Tuesday 16 July 2019

'Asking someone to commit €100 to an event in 9 months is a big ask' - Ebay's ticket retailer StubHub aims to transform Ireland's ticketing industry

Fans queue up for U2 Tickets at Stephens Green Shopping Center. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Fans queue up for U2 Tickets at Stephens Green Shopping Center. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Concerns over the speed at which tickets for popular events were selling out, and the resale of these tickets at hugely inflated prices on secondary sites, prompted a major inquiry by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).

Early 2017, the State’s consumer watchdog opened an investigation into "suspected breaches of competition law in relation to the provision of tickets and the operation of ticketing services for live events".

Stubhub Global Head of Affairs Aimee Campbell told Independent.ie that the ticketing industry has not changed how it operates in decades - and is ripe for an overhaul in terms of transparency and security for the consumer.

"No matter what legislation is put into place, if supply is low and demand is high, there's always going to be a market for re-selling tickets," she said.

Aimee Campbell
Aimee Campbell

"If you look at the way general tickets are released, it's usually 9am on a Friday; you log in to your account online and keep hitting the refresh button looking for a ticket. Some 20 years ago, you might have used phone lines instead of the internet, but essentially nothing has changed.

"You still have to buy the ticket at the day and time that they set. It's a mad rush and they all go on sale at once."

Acquired by eBay in January 2007, StubHub's online ticket exchange platform is for both buyers and sellers of tickets for all types of events. Its mission statement is to be "the ultimate middleman" to disrupt how the ticketing industry currently opertaes.

Ms Campbell said that the current blanket general release is inconvenient for consumers and is essentially done for marketing purposes.

"It's easier to market one day, one time than three different times, so in general, ticket buying needs to go through that shift that other industries have gone through. Just like you don't order a taxi the same way that you used to, the ticketing industry needs to move with the times.

"Some of these tickets also are going on sale way further in advance than they used to. People don't live as they did 30 years ago where you might have been more scheduled and gone to three concerts a year.

"Nowadays people are not that good at planning and asking someone to commit €100 to an event that's in 9 months is a fairly big ask, especially if you don't give them that recourse if their plans change."

Read more: No Beautiful Day for U2 fans as Irish gig-goers left emptyhanded

That extra bit of 'insurance' is something that Stub Hub offers as part of its service for no extra fee. The 'Fan Protect Guarantee' brings technological solutions to make the transaction safe for the customer, according to Ms Campbell.

"If there is any issue with your order, we step in and will replace those tickets for you or we will give you your full money back," she said.

"If you do that transaction offline, on the street, there's cash involved, you buy from some guy who runs off if the ticket is not genuine, then you have an issue."

Following research conducted by StubHub last year, 37pc of Irish consumers are unable to attend an event once they have purchased tickets.

Having launched the concept 18 years ago, Ms Campbell said that the firm believes they have perfected their offering for the customer. 

But aside from security and insurance, she maintains that one of the largest issues in the industry at present is a lack of transparency in the market.

"What we would like to see is clarity from the rights holder to say we've given Xpc of the tickets to this club and Xpc to the fan club and Xpc to the mobile phone company etc and this is how many are actually left available to the general public.

"If you share that information, you will not only be forced to rethink how you're doing things, fans will also know what their chances are. If you look at a venue with 10,000 seats, a lot of people go online at 9am thinking that there's 10,000 tickets available.

"When they're disappointed that they don't get a ticket, you have the right to be upset about that, but if you are aware that there is a much smaller number than 10,000 places available, maybe your expectations would be managed better".

After its launch in 2000, StubHub largely dealt with the resale of tickets for baseball games - "with 81 games in a season, there was clearly a need to resell" -  and it spent the next decade deepening roots in the US and building partnerships with all the major league.

Looking eastwards, the company then launched in the UK in 2012, in Germany in 2015 and acquired a similar Spanish startup in 2016 who had a presence in 48 countries.

"We're still in the process of integrating the two websites but our focus is now being that challenger brand to the way things have always been," said Ms Campell.

Until recently, StubHub housed all events located in Ireland on their .co.uk domain, which only facilitated payment in pounds sterling. From March 18th they made the transition over to euro to give Irish fans "a better experience when it comes to paying".

"You can now buy in your own language in your own currency for an event in Japan, this is really quite unique in the e-commerce space. We see a lot of cross-border trade so this can really help the tourism angle," said Ms Campbell.

"This has been a barrier to attracting buyers and sellers in Ireland and StubHub expects to see an increase in Irish users after it has been implemented."

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has recently taken action against StubHub and three other ticketing sites after finding that they were not upfront and clear with consumers about additional ticket fees and charges that were added at the end of the booking process.

StubHub said that supports any measures which make ticket buying easier, more convenient and more transparent for fans, and welcomed the "opportunity to work closely with the ASA".

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