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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Ticket resellers charge UAE customers as much Dh450 in booking fees

Websites like Viagogo, which allow people to resell concert and event tickets, are accused of stinging residents with high fees and no guarantee of entry

Viagogo - an online marketplace for ticket resale - has come under fire for charging large booking fees on ticket sales. Alamy
Viagogo - an online marketplace for ticket resale - has come under fire for charging large booking fees on ticket sales. Alamy

Concert goers have been warned to only buy tickets through venue websites after residents have found themselves forced to pay high booking fees through third-party sellers.

In one recent example, an Abu Dhabi resident was charged a booking fee of more than Dh450 on one Dh1,588 ticket on Viagogo, a controversial ticket reseller.

The company has been the subject of numerous complaints, and even legal action, in the UK by a competition watchdog over claims it is breaking consumer protection law by not properly informing customers about the tickets they buy.

The resident – who asked to remain anonymous – bought the ticket because all the tickets from the venue for Bayreuth Festival’s first performance outside Germany next February in Abu Dhabi had already sold out.

She said she was not aware of the high booking fee until after she pressed the button to confirm she would pay.

And although under pressure as the clock on the site was counting down, she is certain it was not displayed.

“It said there was a booking charge but didn’t list what it was,” she said.

“I thought I would get the best ticket available because it is for a present for someone who is flying over from the UK especially for the festival. Even then, I was anxious because I thought that it was a lot of money for one ticket. The there is this other amount whacked on, so I have now paid over Dh2,000 for one ticket.”

She is now concerned her friend may not even be allowed in to the event after reading reviews online about people being turned away with Viagogo tickets.

The risk of being turned away was what prompted Dubai resident Haroun Khan to relist his ticket on Viagogo for the India Vs Pakistan cricket match in September.

He paid almost Dh1,600 for a ticket that originally cost Dh500, and Dh400 of the final fee was the Viagogo booking fee. He bought the ticket as he desperately wanted to see the match, which was sold out.

“I found it via a Google search so I thought it was a genuine recommended site,” said Mr Khan, who took part in a discussion on the topic on the Brits in Dubai Facebook group.

“When I researched it after buying the tickets I cursed myself as to why I did it as there were so many negative reviews about the site.”

Because of the risk of not getting in to the game, he decided to relist it for a cheaper price, adding a condition that he would only collect the money if the buyer got in to the match. They did, and he received Dh1,200 for the ticket — a Dh400 loss on the price he paid.

“At least I didn’t lose all of it,” he said.

But Viagogo is not the only third party seller to attract complaints from residents.

Emily Christensen, 40, bought four tickets for Louvre Abu Dhabi in January through Musement after initially thinking she was buying them via the venue.

“It was at the top of the Google results. They had clearly done all of their SEO to make sure they were the first thing when you are looking for entertainment,” she said.

She ended up paying Dh15 extra a ticket to purchase them through Musement.

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“It’s not a lot of money but when I emailed them and asked why they are charging this they said this was their handling fee. I didn’t realise that I wasn’t going direct to the Louvre, which doesn’t have a handling fee,” she said.

Ms Christensen contacted Dubai’s Department for Economic Development for advice, but was told it could not help as the company is based abroad. It gave her the contact details for a web control company abroad, but she decided not to pursue it any further.

Such sites exist in a grey area as they do not have a business licence to operate, which is rewuired by companies selling goods in the UAE.

Keren Bobker, an independent financial adviser and columnist for The National, said sites like Viagogo are not legal in the UAE, and should be avoided.

“Anyone using them to buy tickets runs the risk of them not being accepted when they turn up at the venue,” said Ms Bobker.

“Some tickets are sold here with the condition that they cannot be resold and while it seems that no one minds when it is between private individuals, it can be a big issue when an organisation such as Viagogo is used.

"I know of cases where tickets have been declined at the door and that just isn't a risk worth taking, especially as there seem to be large mark ups.”

Viagogo said all its fees are “clearly displayed”.

"Viagogo is a marketplace and doesn’t buy or sell tickets. Viagogo provides a platform for third party sellers to sell tickets to event goers. Viagogo does not set ticket prices, sellers set their own prices, which may be above or below the original face value," said a spokesperson.

Musement has not responded to a request for comment.