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'I paid S$3,683 for Blackpink tickets': Ticket scalpers back in business as international acts return to Singapore


SINGAPORE: When Ms Kaethe Fok learnt that the K-pop girl group Mamamoo was coming to town, she decided to buy concert tickets for the first time in her life last November.

She made a rookie mistake and did not sign up on the ticketing website ahead of time. This delayed her purchase attempt by six minutes, during which the tickets sold out.

Emptyhanded, Ms Fok turned to online marketplace Carousell to advertise that she was looking to buy a ticket to the then one-night-only concert.

The 20-year-old university student was willing to pay up to S$40 above the face value of the most expensive ticket, originally priced at S$288.

But she found herself consistently fielding offers above her budget, one going as high as S$800. This angered her, she told CNA.

“(They’re) not genuine fans that are buying the tickets, but rather buying to sell them, and then at such a high price,” said Ms Fok.

Ticket scalpers – who snap up tickets, often in bulk, then resell them for profit on the secondary market – are back in business since large events and international acts resumed after the pandemic.

K-pop is not the only fandom affected. Last year, tickets to the annual flagship tournament of Dota 2, The International, reportedly went for as much as S$9,999 a pair, or almost 10 times the original price.

While scalping instinctively feels unfair, there are significant downsides to legislating against it, experts told CNA. But information disclosures and new sales methods are areas for Singapore to look into, they suggested.



Checks with major ticketing agents and event promoters in Singapore found that all have some form of measures against scalping.

Both SISTIC and Ticketmaster do not allow tickets to be resold without permission, and may bar holders of such tickets from entering.

“Buying from the secondary market has backfired on genuine Grand Prix fans, who have been turned away because their tickets have been voided,” said a spokesperson for Singapore GP.

But the continued appearance of resale tickets on platforms like Carousell and Viagogo suggests that these rules are not being heeded.

Why is there demand for tickets at prices much higher than the original face value in the first place?

Event organisers consistently under-price tickets because this makes sense for the branding of the performer or event, said economist Walter Theseira, associate professor at the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

“Many event organisers wish to protect the reputation of the performer, so they charge prices that both will not alienate the fan base, and which also guarantee a ‘sell-out’ of the venue so the performer’s reputation is boosted,” he said.

Scalping is therefore a secondary market activity that gets the “right price” by reselling tickets at a higher price than the primary market, he said.

Resale serves an “important economic purpose of getting the price right and distributing the good or service to the party that values it the most”, he pointed out.

How to avoid getting scalped​

FanFair Alliance, a music industry group in the UK, has some tips for fans to avoid getting scalped:

1. Sign up for alerts from your favourite artistes so that you don't miss out on tickets just because you heard about an event too late.

2. Do your research and find out who the authorised sellers are for the show. They should be listed on the artiste's website.

3. Check for pre-sales.

4. Don't trust search engines, which are increasingly dominated by secondary ticketing websites. Go straight to the artiste's website for definitive information about ticket sales.

5. Register and create an account with the authorised ticket sellers ahead of time. On the day, make sure you're logged in and keep your payment method handy.

6. If you missed out, it pays to wait. Genuinely spare or unwanted tickets tend to become available closer to show time – and occasionally right at the last minute.

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Ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Japan prohibited the unauthorised resale of event tickets above their sale price. The punishment was up to one year’s imprisonment, a fine of up to ¥1 million (S$10,200), or both.

In Australia’s New South Wales, it is an offence to resell a ticket at more than 10 per cent above its original face value. A similar rule is in place in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

Could the answer lie in restricting the profit margin for ticket resales, as these governments have done?

Singapore has resisted such moves. In 2019, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said that the profit margin resellers can command is freely determined between willing buyers and sellers.

“Government should not prescribe profit margins for ticket resales,” the ministry said in a parliamentary reply on scalping.

“The Government’s approach on consumer protection is based on promoting fair trading by businesses and helping consumers make informed purchasing decisions,” MTI said in another reply later that year.

One lawyer told CNA that prescribing profit margins for ticket resales may constitute regulatory overreach.

“In particular, it is difficult to say whether the Government should limit profit margins for ticket resales in particular, as opposed to other goods and services,” said Mr Khelvin Xu, partner at Rajah & Tann.

He pointed out that the Government does not prescribe profit margins for essential goods like food and medicines, nor for tuition lessons or Housing Board flats.

“Are event tickets so special as to warrant such governmental intervention?” he asked.

There is also the question of whether any legislation should be limited to tickets or extended to other goods like limited edition watches, bags and sneakers, said Ms Elsa Chen, partner at Allen and Gledhill.

Assoc Prof Theseira said that it was unclear whether resale restrictions would actually benefit customers, as they could allow the original seller to abuse its dominant position in the market.

“Event organisers could take advantage of the market power created by resale restrictions to simply raise ticket prices or to practise some type of demand-based pricing,” he said.

“I tend to disagree that there should be legislation against ticket scalping for the reasons above,” he added.



Another part of the scalping operation involves using bots to automate online purchases and get around restrictions, such as limits on the number of tickets that each account holder can buy.

In 2016, the United States took this route to crack down on scalping by enacting the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, making it unlawful to circumvent security measures by online ticket sellers to enforce purchase limits, and to resell tickets acquired that way.

Bots automate the process of going to a product page, adding the product to a cart, completing checkout information and making payment, said Mr Antoine Vastel, head of research at DataDome, a bot protection and online fraud prevention company.

They may work around purchase limits by creating fake accounts, forging responses to CAPTCHA tests designed to detect non-human users, and forging or spoofing the fingerprint of the Internet browser or device being used in order to appear human, he said.

Bots are relatively easy to acquire and can be bought online or requested on contracting platforms like Fiverr, he added.

But an anti-bots law would still not be a “perfect solution”. This is because the time and resources needed to track down bot operators may make it prohibitively expensive and impractical, said Mr Xu.

“Worse still, if the investigations reveal that the bot operators are based overseas, it would be even more difficult to arrest and prosecute them,” said the lawyer.

He pointed out that the US has only had one high-profile enforcement action under the BOTS Act. In 2021, three ticket broker companies and their owners had to pay civil penalties of US$31.6 million for illegally purchasing tens of thousands of tickets and reselling them at substantial markups.



For one Maroon 5 fan, who only wanted to be known as Ms Khin, a misleading online search result led to her paying extra for tickets to the band’s November concert.

Viagogo, which touts itself as the world’s largest secondary marketplace for tickets, came up at the top of the results page when Ms Khin searched online for concert tickets. She did not realise she was buying from a reseller.

The 28-year-old bought two tickets on Viagogo for S$498.25, only to realise later that they were still available at the original price of S$172 each from the primary seller, Singapore Sports Hub.

The tickets that she received from Viagogo were also issued under the name of an unknown individual, “Michael Michael”, rather than her own.

In 2020, Viagogo was fined A$7 million (S$6.3 million) in Australia for making false or misleading representations to consumers that it was the “official” seller when reselling tickets for live events.

Asked whether any existing legislation in Singapore could protect consumers from ticket scalpers, Mr Daren Shiau of Allen and Gledhill pointed to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA).

There could be breaches of the CPFTA if the reseller misleads consumers that tickets are available at the “original price”, misrepresents that there is a price advantage for the tickets where there is not, or accepts payment even though the reseller is aware it will not be able to supply the tickets, he said.

“It can also potentially be a breach if resellers fail to disclose material information to the consumer, for example, that the tickets are resale tickets, to mislead consumers into believing that they are purchasing from the primary ticket provider,” added the corporate lawyer.

While concerns over full and accurate information about the resale nature of tickets may already be addressed under the CPFTA, there could also be “more clarity on the regulatory expectations” regarding the disclosures that resellers and resale platforms are required to make, said Ms Chen.

Additionally, Mr Xu suggested that Singapore consider the approach recommended by the United Kingdom’s competition watchdog, which involves laws targeting resale platforms.

The watchdog recommended that platforms prohibit sellers from listing more than the number of tickets they are legally allowed to obtain, and that platforms be strictly liable for incorrect information about tickets listed on their websites, according to Mr Xu.

“This approach would aim to take away the marketplace for the resale of illegally scalped tickets, which may be a more appropriate middle ground between banning ticket resales altogether versus having no restrictions whatsoever,” he said.

Assoc Prof Theseira agreed that there may be a case for more well-ordered resale markets, which are currently “rife with consumer protection and fraud issues”, but said that this may not be an area for the Government to step in.



With Government intervention unlikely for now, ticketing agents and event promoters in Singapore have developed new sales methods to keep scalpers at bay.

Ms Fok, the Mamamoo fan, was disappointed that ticket sales were not restricted to fan club members first before opening to the general public, as has been done for other performers like Blackpink.

“I wanted that privilege in the sense that more genuine fans are able to buy the tickets (first),” she said.

Ticketmaster, the ticketing agent for Blackpink’s shows in Singapore, allowed members of the band’s official fan club to access ticket pre-sales three days before general sales opened.

SISTIC said that it also enables event promoters to send verified fan club members password-protected private purchase links during pre-sales.

A more fundamental change could see event organisers look to the airline ticketing model for inspiration.

Assoc Prof Theseira suggested that organisers could require tickets to be issued to a specific individual at the point of sale, “no different from how airline tickets are sold”.

Official transfer of the ticket could then be implemented for a fee by a ticketing services provider, he said.

But ultimately, except in cases of misleading information, whether or not to pay through the nose to see a performer in person is a decision up to the individual fan.

“Although many fans are not happy about paying high prices for resale tickets, it has to be remembered that those who do pay those prices, do so willingly,” said Assoc Prof Theseira.

That holds true even when buyer’s regret sets in. A teenage Blackpink fan, who did not wish to be named, made a costly impulse purchase for the band’s concert in May after tickets sold out.

She paid S$3,683 for two standing pen tickets sold on Viagogo. That was more than four times the original face value of S$402 per ticket.

“I didn’t think twice before buying since this is my first time buying a concert ticket and I was desperate to see Blackpink,” she said.

She eventually decided to sell the tickets as “I’m around 140cm and I know the view isn’t going to be worth it as everyone’s probably going to be taller than me”.

In hopes of recouping the money she spent, she listed the pair for S$3,680 on Carousell, where they remain up for sale.

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