In March, Google will begin formally enforcing a new set of rules for ticket resale sites—both independent broker sites and well-known and largescale marketplaces like StubHub—and how they’re advertised on the company’s web-search platform. Given the high volume of complaints from both venues and promoters, Google’s new rules for ticket scalpers, as detailed by Billboard, will require that sites “complete a certification program and agree to a number of transparency requirements about how tickets are procured, priced and marketed to boost their search engine results through paid advertising and keyword buying on AdWords.”
Google is also banning a number of deceptive practices used to manipulate consumers into believing that scalping sites are the legitimate primary ticket sellers, rather than secondary markets. For example, scalping sites that have purchased deceptive URLs like RogerWatersTickets.com will no longer be allowed, and all scalping sites must clearly explain at the top of their website that they are a secondary market. The sites will also no longer be able to use words like “official” or “box office” in their advertising.
The group is also taking on the common practice of ticket resale sites marking up the price of tickets without consumers being aware. As such, resellers must prominently display when ticket prices are higher than face value. In reaction to this, larger ticket marketplaces like StubHub have added disclosures stating “prices may be higher or lower than face value” at the top of their sites. Google is also requiring that a price breakdown—including taxes and additional fees and a comparison to the face value of the ticket—be present during checkout and before the customer provides any payment information.
To ensure that secondary markets are following these new rules, companies must submit an application showing compliance and get an official Google certification, which takes around a week, as noted by Billboard. However, in the fall, Patrick Ryan with Eventellect, a ticket pricing and distribution company, told Amplify, why disclosure of face value might ultimately be difficult for Google to monitor accurately:
It will likely be impossible for Google to sell keywords to resale sites if they remain strict about the disclosure of face value. … It’s just impossible to properly define face value because some tickets resold were bought at a lower season ticket price, some at a single event price, and some at an inflated premium price.
Regardless, these new rules have been widely praised since their announcement last year, with Ryan noting that the enforcement of these new policies “could be the biggest news in ticketing.” As David Graff, Google’s Senior Director for Trust & Safety and Global Product Policy noted in a blog post in early February, “Transparency, trust and safety for our users will always be top priorities for Google. We remain dedicated to ensuring that the ads our users see are helpful, relevant and trustworthy.”
While these rules mark a step in the right direction, we’d like to respectfully remind all of our readers of the existence of CashorTrade.org, a website dedicated to “embracing the face” when purchasing or trading for tickets.