News item

UK European Consumer Centre urges consumers to limber up for the Olympics correctly

The UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) is spreading the message of National Consumer Week (21 to 25 November 2011) - Good Sports Don’t Fake It! - by urging consumers to beware of fake Olympic ticket websites and to understand their rights when they shop online.

The UK ECC is a supporting partner of National Consumer Week, which is an annual national event organised by the Trading Standards Institute. The first event was held in 1988 and it has grown from strength to strength. Local authorities support the week with competitions, information stands and other activities, from plays in schools to events in shopping centres.

In 2011, Good Sports Don’t Fake It! aims to alert consumers to fakes and cons that exist around the Olympics.

Jed Mayatt, UK European Consumer Centre Manager, said: “Many people have been looking forward to the London 2012 Olympics as one of the sporting highlights of their lives. The event was last held in London in 1948 and so the balance of probability is that, for lots of people, they will never get the opportunity to go to the Olympics in this country again.

“Thousands of people were disappointed when they failed to get tickets through the official channels and it is exactly in circumstances such as these that rogue traders could start to flourish. We want consumers - both in the UK and those visiting the UK from elsewhere in the European Union and beyond – to be on their guard for fake Olympic ticket websites and to understand their rights when they shop online.”

The secondary ticket market - where tickets are not allocated by event organisers or by other recognised primary ticket houses (normally recommended by the venue or organiser) – can pose problems for consumers, as secondary ticket sellers tend to specialise in ‘sold-out’ events.

Jed said: “Consumers should be on their guard for possible fake Olympic tickets. Most sellers of ‘sold-out’ tickets have terms and conditions which state that tickets will arrive just before the event, but if this doesn’t happen, the seller may be long gone and the consumer would have very little protection. Redress then becomes very difficult.

“Many people shopping online within the EU do not fully understand what rights they have for online leisure ticket purchases or what rules traders need to follow.

“Unfortunately for consumers, the cooling-off rights under the Distance Selling Directive do not apply to the leisure market, so the consumer has no right to cancel and therefore cannot expect a reimbursement. But it would be a breach of contract if either party – consumer or trader – fails to perform any term of a contract, written or oral without a legitimate legal excuse. This may include not paying in full or on time, failure to deliver all of the goods (in this case, the tickets) or substituting inferior or significantly different goods.

“On the positive side, the E-Commerce Directive dictates minimum levels of information that a web trader based within Europe must provide to consumers, including the name of the trader and geographical address plus email address. An acknowledgement of receipt of the consumer’s order must also be sent.”

Remember – a web address is no indication of where a trader is based. For example, if the trader has a .co.uk web address, this does not mean that the trader is based in the UK.

Earlier this summer 2011, three men living in the UK were jailed for their roles in an online Beijing Olympic Games ticketing scam which caught out more than 10,000 people from countries around the world. Their company, Xclusive, received more than £5 million in payment for the Beijing 2008 Games but supplied no tickets or refunds.

The London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) has put several measures in place to help consumers buy tickets from authorised sources:

• A website checker is available on the official London 2012 website to check if a site is an Authorised Ticket Reseller. Individuals from outside the UK should check this website for a list of official suppliers.

• The official London 2012 website has a list of ‘known unauthorised websites’ claiming to offer London 2012 tickets’, although it is not exhaustive.

• There is a list of official suppliers on the official London 2012 website for individuals from outside the UK and designated European countries.

• These services are available at http://www.london2012.com/about-this-website/ticketing-website-checker.php

To make sure you can rely on your tickets, the UK ECC is advising consumers to take a few extra precautions for online tickets:

• Thoroughly read the terms and conditions, which may include consumers’ obligations. 
  
• Check the website for the company’s address and full contact details. If it is not easy to find, ask yourself why?  

• Ensure the site is secure - look out for the ‘s’ in https. A padlock on the payment screen is also a mark of security.

• Use Howard, our interactive shopping assistant, when purchasing goods online.  Find Howard at: http://www.ukecc.net/sub.asp?id=209

• Beware of buying tickets once an event is ‘sold out’.

• If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.


And consumers are being urged to be aware of their rights when buying tickets online:

• Consumers are advised when buying goods costing more than £100 and less than £30,000 to use a credit card, as section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 may place equal liability with the seller on the credit card company. The act states that consumers can hold the credit card company equally liable for any breach of contract (e.g. non-delivery of items) or misrepresentation.

• A ‘contract’ may be breached if the ticket company does not do what its terms and conditions say. Breach of contract is the failure of either party - consumer or trader - to perform any term of a contract, written or oral without a legitimate legal excuse. This may include not paying in full or on time, failure to deliver all of the goods (in this case, the tickets) or substituting inferior or significantly different goods. When consumers buy tickets, a contract is formed between the consumer and the seller. This contract is legally binding and is covered by the EU Consumer Sales Directive 99/44/EC. If a consumer purchases tickets, from a trader, that were not as described when bought, then this is a breach of contract under the EU Consumer Sales Directive 99/44/EC.

• Under the EU Services Directive 2009, a consumer’s place of residence/nationality should not affect the price they pay.

The UK ECC is part of the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net) - with 29 centres covering Europe, plus Iceland and Norway. The aim of the network is to provide advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK.

Consumers can make contact with the UK European Consumer Centre via the website – www.ukecc.net – or by phone on 08456 04 05 03 weekdays between 10am and 3pm.
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Notes to Editors
For further information please contact UK European Consumer Centre’s press office on 08456 08 96 06.
• UK European Consumer Centre – 08456 04 05 03

The UK European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 29 centres covering Europe, plus Iceland and Norway. The aim of the network is to provide advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK. The Network will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.

UK ECC can provide advice in the following main areas: buying goods and services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday clubs, air travel.

UK ECC is co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and the European Commission.

The UK ECC service is delivered by the Trading Standards Institute (www.tsi.org.uk)

Media queries should sent to ecc@tsi.org.uk or by phone on 08456 08 96 06.