touting websites no matter whether they use that term – the correct one for them – or the politer “secondary market.”

For those who can make the decisions, this is the one, I hope (but sadly doubt deeply) they will make. If they do, it is about caring for the customer. If they do not, and simply say that now the “resale platform” is regulated, then they only care about profit and commercial interests of those who own that type of website. It is THAT simple.

It is probably just me and Bill Bryson (his latest book makes note of it), but isn’t the loss of the British sense of honour and “fair play” (particularly among those with any level of power to do good) one of the saddest of our losses in our country?

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