Friday, 6 February 2015

When Terms and Conditions are hard to find

When the BBC's and SeeTickets' Terms and Conditions collide...

This is a bit of personalised post and a grumble based upon buying online tickets for a musical event.

BBC 6 Music are hosting some live music event in Newcastle close to where I live. Lots of my friends were interested in going. The number of tickets on sale was strictly limited to around 3,500 people. See Tickets were the ticket selling intermediaries.  Consequently, somebody was bound to be disappointed.

Believe me, I'm used to ticket sales disappointment as much as the next person. I've been attending the Glastonbury festival most of my adult life and buying tickets can be a soul destroying experience if you don't get them (which I didn't for the last 2). That in itself isn't unusual. Lots of people want the tickets and they're strictly limited, hence they sell out in 26 minutes.

I'm not entitled to these tickets. I accept this. It's a lottery.

However, there are steps you can take to improve your chances. I should know - it's been a regular thing for my and my friends to go in a crowd of around 50-80 people. We even have our own field (Shields Field!).

When you have that many people going, you get used to planning ahead. In the past we've organised ourselves with military precision. We've all shared our registration details amongst the collective; we've had enough money in banks accounts to pay for £1000+ tickets (per groups of 4); we've stayed in touch via Skype/MSN/Facebook to ensure we can make purchase after purchase to guarantee everyone goes.

We've even gone as far as securing a T1 industrial LAN connection owned by an IT company for the fastest internet connection possible, while also using their phone/call centre facilities.

But I digress... Back to the 6 Music event.

I'm used to disappointment when it comes to ticket sales, but I've never been quite this disappointed.

On the 31st of January tickets went on sale for the event at 10am. By 10.04am all the tickets had been sold. Fortunately, I'd been able to buy 4 for me and a group of friends. Unbelievably, my wife had also been able to buy tickets using her See Tickets account and her own card (different to mine). We live at the same address (obviously, but this is important for the narrative below).

Several of my friends were less lucky than us, but it didn't matter. We'd picked up 8 between us and we told our friends on Facebook and nearly everyone who wanted one was after one. Result.

Or at least that's what we thought. Here's the email I received on the 31st of January:

See Tickets
Dear MR ROB JEWITT, Thank you for your order
Order Details - Reference xxxxxxxxx
BBC RADIO 6 MUSIC FESTIVAL BY NIGHT -SATURDAY 21ST Sage, Gateshead
SATURDAY, 21/02/2015 at 17.00 - Doors open: 17.00
4 GENERAL ADMISSION
£38.68 
Including booking fee £3.68 per ticket 
4 REFUND PROTECTION FACILITY
£2.00 
Transaction Fee £2.31 
Total £165.03 
You have been charged a total of £165.03 via PayPal. You will receive a seperate email from PayPal with further details
Tickets will be despatched as soon as possible, but may not be received until the week of the event. If you have not received your tickets in the post, please contact us no later than two working days before the show date.
This event has the following age restriction: 16+ only. 16's - 17's must be accompanied by an adult
To check the status of your order, change your delivery address and contact us, please visit our customer service area. Or alternatively you can contact us on 0115 912 9105.
This order is subject to our terms and conditions.
Thanks for your booking,
So far, so good.

However, on the 2nd of February I received this email:

Dear MR ROB JEWITT

Unfortunately we have had to cancel your order of
4 GENERAL ADMISSION ticket(s) for the BBC RADIO 6 MUSIC FESTIVAL BY NIGHT -SATUR
at Sage, Gateshead on 21/02/2015 reference number
xxxxxxxxx as you have ordered over the show limit. 

As mentioned in our terms and conditions, we reserve the right to cancel 
any orders that exceed the show limit which applies per credit card/  
household/person. These limits are set by the organiser of the event.  

The refund has been credited to the card the tickets were bought with.
The refund will clear in the next 3-5 working days. 

If you have any queries please feel free to contact us at
http://www.seetickets.com/CustomerService.

Kind regards,

See Tickets Customer Services

See is a trademark of See Group Ltd. Registered Office: Norfolk House, 47 Upper Parliament St, Nottingham, NG1 2AB Used under license by the Way Ahead Group Limited. Registered in England, No. 03554468


This was pretty confusing. I'd checked the terms and conditions on the BBC website before buying the tickets. This is what it said (see the screen grab also):




Tickets will be available to purchase online or via the SeeTickets box office on 08444122954. Calls cost 6p per minute plus standard network charges.
Tickets costs £35 + booking fees. Please note that a maximum of 4 tickets per person, with a limit of 2 transactions per card applies for all 6Music Festival by Night events.
Please note there is no readmission to the venue once the event has started.

There's a cached version of the page here


My confusion stems from the reason given by See Tickets in the refund email:
As mentioned in our terms and conditions, we reserve the right to cancel any orders that exceed the show limit which applies per credit card/ household/person. These limits are set by the organiser of the event.
There is no mention on the BBC page of a limit based on household. There's a limit based on card transactions and also on the amount a person can buy. Nothing about households. The reason I'm labouring this point is because of the next claim in the refund email: 'These limits are set by the organiser of the event"

I'd like to think that if that was genuinely the case, then it should have been mentioned in the terms and conditions. It isn't.

In fact the only place that the household restriction is mentioned is in the See Tickets terms and conditions. This was something I found only after I had the tickets refunded.

It seems to be a standard clause on their website regarding sales. It doesn't seem to be a BBC specific clause, therefore I find it disingenuous (at best) for See Tickets to refund these tickets while alluding to the claim that the BBC set the limit, especially when there is no mention of this specific restriction on the BBC sites.

I realise that I'm probably on a hiding to nowhere with this but it's a grievance I've taken up with See Tickets.  You can find a copy of the email correspondence below (names changed to protect the identities of the employees etc). If anything, I hope it serves as a warning to anyone else who may make the same mistake of attempting to buy tickets for friends.

I get that this is See Tickets's attempt to ensure that hawkers can't buy up all the tickets and tout them around. But it's harmed genuine music fans. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to pay triple the cover price from some unscrupulous auction site scalper in order to attend. Clearly, the scalpers already know how to work the system while the rest of us suffer.

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Sent: 02 February 2015 18:11
 To: See Tickets Customer Care
 Subject: 2015-02-21 -- xxxxxxxx -- General enquiry

 Enquiry Type: General enquiry
 Reference Number: xxxxxxxx (xxxxxxxxx)

 Customer Email: robjewitt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
 Customer Name: MR ROB JEWITT

Message:

 I'd like further clarification as to the cancellation. I thought the terms and conditions stated you were allowed 2 transactions per person but only 4 tickets per transaction? There were two transactions at my address (one by me, one by wife, using different cards) so that we could buy for a group of friends. We've often grouped together to buy tickets after losing out on events in the past - it's always a matter of luck as to who gets through to make a purchase, hence we spread the risk. To find out that we've been able to get tickets for friends, and then have to tell them "sorry, but you don't have them anymore" is a kick in the teeth. Additionally, the amount refunded appears to be ?8 less than I paid (according to my PayPal account). How is that?

 Best wishes
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From: See Tickets Customer Care (customercare@seetickets.com)
Sent:03 February 2015 13:45:38
Hello,

 Unfortunately the order was cancelled as the show limit was exceeded, for whom and why the tickets were purchased is not taken into consideration I'm afraid, we have simply left you with the maximum allowed per household.

 We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

 Kind regards
  
XXXXxxx
 Customer Services
 SeeT
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Sent:03 February 2015 21:45:21
To:See Tickets Customer Care (customercare@seetickets.com)
Hello

Well, that's very disappointing. I have to say I don't recall seeing any mention of household limits in the terms and conditions. Unfortunately, the initial website with the link to purchase is no longer active.

Fortunately, there is a cached version of the page and that doesn't mention households:

Tickets will be available to purchase online or via the SeeTickets box office on 08444122954. Calls cost 6p per minute plus standard network charges.
Tickets costs £35 + booking fees. Please note that a maximum of 4 tickets per person, with a limit of 2 transactions per card applies for all 6Music Festival by Night events.
Please note there is no readmission to the venue once the event has started.


As you might imagine, we're quite disappointed, especially when there's clearly an organised bunch of ticket scalpers selling them for inflated prices on various auction websites. 

Best wishes
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Sent:04 February 2015 08:46:07


Hello,
The ticket limit was reflected in the drop down menu. Purchasers were unable to place a booking for more than four tickets.
Kind regards
Xxxxxxxx
Customer Services
See™
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Sent:06 February 2015 18:56:23
To:See Tickets Customer Care (customercare@seetickets.com)
Hello

Well, you see, that's the main complaint here. The tickets were purchased after consulting the terms and conditions which made no mention of the household limit. It explicitly referred to the amount of purchases that were permitted per person per transaction (as captured in the previous email).

It was only after the purchase was refunded that the household limit was mentioned in the email dated 2/2/15 (see below). This was the only purchase I made. It was the only time that specific card and See Tickets account was used - which appears to be in accord with the terms and conditions as they were published.

Consequently, it appears that the tickets have been cancelled on the grounds of terms and conditions not made explicit at the point of sale. 

I'd like to be pointed to a copy of the original terms and conditions which state there was a household limit before the tickets went on sale

Best wishes 

Rob Jewitt

[original email dated 2/2/15]

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UPDATE 9th Feb

From: See Tickets Customer Care (customercare@seetickets.com)
Sent:09 February 2015 09:04:10

Hello
You can view our terms and conditions here;
Please refer to the fourth paragraph. 
regards
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Sent:09 February 2015 14:39:33
To:See Tickets Customer Care (customercare@seetickets.com)

Hello

Oh, so those are your terms and conditions? I was under the impression that the tickets were being sold subject to the BBC's terms and conditions. That's what the SeeTickets email suggested (copied below). 

It would help if these additional terms and limits were front and centre on an event's webpage before transactions are initiated, especially when the cancellation email infers that SeeTicket's terms and conditions are specified by the organiser (i.e. the BBC).

It's one thing to follow the guidance set by the organiser (BBC) only to have the intermediary (SeeTickets) work to a different set of rules

Best wishes

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