Leadership / 02.06.18
Google Joins the Battle Against Disreputable Secondary Market Resellers
Google is cracking down on those who try to take advantage of the ever-increasing number of people buying event tickets online, launching a new certification system designed to protect customers from scams and prevent potential confusion in the secondary market.
In his recent closing keynote at the International Ticketing Association's (INTIX) 2018 conference in Baltimore, Mike Lorenc, Head of Industry − Ticketing and Live Events at Google, said the company felt compelled to act to protect both consumers and its own reputation.
"There has been a dramatic increase … in consumers being either misled or having a really bad experience,” said Lorenc. “Because 70 percent of tickets being sold online [are found via a Google search], we did worry as a company that people would start affiliating their bad experience with Google, and [that they] wouldn’t search as much. That was a huge driver ― our consumers — and we saw it through surveys, through feedback."
While many agree there is a place for a secondary market, both consumers and the industry have been clamoring for a level playing field.
As a result, beginning in February 2018, Lorenc says any business that wants to resell event tickets through AdWords will first need to be certified by Google. This policy applies globally, across all accounts that advertise resale tickets.
To gain approval, resellers will have to clearly disclose on their website or app that they are a secondary market and not the primary provider of the tickets. The certification requirements state that “disclosure should be easily visible and clearly explained in the top 20 percent of the reseller’s website, including the home page and any landing pages.”
Furthermore, resellers can’t use words like “official” in their ads or put the artist or venue name in their website URL to imply they are the original source of the tickets.
Resellers must also prominently disclose that ticket prices may be higher than face value, which is the price offered by the original seller of the tickets. In the past, this hasn't always been clear to customers. Going forward, clear disclosure is a requirement. Like the disclosure for being a secondary market, this information must be included in the top 20 percent of the reseller’s website, also including the home page and any landing pages.
According to the certification requirements, “resellers must also provide a price breakdown during the checkout process and before the customer provides payment information” — including any added costs, such as any fees and/or taxes that have been added to the face value of the tickets.
Beginning in March 2018, resellers will also need to clearly disclose the face value of a ticket alongside their resale price — and it must be disclosed in the same currency.
While certification is directed at the secondary market, Lorenc says it is part of a broader initiative by Google that was prompted by the ongoing controversy over fake news.
"I won't lie to you," Lorenc told INTIX conference delegates. "There is a renewed commitment from our company to take a closer look at misleading or, quote unquote, shady or fake content. … Even though the certification is specific to ticketing customers, we do have similar initiatives [in other categories], targeting online pharmacies, for example, or predatory lending … so we continue to be the trusted source for consumers as they look for information and ultimately look for purchases."
Lorenc received repeated applause from INTIX delegates as he spoke about the Google initiative, showing there is strong industry support for the new certification program. Yet, only time will tell how effective Google certification will be in ending the worst abuses in the secondary market.
"My hope is that, as a global solution, it will level the playing field for the most important part of the purchase circle ― the customer," says Maureen Andersen, president and CEO of INTIX. "It certainly won’t stop resellers, and that isn’t the intent, but having mandates will make it more difficult for disreputable resellers to appear legitimate on the open internet. Transparency around pricing could be the strongest component of Google’s certification requirements because the customer won’t be subjected to the final shopping cart sticker shock that they have to live with now. It will be fascinating to watch and follow the process as it is rolled out and I’m intrigued to see what this changes in the short and medium term, both for the industry and its customers.”
Lorenc says the certification is intended to be proactive rather than reactive. Once a website that carries secondary inventory applies, it will take up to five days to receive certification. This gives Google time to investigate each website, and is expected to eliminate a lot of fly-by-night sites that are created quickly for the purpose of phishing, collecting information or taking advantage of a large on-sale. A website can also lose its certification if it is found to later violate Google’s requirements.
"Certification might be a little painful because we do ask for at least five days for your site to be certified," says Lorenc. "Hopefully it will eliminate lots of those less legitimate businesses while still allowing primaries and secondaries to compete.”
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Tags: Reselling , Regulations , News , INTIX 2018 , Secondary Ticketing