Tickets sales and resales. Scalping, postponed events and cancellation. What to do if things go wrong.
Before you buy
It's safer to buy tickets from an official ticket seller, or licensed reseller. Buying from resale sites can be risky and more expensive. You may:
- Get the wrong seats.
- Tickets you can't use.
- Find it difficult to get your money back.
Getting money back from people selling privately can also be difficult.
Some ticket resale sites can look similar to official ticket sites. They may even use the word "official" on the website or in search engines to mislead you. Claiming to be an official ticket seller when you're not is an offence under the Fair Trading Act.
Consider if Viagogo is worth the risk(external link) — Commerce Commission
Avoid being caught out
- Buy from official sellers — check who they are on the artist or performer's website, and follow the links from there.
- Don't pre-buy — avoid buying tickets before they've officially gone on sale.
- Don't automatically trust top search results — some resale sites can pay for advertising that puts them at the top of search rankings.
- Avoid panic buying — claims there are only a few tickets left may not be true. If the event is popular, more dates may be released.
- Pay by credit card — if something goes wrong, you may be able to get your bank to reverse the payment. This is called a Chargeback.
Chargebacks(external link) — Banking Ombudsman
Ticket resellers(external link) — Consumer NZ
If you do decide to buy from an unlicensed reseller, be aware of the risks:
- You may pay much more than the original price.
- You may not get the promised seat.
- You may be refused entry to the event.
- The ticket could be a copy or fake.
- The ticket may not arrive.
- Your credit or debit card could be charged in a different currency.
- You may be charged hidden fees.
Example — T&Cs make concert ticket invalid
John pays cash for a ticket for a music concert from Facebook. When he goes to the concert, he is refused entry. He reads the terms and conditions on the ticket and finds one of the conditions is 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.
If things go wrong
If you are not happy with your event ticket, eg they are not the seats you thought you booked, you can:
- Contact the ticket agent or promoter: Before you make contact, read our information on your rights and how to complain. Get in touch as soon as you can.
- Ask your bank or credit card company for a chargeback: This reverses the payment on your credit or debit card. There are usually time limits on chargebacks.
- Claim on event insurance: If you took this out when buying your ticket, you may be able to claim back the price of your ticket if you can no longer attend. Reasons covered include: being ill, in an accident, and airline delays.
- Go to the Disputes Tribunal: They may help you reach an agreement with the ticket agent or promoter, or order them to act.
- Report the seller to the Commerce Commission: If you think the seller has misled or deceived you. This government agency doesn't take on individual cases. But your information will help them assess if the issue is causing wider harm.
You may not have the same rights if you bought from an individual reseller.
There is a time limit on getting a chargeback. Ask your bank or credit card company what it is.
Chargebacks(external link) — Banking Ombudsman
An event ticket and its terms and conditions form a contract between you and the ticket seller.
You have the rights that the terms and conditions say that you have. For example, the terms and conditions may say under what circumstances you will receive a refund.
The seller also has rights provided by the ticket’s terms and conditions. For example, the terms and conditions could provide that the event organiser can change a performer line up in a festival. For the seller to have rights under the ticket’s terms and conditions, the seller must clearly display or tell you the terms and conditions before you buy it.
In addition to these rights:
- Any statements by promoters, ticket sellers and event organisers must be true and not misleading. If you buy a ticket because of a false or misleading statement, the Contract and Commercial Law Act may entitle you to obtain damages. If the misrepresentation makes the tickets substantially less beneficial to you, you may be able to cancel the contract and obtain a refund or other damages. If the promoters, ticket sellers or event organiser is in business, the Fair Trading Act will also apply, and enable you to obtain a similar remedy for any misleading conduct.
- Promoters, ticket agents and event organisers who are in business must comply with the guarantees in the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). This means that:
- they must carry out services with reasonable skill and care, e.g. use reasonable care and skill in managing the booking process or organising the event
- if you told the ticket seller your purpose for buying the tickets, or that you wanted your ticket to provide something in particular (e.g. a front row seat), then the tickets must provide this.
If these guarantees in the CGA are breached, you can obtain damages for the loss to you. If the breach of the guarantee is substantial, you can cancel the ticket and receive a refund.
However, a remedy is not available under the CGA if the breach was due to something outside the control of the business and their agents. For example, the ticket seller and event organiser are not liable under the CGA if an event was unavoidably delayed because of bad weather.
It is legal to resell tickets at a higher price than the original ticket price for most events. Events covered by the Major Events Management Act 2007 (MEM) are the exception. Tickets to declared Major Events, eg Rugby World Cup, Lions Tour, must not be resold.
Ticket resale websites
If you bought tickets from a ticket resale website or trader, you have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act. Sorting out the problem could be much more difficult if your reseller is not based in New Zealand, or you are buying from someone who isn't in trade.
Private sale or unlicensed reseller
If you were sold tickets through an unlicensed reseller, eg through someone on Facebook, the Consumer Guarantees Act does not apply. It is up to you and the reseller to resolve the issue.
Complain to the Commerce Commission if the seller said they were a licensed trader, but were selling privately. They may investigate and issue a warning or fine.
Buying event tickets(external link) — Commerce Commission
If an event or show is cancelled, you’re entitled to a full refund plus the booking fee.
If a show or event is postponed and the new date doesn't suit you, you may be able to claim a refund. But this won't apply if the postponement was allowed for, eg 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, eg earthquake, are also excused from liability under the CGA.
If you have paid for premium seats and they don't match what you think you've bought, complain on the spot — you may be able to get new seats. If the venue doesn'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. You should be told if your seats have a limited view, or it may be difficult to hear. If not, you can ask for a refund.
Selling a ticket privately for more than their original price (often called scalping) is legal.
The exception is Major Events, eg the Rugby World Cup. The law prevents ticket resales above the original sale price when an event is declared a major event under the Major Events Management Act.
Major Events Management Act(external link) — Legislation NZ
How to complain
- Check the terms and conditions of your ticket — this will help you understand what you can expect, for example if the ticket is valid if it has been resold.
- Gather proof, such as emails between you and the seller, bank statements, details of conversations and dates.
- Think about what you will say, such as what you are unhappy about.
- Decide your ideal outcome, for example an apology, money off other tickets, a refund.
During the conversation:
- Stick to the facts — explain the problem in detail and provide any evidence you have.
- Be clear it is a complaint — use the word "complaint" in your phone call, instant message or email.
- Tell them what you want — be clear what will fix your concern.
- Take time out, if needed — if the conversation is getting heated or you need time to think, arrange a time to call back. Explain you need time to digest the conversation.
Example: Concert cancelled
Sophie has booked seats to an upcoming concert. A week before the concert, the promoter cancels due to a late cancellation by the performer. Sophie reads her rights, and takes her ticket and receipt showing her booking fee, back to the ticket seller. She is given a full refund of her seats plus her booking fee.
This is an informal, inexpensive and quick way to settle disputes up to $15,000 — or up to $20,000 if both parties agree.
There no lawyers or judges. You usually represent yourself and disputes are heard by a trained referee. The referee works with both sides to try to reach an agreement. If they can't agree, the referee can make a binding decision.
How to make a claim(external link) — Disputes Tribunal
Make a complaint if someone:
- claimed they were the official ticket seller and weren't
- claimed to be selling privately, but were a business
- did not disclose transaction fees upfront
- mislead you in any other way.
Buying event tickets(external link) — Commerce Commission
The Commerce Commission enforces certain consumer laws, including the Fair Trading Act. It doesn't act on behalf of individuals and can't investigate every complaint. But their investigations do help make sure businesses are complying with the law. Your information helps them assess which consumer issues are causing greatest harm.
Make a complaint(external link) — Commerce Commission
Event cancellations and COVID-19
For cancelled or changed events, your rights are mainly determined by the terms and conditions of the event. Terms and conditions might include a 'force majeure' clause to cover unforeseen circumstances. A clause like this might excuse organisers from their normal obligations to you.
What to do:
- Contact the event organiser to find out if you are entitled to a refund. Organisers will need time to figure out their process and obligations. Some businesses might offer refunds, credit, or free cancellation as a gesture of goodwill.
- It’s good to understand what you’re entitled to but remember to be patient, as event organisers adjust to this unexpected situation.
'Frustrated contract' v 'force majeure'
Get support at any point from:
- Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) — a free, independent service, run by volunteers. CAB can advise you on your consumer rights and obligations, in person, by phone, or online.
- Community Law Centre — offers free one-on-one legal advice to people with limited finances. The organisation has 24 community law centres throughout the country. You can find legal information and other resources on its website.
Find a CAB(external link) — Citizens Advice Bureau
Our law centres(external link) — Community Law Centres