Google Issues a Massive Crackdown on Scalper Tickets

Has Google truly done enough to restrict ticket scalpers?

As part of its attempt to curb ticket scalpers, Taylor Swift and Ticketmaster teamed up to launch a new program.  Dubbed ‘Verified Fan,’ the program claimed to finally discriminate between bots, scalpers, and true fans.  Of course, ‘Verified Fans’ had to buy things — like a copy of Taylor Swift’s Reputation or a piece of merchandiseand stream her music videos — in the hopes of getting a jump in virtual line.

And how has Ticketmaster’s anti-scalper initiative fared?  With not a single show selling out, and fans lambasting Taylor Swift’s alleged “greed,” it’s safe to say that the North American Reputation tour is a complete disaster.  In contrast, the singer’s 1989 tour sold out virtually every show in just a few hours.

So, how can ticketing platforms avoid creating another concert tour disaster, all the while curbing ticket scalpers?  Maybe with the help of a search giant.

Last week, Google rolled out its ticket resale restrictions.  The new rules limit how ticket sellers and scalpers use Google’s AdWords platform.  This came after the search giant vowed last November to provide consumers a ticket-buying “experience they can trust.”

As part of its event ticket reseller policy, every ticket broker must first complete a certification program.  They must then agree to a number of transparency requirements.  This includes disclosing that prices “may be higher or lower than face value” at the top of their website.

In addition, they must put up notices identifying themselves as resale sites.  Finally, ticket brokers have to provide the total ticket cost, including sales tax and fees.

Speaking with Billboard, a source at Google said that it takes about a week to get certified on the AdWords platform.  In a statement on the company’s blog, David Graff, Google’s Senior Director, wrote,

“This updated policy is a result of our own research as well as the insights and feedback we gathered…”

Graff added that the search giant remains dedicated to ensuring that users only see helpful, relevant, and trustworthy ads.

Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, praised the company’s efforts.  She called the move “a dramatic step in consumer protection is of major significance to The League’s membership.”

The FanFair Alliance also applauded Google’s efforts to take down scalpers.  The UK-based organization “unequivocally welcomed” the updates.  But it then slammed the search giant for alleged inconsistencies in its updated policy.

In a statement, FanFair warned that the world’s largest resale sites still list secondhand tickets.  On Google, sites like StubHub and ViaGoGo also “fail to make clear that they are secondary platforms.”

“Given their continued prominence on search pages, the implication remains that these are authorized primary sellers or ‘official sites’.  That is simply not the case.  Until their ad messaging is amended, we suspect UK ticket buyers will continue to be misled.”

Last summer, FanFair Alliance called on UK concertgoers to avoid using search engines like Google when purchasing tickets online.

Don’t trust search engines.  Increasingly, search engine results for concerts and festivals are dominated by the big secondary ticketing websites […], all of whom spend big money to top the rankings.  We advise that you ignore search engines and go straight to the artist website.  This is where you should find definitive information about ticket sales and the authorized ticket agents.


Featured image by Richard Eriksson (CC by 2.0)

5 Responses

  1. Crackdown Chris

    How many times is Daniel Sanchez going to use work crackdown in a headline this month?

  2. Lob Befsetz

    “Finally, ticket brokers have to provide the total ticket cost, including sales tax and fees. ” 

    Sounds More like a restriction for Ticketmaster than any scalper!

  3. balearic punk.

    in other words nothing will change. if you stop selling tickets in the hundreds to these sites. someone is getting the tickets to these do they get this many so quick. total bollocks. the fans suffer. prices go up and up. and then try to blame the buyer of said tickets.

  4. Paul Resnikoff

    Scalpers are a great scapegoat, but they’re just functioning as any capitalist intermediary would. They buy low, try to sell high, and assume risk in the process. If people are willing to pay a higher price, then that’s the market value.

    What Ticketmaster refuses to do is adopt an airline style ticketing policy. You don’t see scalpers outside of LAX do you? And this started way before 9/11: dynamic pricing guaranteed that airlines got the highest possible price.

    So ask yourself: what’s going on here, why is this secondary marketplace allowed to exist?