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FanFair welcomes Google’s new policies on ticket tout ads

By | Published on Thursday 23 November 2017


Anti-ticket-touting campaign group FanFair has welcomed a change in Google’s advertising policies which should regulate the way ticket resellers run ads on the web giant’s search platform, forcing sellers to provide more information about tickets they are selling and to better distinguish between primary and secondary ticketing platforms on the search engine.

It has long been argued that online touts selling tickets at marked up prices benefit from consumer confusion over the difference between primary and secondary ticket sellers. This means people might buy tickets at a higher price on the secondary market even when face value tickets are still available via primary sellers. It also means gig-goers don’t necessarily realise they have bought a touted ticket that could be cancelled by the promoter.

Various factors contribute to this confusion. For starters, the fact that flagship ticket resale websites are owned and therefore badged by eBay and Live Nation’s Ticketmaster. This means consumers see brands they recognise and therefore might assume they are buying from official ticket sellers, rather than touty resellers.

Secondly, there is the use of Google advertising by secondary sites to push their ticket listings to the top of search result lists. Those listings often read like they are from official sellers, not least because Viagogo sometimes uses the word “official” in its ads. Many consumers, unaware of the difference between paid and organic search listings, will also assume that whichever seller comes top is probably the most legit.

FanFair put the spotlight on this latter issue back in July after surveying how touted tickets were being listed by Google in the UK.

The organisation’s Adam Webb said at the time: “If you’re looking to attend a gig or festival, you’d probably expect a search engine to act as a trusted guide and direct you to the legitimate ticket seller. However, we consistently see secondary ticketing platforms, led by Viagogo, using paid search to dominate search rankings and even masquerade as ‘official’ sellers – causing considerable confusion in the process”.

The campaign group was not alone in raising concerns about how secondary ticketing platforms were using Google advertising to potentially confuse consumers. Concerns weren’t limited to the UK either, with the issue being raised in both Ireland and Australia, among other places.

This might be why Google has decided to alter its advertising rules so that, from next year, ticket resellers will need to be certified before using its AdWords platform.

In an update yesterday, Google explained: “To be certified, resellers can’t imply that they are the primary or original provider of event tickets and must disclose to customers that they are a reseller. Resellers must also tell customers that prices may be higher than the face value. Prices must be broken down to show the values of included fees and taxes during checkout and before the customer provides payment information”.

The web giant added that, from March next year, certified resellers will also have to “post the face value of the tickets along with the reseller’s price (and in the same currency)”.

In a statement this morning, FanFair welcomed Google’s new policy. It said: “This is a very welcome development, with potential to make the ticket-buying process far less complex for consumers”.

Explaining why these changes are necessary, it noted how the previously reported ‘Ticked Off’ report “highlighted that a significant proportion of would-be ticket buyers use Google as their first port of call, while FanFair’s own research has illustrated the extent to which secondary ticketing platforms use paid search to dominate Google rankings. As a result, fans have been systematically directed towards touted tickets, even when primary inventory is still available from authorised ticket sellers”.

Concluding, FanFair stated: “We are pleased that Google have listened to concerns on this issue, and have acted in an assertive manner and on a global basis. We look forward to seeing further details – but this move should be a major step forward in cleaning up the secondary market, and we anticipate more regulatory and legislative action to come”.