Google Issues a Massive Crackdown on Scalper Tickets

Has Google truly done enough to restrict ticket scalpers?

As part its attempt to curb ticket scalpers, Taylor Swift and Ticketmaster teamed up to launch a new program.  Dubbed ‘Verified Fan,’ the program claimed to use an algorithm to distinguish between bots, scalpers, and true fans.  Of course, ‘Verified Fans’ had to buy things — like a copy Taylor Swift’s Reputation or a piece merchandiseand stream her music videos — in the hopes 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 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 its event ticket reseller policy, every ticket broker must first complete a certification program.  They must then agree to a number transparency requirements.  This includes disclosing that prices “may be higher or lower than face value” at the top 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 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 The Broadway League, praised the company’s efforts.  She called the move “a dramatic step in consumer protection is 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 ‘ficial 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.


Featured image by Richard Eriksson (CC by 2.0)