National Consumers League

NCL releases consumer guide to buying fall concert, NFL tickets online

August 19, 2014

For immediate release: August 19, 2014
Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League,, (202) 835-3323

Washington, DC – With many of the top recording artists on tour through the fall and the NFL season about to kickoff, the National Consumers League (NCL) today released a “Practical Guide to Buying Live Event and Sports Tickets” to help fans navigate the often confusing and cumbersome process of buying tickets online.

Once as easy as going to the box office, stadium, or the local record store, buying tickets to live event and sporting events has become a maze of ticket websites, resellers, online classified ads, and street vendors all competing for consumer dollars.

“We want to make sure fans have the information they need to make the best ticket buying decisions; we also want to raise awareness about anti-consumer practices in the ticketing industry,” said NCL’s Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud John Breyault. “For example, fans should be on the lookout for restricted ticketing, undisclosed price floors, and deceptive websites that lure unsuspecting fans into buying resale tickets. NCL has developed a list of tips that will help consumers find their way through this thicket of potential problems.”  

Restricted ticketing, which ties the consumer’s ticket to their credit card and ID, makes it difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to transfer their tickets or share them. And the 30 million Americans who do not have a credit or debit card can’t even purchase this type of ticket in the first place.

“We think consumers should have the right to choose what they do with their tickets after purchase. If plans change, no one should have to lose 100 percent of the ticket value because they can’t give it away or resell it,” added Breyault.

In addition, some resale marketplaces, such as Ticketmaster’s TicketExchange, limit how low a ticket can be priced. That’s an outrageous practice. This price floor is not disclosed to consumers, who might think they’re getting a reasonable deal; in reality, there may be cheaper tickets available on other sites that don’t control prices.

However, when shopping for tickets online, particularly when doing an Internet search, consumers should be sure they know where they are buying their tickets from and whether it is a reseller or the box office that they are doing business with.

“Some ticket resellers create websites that pose as a box office or the official ticket seller. These are deceptive, and consumers should take the time to make sure they know if they are buying a resale ticket or not,” said Breyault.

To avoid these pitfalls and others, NCL suggests following these seven steps:

  1. Read the Fine Print: Artists are increasingly selling restricted tickets, also known as paperless or Credit Card Entry tickets, which require the buyer to show up at the stadium and present the purchasing credit card and photo ID. The premise for creation of the restricted ticket is to prevent scalping; the unintended consequence for consumers is that they cannot even give or resell a ticket to a friend since the buyer’s credit card is required to get the ticket at the venue. The fine print indicates these tickets are nontransferable and cannot be given away as gifts or resold. Consumers can easily miss this important information unless they pay close attention during the ticket buying process.
  2. Look into Presales: Popular artists, venues, and ticket vendors tend to allocate large blocks of tickets to fan club members, VIPs, premium credit card holders, and personal acquaintances, leaving only a small portion of tickets to the general public. For example, a 2011 Justin Bieber concert in Nashville, only made 1,001 out of 14,000 seats available to the general public.
  3. Beware of Hidden Price Floors: When purchasing resale tickets on secondary sites, check multiple sources to make sure you get the best price. Some teams and ticket vendors dictate the minimum price that tickets can be sold for, preventing consumers from buying tickets at the cheapest price possible.
  4. Use Reliable Sellers: If you're unsure whether a company is legitimate, check its ratings with the Better Business Bureau. Also be sure to be certain as to whether you are buying tickets from the box office, official ticket agent, or a reseller. Some ticket resellers hide the fact that they are a reseller or even pose to look like the official ticket agent. If purchasing from a ticket broker, check to see if it is a member of the National Association of Ticket Brokers, whose Code of Ethics requires members to adhere to basic consumer protections. Be careful buying tickets from Craigslist or resellers on the street since these outlets do not have refund policies or any solid consumer protections.
  5. Check your ticket vendor’s guarantee policy: For example, websites like StubHub, TicketExchange, Ace Tickets, and members of the National Association of Ticket Brokers guarantee every ticket sold on their sites and will replace them or provide refunds to consumers if the event that they receive the wrong tickets, their tickets are invalid, or an event is cancelled.
  6. Buy with a Credit Card: Regardless of where you buy tickets, be sure to use a credit card so you can dispute any unfair or unauthorized charges. Before entering your credit card information online, double check the company’s URL to ensure you don’t get duped by an imposter and be sure the site has "https://" at the beginning of its address.
  7. Check if the Price Includes Additional Fees: Unlike airline tickets, which are now required by law to disclose all taxes and additional fees upfront, the ticket price listed at the start of the purchasing process will likely not be your final price. If you are shopping between multiple websites to compare prices, make sure you know if you are comparing ticket prices that include fees.


About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit