Old Vic and ATG warned over ‘hidden’ ticket fees by watchdog

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London theatres and ticket agents have been told to stop hiding extra booking fees and other compulsory costs on their websites by the UK’s advertising regulator.

The Advertising Standards Authority has censured London’s Old Vic and Charing Cross Theatre as well as ticket companies Ambassador Theatre Group and AKA Group for quoting misleading ticket prices on their websites.

It criticised the companies for not providing customers with enough information about compulsory fees that would be added at a later stage in the online booking.

In the future, the ASA said it expected these charges to be advertised up front so that customers can see the original price of the ticket plus extra fees at the start of the buying process.

Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, said: “These pricing practices are simply not fair. They draw us in on a false promise. They make us less likely to shop around for the best deal.

“Our rulings send a clear signal to advertisers: sort out your pricing so we all get a fair deal.”

In response to its ruling, Charing Cross Theatre said it was not reasonable for it to be required to include the commission fee in ticket prices given on the website because the website was also a reference point for those booking in person at the box office, where no commission was payable.

The venue said its approach was consistent with many other theatres.

The Old Vic said it had now added text to the bottom of the page, which highlighted the amount of the booking fees.

A spokesman for ATG said it had begun a “series of improvements” to the information on its website to ensure that ticket prices and any fees charged for purchasing online are “clearly available” to customers at the beginning of the booking process.

Meanwhile, an AKA Group spokesman said: “We wholly believe in frank and honest communications with our customers. Moving forward we will ensure that the first references to pricing for a performance are immediately qualified with the amount of any associated transaction fee or charges.”