What you need to know when you buy tickets to an event or for a holiday and your rights if there is a problem.

Ticket is a contract between you and the seller

When you buy a ticket to an event or for an airline flight, you have formed a contract between you and the ticket seller or airline. The seller has to clearly display or notify you of the terms and conditions attached to the ticket, before you buy it.

A seller can't rely on terms and conditions that are only printed on the ticket, unless you were given a reasonable chance to read them before you bought it.

You have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act to protect you from poor service, eg overbooking, delays, and poor seats that have been sold as better than they actually are.

Also the Civil Aviation Act prevents airlines from relying on their conditions of carriage on the airline tickets to exclude liability for compensating you if your flight is cancelled or delayed and it not caused by specified events outside their control.


Tips for buying tickets to events

Before you buy a ticket, make sure you understand the terms and conditions that apply to cancellation, postponement, refunds and scalped tickets (reselling of tickets for a higher price).

Some other ways to minimise your risk include:

  • buying tickets through the event organiser or authorised sellers. To find an authorised reseller, visit the official website or contact the organiser
  • only using secure payment methods if you buy a ticket from a ticket scalper – never wire money through a payment transfer service such as Western Union
  • keeping all transaction records so if things go wrong, you have proof of what was said and agreed to, if you try to recover your losses from the seller.

 

Know your rights

Airlines, promoters and ticket agents must comply with the service guarantees in the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). This means:

  • they must use the reasonable skill and care of a competent and professional airline, promoter or ticket agent
  • their services must be fit for your particular purpose.

If a flight is delayed or cancelled, an airline may need to refund your airfare and pay for losses you suffered as a consequence. However, it depends on how serious the fault was and there are exceptions for factors beyond their control. If your loss relates to lost or damaged luggage, their liability is determined by the Contract and Commercial Law Act and the carriage contract.

See also:

Bumping is a common airline practice. You are entitled to compensation if this happens to you.

Airlines, promoters and ticket agents must not mislead or deceive you in your dealings with them or make false or misleading representations under the Fair Trading Act (FTA). This is particularly relevant when they advertise airfare prices or premium tickets etc. If they do mislead or deceive, you can claim compensation under the FTA and report any misleading conduct to the Commerce Commission to investigate.

Cancellation and postponement

An airline has to compensate passengers for delays under Part 9B of the Civil Aviation Act(external link). This includes delays that are caused by overbooking (‘bumping’) and cancellation due to internal issues, such as mechanical problems and rostering.

You are entitled to receive 10 times the price of your ticket, or the actual cost of your delay, whichever is the lower. The actual cost of a passenger’s delay includes any reasonably foreseeable extra costs they have incurred because of the delays, such as meal costs, taxi fares, missed concerts or missed connections.

If the airline misleads you about their obligations, this is an offence under the FTA and they can be investigated by the Commerce Commission (if you report the airline to them).

If the delay was caused by factors beyond the airline's control, they don’t have to pay compensation. For example, weather conditions such as ash clouds, complying with instructions given by an air traffic control service or a law enforcement agency, or taking action to save or try to save lives. These factors should be covered by travel insurance instead if you have it.

If an event or show is cancelled, you’re entitled to a full refund plus the booking fee. The same applies if a show or event is postponed and the new date doesn't suit you. But this won't apply if the postponement was allowed for: for example, if it's an outdoor event held over to the advertised 'rain day'.

Delays or cancellation caused by events beyond a promoter’s or ticket agent’s control (force majeure) are also excused from liability under the CGA.

Read Changing contracts or quotes to find out more.

Wrong seats, refused entry or bad seats

If you have been double booked or refused entry for a valid ticket, you are entitled to a refund and compensation for any reasonably foreseeable consequential losses, such as travel and accommodation costs.

If you have paid for premium seats and these are restricted or not good views, complain on the spot to get new seats. If they don’t agree, contact the ticket office the next day, and if necessary put your complaint in writing.

Ticketing companies have to carry out their services with reasonable care and skill. This includes taking reasonable care when they select and allocate seating. Unless you were told when you booked that your view of the stage would be restricted or that the sound quality wouldn't be great, you can seek compensation under the CGA.

Scalping

Selling a ticket privately for an inflated price (often called scalping) is not illegal. However, some ticket sellers have special terms and conditions, so if they know the ticket has been scalped, the holder will be refused entry.

Buying a ticket from an unauthorised seller puts you at risk of being supplied with a fake ticket, resulting in being denied entry to the event, or the ticket not being provided at all.

The only law preventing reselling of tickets is when an event falls under the Major Events Management Act(external link). Examples include the Rugby World Cup 2011 and the Cricket World Cup 2015.

Contact the airline, ticket agent or promoter first

Try to resolve the dispute directly first. If you are entitled to a refund due to postponement or cancellation, ask for this and put your complaint in writing. If an airline has postponed or cancelled your flight you should quote the remedy under the Civil Aviation laws, which includes compensation for foreseeable losses such as meals, alternative flights if more expensive on a different airline and accommodation.


Next steps

If you are unable to resolve your issue directly with the seller, our Resolve It tool has information to help you take the next steps. These may include going to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.

Resolve it: Event and ticket agents


Need more help?

Contact us for more guidance.

Common situations

Concert cancelled

You have booked seats to an upcoming music show. The promoter cancels a week before the event due to a late cancellation by the performer. You are entitled to a full refund of your seats plus your booking fee.

Bumped from a flight

Margaret books a seat on an early morning flight from Christchurch to Dunedin to go shopping and out for lunch with her friend. When she arrives at the airport she is told the flight is full and they have bumped her onto a flight the next day. She is not happy and has to pay for a taxi home. She’s entitled to a full refund of her airline ticket plus her taxi fares to and from the airport.

Concert ticket not valid due to scalping

John pays cash for a ticket from a private seller off the street for a music concert in a week’s time. However, when he goes to the concert he is refused entry as one of the conditions is that the ticket holder must show ID and a receipt from the authorised ticket agent. John is not able to get in to see the show and has lost his money.