Ed Sheeran’s battle over unfair ticket prices gets help from U.K. regulators


Ed Sheeran and his manager were “thinking out loud” when they chose to fight unfair ticket prices on resale ticket sites — and now their thoughts are turning into action.

The manager for 27-year-old English singer, whose hit “Thinking Out Loud” was the first song to reach 500 million streams on Spotify, successfully pressured Google GOOG, +1.33%   to change the way sites, like Stubhub and Viagogo, are listed in search results, the BBC reported. Now the companies have to list a disclaimer explaining that they’re not primary ticket sellers.

And now U.K. regulators are also sticking up for concertgoers who pay exorbitant prices when they buy tickets from resale sites.

The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority has banned four of the main resale ticketing sites in the U.K. — Stubub, Viagogo, Seatwave and Get Me In — from “misleading” customers by not telling them about extra fees and service charges until the end of the purchasing process.

Fans can take a financial hit in the quest to see their favorite singers. One woman had hopes of buying Sheeran tickets for her and her children’s milestone birthdays on the resale site Viagogo. The single mom thought she was paying 263 Euros ($326 in USD) for the four tickets, but after checking out , the total cost jumped to 1,421 Euros ($1,762 USD) — more money than her checking account balance, according to the BBC. A friend lent her the money while she fought to get her money back from the company.

Sheeran tried to fight back against ticket resellers by canceling 10,000 tickets that were being sold on resale sites last year, after instructing buyers during the announcement of his tour that the tickets should only be purchased for personal use, according to The Ticketing Business.

A StubHub spokeswoman the company supports “any measures which make ticket buying easier, more convenient and more transparent for fans,” and that it would be “fully compliant” with the ASA’s decision, the BBC reported. A spokeswoman for Ticketmaster, which owns Seatwave and Get Me In, told the BBC the company will continue to work with the ASA “to further develop levels of transparency and consumer protection within the UK ticketing sector.”

See: You can’t buy a ticket to the Oscars but you can go to Vanity Fair’s after party for $25,000

Of course, reselling issues happen in the U.S., too. Artists and sports team have waged war against the use of computer programs that quickly buy up a substantial number of tickets for quality seats and then resell them at higher prices to individual consumers. The federal government passed the Better Online Ticket Sales Act in 2017, to prevent bots from illegally scalping tickets to concerts, sporting events or theater performances.

Just how bloated can ticket prices get from resale? Even with Ticketmaster’s verified resale program for “Frozen” on Broadway, the Disney DIS, -1.33%   musical’s balcony seats were being resold for almost $10,000 each for the show’s opening in mid-March.

Also see: 3 ways to find a good deal on a concert or sporting event ticket

Sheeran isn’t the first artist who’s taken a stand against unfair ticket prices. The 90s grunge band Pearl Jam tried to boycott Ticketmaster, a major online ticketing agency, because of the extra service fees that TicketMaster tacked onto their tour tickets. The band filed a lawsuit in 1994, which it ultimately lost. For its upcoming tour this year, however, Pearl Jam used Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan platform to thwart scalpers from buying up all the tickets. With Verified Fan, ticket buyers register before events if they’re interested in buying tickets, so that the system can separate actual people wanting to buy tickets for personal use from bot scalpers attempting to purchase in bulk and resell.