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Extra charges behind advertised prices

Ticket buyers are paying exorbitant fees for their tickets to be ''processed'', ''handled'' or ''booked'' online. Welcome to the ''surcharge society''.

Customers are paying up to $11 in additional credit card fees and ''ticket delivery fees'' which includes printing your ticket or picking it up from the venue.

At 10 upcoming musical, sporting and movie events occurring in Sydney during March and April, Fairfax Media found dubious charges - called ''weasel words'' by consumerist lobbyists - including ''processing fees'' or ''credit card payments'' were being applied per ticket.

For example, standing tickets for the upcoming Aerosmith show in April are advertised on Ticketek at $129. But the total cost ends up at $140.22 if you pick the ticket up from the venue or a ticketing office or have it mailed out. If the purchaser prints their own ticket, they pay a $6.05 fee, with the total cost $137.57.

Consumer watchdog Choice said it was becoming impossible to buy online commodities such as online tickets and airfares for its advertised price, often buried under a ''deluge'' of administration and service surcharges. Head of campaigns Matt Levey calls it the ''surcharge society''.

Choice is pushing for surcharges to be limited to basic credit card charges and to eradicate weasel words like ''handling fee''.


''What company doesn't handle the product?'' he said.

Ticketing companies were getting the consumers to ''do more work'' by printing out the tickets but then charging them for it, he said. ''It does beg the question, what are you actually paying for?''

Many consumers are wondering the same thing.

Hugh Humphreys, 24, from Castle Hill, said additional surcharges were an ''absolute joke''.

''You never know what you're going to have to pay as they are different per event,'' he said. ''Trying to contact the ticketing agencies is just as frustrating. You know when you write an email you're never going to get a response.''

On Ticketmaster and Ticketek's websites they suggest complaints can be filed by ringing their customer service lines. Mr Humphreys said he had spent up to 30 minutes in a waiting queue.

At Event Cinemas, there is an online booking fee of $1.10 per regular ticket and $3.25 fee per gold class ticket.

''Gold Class is a premium service but why should you have to pay so much when they use the same booking system?'' Mr Humphreys asked.

The backlash of surcharges has come after the Reserve Bank's new regulations restricting the surcharge attached to credit card purchases, enforced on Monday.

In response Visa and MasterCard said they would require retailers to limit their surcharges to what it ''reasonably costs'' them to accept their cards, under the regulations.

Credit card providers impose a charge to retailers for the use of their service but the retailer can add their own charge, which is unregulated. The Reserve Bank's new rule says the card provider can negotiate surcharges with the merchant that should reflect ''reasonable costs''.

It is understood most surcharges and fees imposed by merchants would be subject to the Reserve guidance. Reserve Bank data shows the average cost for retailers accepting Visa and MasterCard is about 0.87 per cent, and about 1.84 per cent for American Express.

Ticketek, Ticketmaster and PROticket did not return calls.

With Glenda Kwek

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