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Ad regulator rules against StubHub’s use of the line “guaranteed genuine tickets”

By | Published on Wednesday 25 March 2020


The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has ruled against secondary ticketing company StubHub over a poster ad campaign it ran late last year that included the words “guaranteed genuine tickets”. The ruling follows a complaint by anti-tout campaign group FanFair.

The sports-centric advert featured a woman shouting in excitement with her arms spread out against a backdrop of the StubHub speech bubble logo, with the headline “that knee slide along the platform moment”. Under that were two more lines of copy – “guaranteed genuine tickets to the match can do that” and “that StubHub Feeling”.

It was the “guaranteed genuine tickets” line that FanFair complained about. First because, as StubHub is simply the platform via which third parties sell tickets, it cannot actually guarantee that any tickets being sold are genuine. Plus, of course, there is the deliberately confusing use of the word “guarantee”.

That confusing use of the “guarantee” word has come up a lot in the campaign against rampant for-profit ticket touting online, with StubHub’s new owner Viagogo particularly known for employing this ruse.

When the resale platforms talk about there being a “guarantee”, they mean that if tickets don’t arrive or don’t get a customer access to a show, they will refund the purchase price. But most consumers will assume that it means the ticket-holder is guaranteed access to an event when, in fact, promoters can and sometimes do cancel tickets that have been unofficially resold (in the UK this is allowed if the terms of the original purchase ban resale).

Responding to the complaint, StubHub argued that it had various systems in place to stop the sale of fraudulent tickets on its website, claiming that the seller fraud rate across its platform was under 0.1%. It also made the ASA aware of its FanProtect Guarantee, which ensures refunds are available if a ticket fails to get a buyer into an event.

However, the ad industry regulator agreed with FanFair that StubHub’s choice of words would be taken by most consumers to mean tickets bought on the platform guaranteed access to an event, when – in fact – that is not 100% assured, because of the possibility of the touted ticket being cancelled.

In its ruling, the ASA states that it “considered that the claim ‘guaranteed genuine tickets’ would be understood by consumers to mean that should they purchase the advertised match tickets from the StubHub website, they would be certain to receive valid tickets that would arrive on time and allow them to gain entry into the relevant match”.

After noting the specifics of StubHub’s FanProtect Guarantee scheme, it adds: “Although StubHub appeared to offer a guarantee on customers receiving tickets, they were not able to guarantee that buyers would always be able to successfully gain entry to their chosen event. Because the claim ‘guaranteed genuine tickets’ suggested that consumers who bought StubHub tickets would be guaranteed to gain entry into their chosen match, when that was not the case, we concluded that the claim was misleading”.

StubHub has already removed the offending ad, but the ASA’s ruling states “the ad must not appear again in the form complained of”, adding that the regulator has also told StubHub “not to use the claim ‘guaranteed genuine tickets’ where there was a risk that buyers might not be able to gain entry into an event”.