It was meant to be a birthday treat: two tickets to see Lionel Richie rolling out the hits at the Eden Project in Cornwall, plus one night’s glamping.
But Richard Spicer and his wife, Jane, never got to see the US singer belting out classics such as Hello and All Night Long, because at the 11th hour, Seatwave failed to deliver the tickets they had paid more than £240 for.
Spicer got a refund but decided to take the company to the small claims court to recover the cost of their accommodation and travel – and now, two years later, he has successfully reclaimed his losses. This could potentially help other people who are left out of pocket when tickets they have bought fail to materialise.
The 74-year-old told Guardian Money that Seatwave – one of the UK’s biggest ticket resale websites – “did its utmost to evade paying out for our costs”, but says he has finally received £388, which includes interest and his court fees, after a default judgment against the firm.
However, Seatwave told Money that it didn’t receive the court papers, so judgment was entered in default. The company says it would have defended the case if it had known about it.
Spicer adds: “It took a lot of persistence, but I wish to publicise the fact that companies such as this, which have such dubious business practices, can be forced to pay, in the hope that more people will be encouraged to take action.”
Seatwave is owned by Ticketmaster and is one of four companies that dominate the controversial secondary ticketing market; the others are Viagogo, Get Me In and StubHub. There has been a growing outcry in recent years over the reselling of concert tickets at vastly inflated prices, with claims that some websites have been selling tickets they do not have.
In December 2015, Spicer, who lives near Devizes, Wiltshire, handed over £243.97 to Seatwave for two tickets for the Lionel Richie concert at the Eden Project in June 2016. That included £99 for each ticket (the face value of each was £65), plus £35.98 commission and a £9.99 delivery charge. “It was meant to be a treat for my wife’s birthday because she likes him,” Spicer says.
He also booked one night’s accommodation at the site for £186.50, as the Eden Project is more than 150 miles from their home.
With a week to go until the concert, the tickets still had not arrived and Spicer was getting worried, so he contacted Seatwave. An employee called him to say she was “trying to find tickets”. He says she told him she would phone him back and send the tickets to where they were staying near the venue.
But Spicer says that by the time she did phone back to tell him there were no tickets, they had already travelled to Cornwall and had missed the deadline to get their money back on the accommodation.
As a result, the couple missed the gig and they ended up not staying at the Eden Project. “We stayed somewhere else, which was closer to home,” says Spicer. “I was pretty cross about it so I decided to see it through. It had seriously let us down.”
He used the official Money Claim Online service to claim the cost of their accommodation and travel. “You pay a small fee, but this is added to the amount you eventually receive,” he says, adding that the process is fairly straightforward.
Spicer says that eventually he was informed that a warrant for the sum due had been issued and that bailiffs had called at a Seatwave address, but found it was just one person in a “bare” office, with nothing there they could seize. He found another address for the company for the bailiffs to visit (the bailiffs’ fees were included in his payout) and was later told that a payment for the sum he was seeking would be made into his bank account. This duly happened.
Spicer says the £388 covered all the costs he had incurred. Asked whether he would use a site such as Seatwave again, he says: “I wouldn’t dream of it. I try to find another way of getting tickets now.”
In a statement the company said: “Seatwave has confirmed it didn’t receive the court papers and so judgment was entered in default. Had it been made aware of the claim, it would have defended the matter in the usual way.”