After years of complaints from regulators and consumers about deceptive sites listing secondary ticketing inventory through the AdWords platform, Google has issued new guidelines that could significantly restrict deceptive ticketing advertising on the site.
After complaints in both the U.K. and by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman about how StubHub, Viagogo and other ticket broker sites sometimes confuse consumers regarding whether tickets are for sale by the primary seller or being resold by scalpers, Google has issued new guidelines for ticket resellers and is forcing them to prove their compliance through a certification process beginning in January.
“This could be the biggest news in ticketing,” said Patrick Ryan with ticket pricing and distribution company Eventellect. “The fact that websites will no longer be allowed to use deceptive words in the URLs will greatly help primary sites as well as companies like Stubhub and SeatGeek which have focused on building brands,” he added. “This ensures fans won’t get misled by web sites that use words like ‘official,’ ‘box office,’ or the venue’s name”
Below are the new rules for resale sites advertising tickets on Google AdWords:
Ticket resellers must disclose they are not the primary ticketing provider
Resale sites need to have language that’s “easily visible and clearly explained in the top 20% of the reseller’s website” detailing that tickets on the site are being resold and not sourced directly from the artist, team or content provider.
Ban on deceptive site names and URLS
Resellers can’t imply they are “official” or “approved” resellers, a practice Viagogo is often criticized for, claiming it is an “official site” for concert tickets. Scalpers also can’t create website URLs that deceive consumers with references to the artist or venue name.
“For example, you can’t use ‘ArtistNameTickets.com’ or ‘VenueNameTickets.com’ as your URL,” according to the new guidelines.
Notify consumers that cheaper tickets can be found on the primary
Resellers have to do more to disclose to fans that they are marking up tickets prices and that cheaper tickets can be found through direct ticketing channels like Ticketmaster.
“Resellers must prominently disclose that ticket prices are higher than face value (meaning the price offered by the primary provider),” the guidelines read. “This disclosure should be easily visible, including on the home page and any landing pages.”
Clear cost and fee breakdown prior to checkout
“Resellers must also provide a price breakdown during the checkout process and before the customer provides payment information,” the guidelines explain. “The breakdown should show the specific costs added, such as taxes and any fees that have been added to the face value of the tickets.”
Face value disclosure
Starting in March, resellers will need to disclose the face value of a ticket as well as a breakdown of the reseller’s price, in the same currency.
“It will likely be impossible for Google to sell key words to resale sites if they remain strict about the disclosure of face value,” Ryan explained. “It’s just impossible to properly define face value because some tickets resold were bought at a lower season ticket price, some at a single event price, and some at an inflated premium price.”
Secondary ticket sites must certify with Google they are compliant with the new rules — primary ticketing companies are not required to certify to advertise through AdWords.
“Aggregators of event tickets, auction sites, and marketplaces that allow ticket resale are also required to be certified,” the guidelines read. “Certification will start in January 2018. Google will review your application and notify you of your certification status. Once you’re certified, you can start advertising immediately.”