Smart Consumer: Don't let internet touts destroy your day out
Last January during the heavy snow the Hartnett family from Dublin got up at the crack of dawn and headed for the airport. Paul and Karen's three children -- Sean (then 12), Kealan (10) and Evan (5) -- were very excited as they made their first trip to Old Trafford to see their heroes Manchester United play.
Paul, a Leeds supporter, had bought the five tickets at €100 a-piece online. Man U were playing Leeds so it was the perfect present for what was set to be a memorable family event.
It was memorable alright, but for all the wrong reasons.
Although the tickets were delivered to their hotel as promised, just a little while later the Hartnetts found themselves standing outside Old Trafford, all of them in tears.
They had been denied entry to the ground and were told the tickets they had purchased in good faith were not valid. They ended up watching the match on the telly back at their hotel.
Because there were no tickets left from the official seller, the Hartnetts had bought from a secondary ticket-selling site online. And that can go horribly wrong.
Some 35% of people who have purchased online have bought tickets for sporting or music events according to the European Commission, and today they publish the results of a pan-European 'sweep' on ticket selling sites, which will lead to enforcement action.
The findings are set to reveal that the top three problem areas are: missing, incomplete or misleading information about the price; unfair terms and conditions; and missing, incomplete or misleading information about the trader.
These are problems that Caroline Curneen of Ireland's European Consumer Centre (ECC) is all too familiar with. "We have received complaints about websites based all over the world," says Curneen. "Some websites may use domain names with the extension .co.uk, but in fact they are operating from another country entirely."
The most common complaints concern the non-delivery of tickets and tickets that are not accepted at the gates.
They also receive complaints that the face value listed on the ticket is much lower than what was paid. "These consumers did not realise that they were buying tickets from a secondary ticket reseller, an online ticket tout," explains Curneen.
"Often websites will use the name of the act or event to dupe consumers into thinking they are buying from an official source," she adds. "As bogus sites frequently carry the official branding stolen from legitimate sites, and have plausible web addresses, consumers need to be vigilant."
Paul Hartnett sent numerous emails and made several calls to the trader he bought the tickets from from but he never received a response.
Paul eventually did get his €500 back, from a credit-card 'charge-back' issued by his bank.
But he'd much rather his family had been able to attend the match.
"We were so close," he says. "It was pure disaster. I will never buy tickets again unless it's from the official seller."
Useful website: eccireland.ie