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Sale of tickets on Trade Me and scalping

Reselling your event tickets that you can't use is generally fine, as long as they are in your possession.

12 March 2021

Why does Trade Me allow ticket scalping?

We’ve been asked about the secondary ticket market or ticket scalping regularly over the years.

We did a scalping blog post about it back in 2012 too.

We thought it’d be useful to set out the answers to the questions we often get asked about this issue.

Why does this sort of thing happen?

We think it is simply supply and demand.

Sometimes there is high demand for event tickets which are limited in supply.

It’s inevitable that this scarcity will give rise to a secondary market, and those willing to pay more will have the opportunity to get a ticket.

It’s worth noting that only a very small percentage of available tickets end up on Trade Me (well less than 1 per cent), so it is often a storm in a teacup – albeit a pretty emotional storm for some, not helped by some keen media.

For us it’s a balancing act - we think it sucks if genuine fans aren't getting their mitts on tickets when they are made available, for whatever reason.

However, on the flipside, Trade Me provides fans who missed out with an alternative avenue for getting along to an event in a pure and transparent market.

At the end of the day these are trades between a willing buyer and a willing seller and the prices are simply market forces at work.

Is ticket scalping legal?

Usually, yes.

For the vast majority of events people are allowed to on-sell legitimate tickets, so Trade Me’s position is that we allow them to be sold.

It is impossible for us to enforce the terms and conditions of a third party like a ticketing agency for example, as we don’t have oversight of how the tickets were originally acquired.

The only law preventing ticket selling in New Zealand is when an event falls under the Major Events Management Act.

Most events are not one of the so called 'major events' under the Major Events Management Act so there is rarely a prohibition on stopping people selling tickets at prices higher than at face value.

Note too that if it became illegal to scalp tickets in NZ then these items would automatically breach our terms and would be removed as we don’t allow anything that is illegal to be sold on Trade Me.

Examples of MEMA events include Rugby World Cup 2011, Cricket World Cup 2015, U19 Cricket World Cup 2010, World Rowing Championships 2010, FIBA U19 World Championship 2009, FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2008, Triathlon World Championship Grand Final 2012.

Is ticket scalping moral and ethical?

In terms of the moral position, that is a really tricky one to navigate.

It’s a subjective thing.

The reasons for sale can vary from one person to another and we’re not into making moral judgements about members – it’s unworkable for us to try and navigate whether Person A’s reason for selling the ticket is OK (e.g. can’t get a flight, broke my leg, my mate and I doubled up, the ticketing website stuffed up) and Person B’s reason is not (e.g. opportunism).

What rules does Trade Me impose?

One thing we do seek is “proof of goods” - we only allow people to sell tickets they have in their possession so sellers are regularly asked to prove that they have the tickets.

If a seller does not have the ticket, or is unable to provide us proof of that ticket, the listing will be removed and the seller cannot relist the ticket until they can provide us proof that they have it.

Also, where promoters or event organisers show they have cancelled specific tickets (or where personal ID may be required with the ticket itself to gain entry to the event), we will remove them from the site.

We don’t want members purchasing tickets they can’t use – that ends up being a pretty crappy buying experience.

We hate seeing innocent buyers caught up in disputes between ticket companies and sellers.

No personally identifiable details may be included on ticket listings.

This includes seat numbers, full names and so on.

A general indication of where the seats are is fine, but displaying full details of your ticket online can make you a target for scammers.

If a ticket is ‘restricted viewing’ in that the performance is obscured on some way, this must be stated in the body of the listing.

We don’t let sellers list tickets to events which are subject to the Major Events Management Act 2007.

Why can’t Trade Me make a rule that says a seller can’t charge more than the face value of the ticket?

That sounds great in principle, but the practicalities are tricky as we don’t know what each person paid for the ticket initially.

There are also some meaty legal implications of imposing restrictions around price, and getting in the way of the market working.

It’d also be pretty hypocritical for us to step in to regulate the pricing around event tickets but not around everything else on site from toys to trains to trampolines to toilet brushes.

Does Trade Me make heaps of money from secondary tickets?

No, financially, second-hand tickets are a tiny money-spinner for Trade Me.

Revenue is not a factor or part of the decision to allow tickets to be sold.

It’s worth noting tickets to most events are often sold at bargain prices on Trade Me – there is a huge audience and sometimes people’s plans change and they are left with a ticket they can no longer use.

Trade Me is thus a great way for them to recover a little bit of money and ensure someone who wants to attend gets the ticket.

What can be done to stop scalping happening?

It’s almost inevitable that there will always be a secondary ticket market for popular events where demand for tickets outstrips the number of tickets that are available.

One alternative is for the onselling of tickets to be restricted by the Government, either under the Major Events Management Act or some other form of regulation.

It can also be minimised.

Over the years, we’ve seen promoters do a range of things to control the distribution of tickets.

This includes priority allocations, requiring identification to be presented at the entrance to the event, official secondary markets, selling tickets onsite to counter the scalpers, restricting the number of tickets that can be sold to any one person.

A popular method is to not distributed tickets until close to the start of the event.

It is fair to say that some promoters and event organisers put more effort into this sort of thing than others!

What should I be aware of if I am a buyer?

If you’re a ticket buyer, we recommend taking all the normal precautions.

Assess the seller’s feedback on the site and make sure they are address verified.

And of course, hit the Community Watch badge to bring any listing that is of concern to the attention of our staff (who are available 24/7/365) so they can take a look and act as necessary.

If you have a concern about the integrity of a listing on the site, please use the Community Watch function to let us know. It’s found at the bottom of every listing.