eBay and Ticketmaster, owners of the UK’s two largest ticket reselling websites, have been urged to donate their profits from selling tickets to the capital’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display to charity.
The annual display was previously free of charge but Mayor Boris Johnson said growing crowds meant it was necessary to limit the numbers who could watch the event.
Tickets for the taxpayer-funded display were sold by City Hall at £10 each, with the Mayor insisting the proceeds would only cover the cost of ticketing and stewarding the event.
However before the first tickets had been released for sale, some re-sites were pre-advertising them and within hours of their release were listing them for up to 17 times the original price.
The owners of re-sale sites say they enable fans who can no longer attend an event to sell on their tickets, allowing others to enjoy an otherwise sold-out event and giving the original buyer the chance to recoup at least some of the purchase price.
However critics say they also push up the price of tickets by making it easier for people to buy tickets they have no intention of using and then selling them on at a profit.
Some popular events are targeted by industrial scale ‘scalpers’ who bulk buy tickets, helping force legitimate fans to buy resold tickets at vastly inflated prices.
While City Hall attempted to limit the potential for such purchases, hundreds of tickets were listed online, including Getmein and Stubhub, which are owned by Ticketmaster and eBay respectively.
Although they don’t sell the tickets themselves, the sites make money by charging a listing fee and/or taking a commission on the sale.
Labour Assembly Member Fiona Twycross has written to the two firms urging them to donate any profits from the unauthorised re-sale of taxpayer-funded tickets to charity.
In her letter she says: “I hope you will agree that it seems wrong that your company is profiting from a publicly funded celebration of this type, especially when poorer families who would previously have been able to attend for free are priced out.
“Given this event is wholly funded by taxpayers I would also urge you to consider donating any profit your company makes from the re-sale of these tickets to a worthy London charity.
“Whilst I would not want to make specific suggestions, given the time of year a homeless shelter or a London food bank may be good options.”