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Radiohead and Ticketmaster accused of unfair ticketing

By | Published on Friday 28 September 2012


Radiohead fans who bought tickets for the band’s upcoming Manchester Arena and London O2 Arena shows have accused them and Ticketmaster of running an unfair system.

In a bid to stop ticket touting, ticketholders are only able to pick up tickets at the venues on the day of the show and must present the credit or debit card with which they were purchased as well as some form of photo ID. However, fans who have subsequently found themselves unable to attend the October shows since tickets went on sale in March have discovered that, not only can these tickets not be resold (or given away for that matter), they are unrefundable too. Meaning such fans are out of pocket.

And more than that, because the problem actually manifests itself in various forms. For example, if the ticketbuyer is unable to attend, then anyone else they bought tickets for is also unable to go. And the system also means that anyone who was bought their ticket as a gift can only attend if the buyer goes with them to the show to pick it up.

One ticketholder, Paul Chambers, wrote to the Guardian saying that he had purchased £288 worth of tickets which he was now unable to use or get a refund on: “I can’t go due to being away at work. The tickets are in my name and I can’t pick them up. My wife isn’t keen on going to the concert without me but couldn’t anyway due to my name and bank card being on the bill. I would gladly sell the Radiohead tickets to fans for face value but I can’t due to the restrictions”.

Ticketmaster spokesman Jon Wiffen responded: “Terms and conditions relating to the purchase of paperless tickets are clearly outlined to customers at multiple stages during the purchase process, including the initial purchase page, the shipping page and the billing page. Information relating to their purchase of paperless tickets is also conveyed on the confirmation email they receive”.

He added: “Paperless tickets aren’t transferable because this prevents those tickets being offered in the resale market. However, our dedicated customer services team are happy to work with both customers and our clients, be that the venues or promoters, if a customer’s circumstances change”.

Many critics of the secondary ticketing marketplace that has boomed in the eBay age have long suggested that technology – mobile and/or paperless ticketing – was a possible solution, though such systems have taken a while to get off the ground, partly because the technology needed refining, but partly because of the issues experienced by these Radiohead fans. Such issues have so far been reported more widely in the US, though as customer dissatisfaction with such systems spreads, it may well turn out that technical measures aren’t so good at combating the touts after all.

Commenting on the Radiohead story, Joe Cohen from secondary ticketing website Seatwave told CMU: “The fiasco around paperless tickets for the Radiohead gigs shows exactly why a safe and transparent secondary ticket market is vital. Fans who can no longer go to a show have the right to sell their ticket on to someone else in the simplest and safest way possible. Trying to control any market and restrict competition ultimately works against fans, costing them more and allowing fewer people access to the events they want to go to – as was illustrated by all the empty seats at the London Olympics this summer”.

Radiohead have been vocal critics of secondary ticketing and the hiking up of ticket prices on resale platforms for sometime, and earlier this year they partnered with ‘ethical fan-to-fan ticket exchange’ Ticket Trust in order to allow fans to resell unwanted tickets at face value. In a statement at the time, the band’s management said: “In recent years, the band’s enjoyment of their own shows has been marred by the knowledge that a great many of their fans have been obliged to pay well over face value for their tickets. Secondary ticketing is wrong on so many levels and as management, with ultimate responsibility for the welfare of the band, we must ensure that their fans are treated fairly”.

Thom Yorke et al oppose secondary ticketing because of the negative impact it has on real fans, who may end up paying over the odds for tickets, though it seems that the paperless ticketing approach to combating that problem may just create new issues.