Advertising Ticket Prices

There’s been a lot of concern over the advertising of ticket prices and booking fees since recent adjudications against ATG Tickets, The Old Vic and others by the Advertising Standards Agency. STAR (Secure Tickets from Authorised Retailers) held a meeting today to clarify legislation and requirements for venues, theatre companies and ticket agents. Tom Wright from STAR was joined by James Craig and Bridie Creely from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP). Below are some of my key takeaways from the meeting:

Booking Fees:

  • The first instance that a ticket price is quoted, it must either include booking fees or quote them. For example: “Tickets from £27” is acceptable, and so is “Tickets from £25 (plus £2 booking fee)“.
  • It is acceptable to write “Tickets from £25 plus booking fee*” with an asterisk and then include details of the fee elsewhere if space is limited or a hover-box if on a website.
  • It’s not acceptable to write “Tickets from £25” if these are only available in person at the box office and online bookers would have to pay a fee.
  • If no price is advertised, there is no requirement to give details of the booking fee either.

Exceptions:

  • Postage fees are covered by subsection 3.20 and can be dealt with in terms and conditions rather than in the headline.
  • The company with editorial control over the advertising is responsible for compliance (rather than publisher, hosting company, etc).
  • If fees are dependent upon exchange rates, etc then the advice is to publish as much information on fees as possible.
  • There is currently no requirement for theatres to provide an option where there are no booking fees.
  • In short form ads (Google adwords, Twitter, etc) theatres must state that a booking fee applies, though detail of this can be provided when they click through as space is limited.
  • The ASA currently has some leniency as websites create the technical capacity to show this detail. The Letting Agency industry is currently going through a similar process with the ASA.
  • Generally the booking fee needs to be next to each price, however if there are several events on one page and the same booking fee applies to all, then this only needs to be listed once as long as it is prominent.
  • A helpnote from 2004 exists on ticket pricing, and there is a hope to revise it later this year.
  • James Craig (co-policy executive at CAP) emphasises that the regulations should be read in full and that these are general answers. Individual advice and copy-checking is provided at no cost by CAP

The role of the ASA and CAP:

  • The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) covers print, posters, sales promotions, online (including social media).
  • The ASA doesn’t cover press releases or sponsorship.
  • The main legislation relevant to theatres is the CAP Code Sections 3.17–3.22.
  • In rulings, the ASA considers the spirit of the code as well as following the letter of it.
  • The general principles of the code are:
Ads must not materially mislead of be likely to do so.
Ads must not mislead by omitting material information, hiding it or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Ads can’t appear like an editorial. Must be clear as an ad.

For more information contact CAP or STAR.

Originally published on June 21, 2013.