SMG Europe venues to change pricing of carers’ tickets after legal challenge
Venue operator SMG Europe has vowed to standardise its ticket policy regarding disabled customers and their carers following a legal challenge to its procedures by a customer at the York Barbican.
The company currently operates 10 UK venues, including York Barbican, the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, the Playhouse in Whitley Bay and the First Direct Arena in Leeds.
It has promised to introduce a uniform ticket policy for disabled people who need to be accompanied by a carer after a legal challenge was launched by a wheelchair-bound customer who claimed the York Barbican had discriminated against him.
Doug Paulley wanted to attend a Bill Bailey comedy show at the venue, but was told he would need to buy an additional, full-priced ticket for his carer.
The Barbican said its policy at the time was to offer carers a seat priced at the cheapest available ticket in the venue when accompanying a disabled person. But it said that as tickets for Bailey’s show cost a flat rate of £25, it was unable to make a reduction.
Paulley challenged the decision, claiming the normal procedure in other venues was for a disabled person and a carer to pay no higher than one full-priced ticket between them.
He began legal proceedings, only for SMG Europe to announce the day before the hearing that it had changed its policy at the Barbican so that the combined total price for a visitor and carer would “be equal to the cost of one full-priced ticket”.
In addition, SMG Europe has subsequently said it will standardise its policies, after a further investigation revealed there was no uniform procedure in place.
A spokesman for SMG Europe said: “We are now undertaking a full review with the intention of standardising our policies and procedures in relation to carer tickets.”
Paulley, who lives in Wetherby, told The Stage: “The Barbican in York is a relatively new build, but its discriminatory price was more of a barrier than the age of buildings I have been in elsewhere. I am glad they publicly admitted they discriminated against me. This sets a precedent – people can quote this case and say, ‘Other people have been forced to do it, you have to do the same’.”
Chris Fry, managing partner of Unity Law, which represented Paulley, agreed that the case “establishes a legal precedent in relation to ticket-pricing policies for disabled customers and their carers. By bringing his case, Doug has secured a change of policy, which not only affects this venue, but has a wide-reaching impact on sports and entertainment venues across the UK”.
A Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre spokesman said “when a disabled person’s access requirements necessitate them being accompanied to the theatre, [best practice is] that the carer go free”.