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How the New Consumer Regulations Affect Your Arts Venue

New consumer contract regulations come into force last week that directly affect arts organisations. The new regulations include changes to how you can sell online and your obligations as a merchant. You can read the whole regulatory frameworkhere but we’ve digested some of the key points for you below. 

Before you read on, please be aware that the following is not offered as professional advice and is not an exhaustive list of the new regulations. This is our interpretation of the rules and the likely impact on arts organisations. 

How do the changes affect my organisation?

The point of regulation is to help make sure that consumers are able to make clear, informed choices before making a purchase and are not misled in any way - for example, it is no longer acceptable to ‘pre-populate’ choices during a purchase path without the consumer’s explicit consent. It also makes it easier for consumers to cancel an order they’ve made with the power to receive a refund within 14 days.

For arts organisations selling tickets online and over the phone (and entering into distance contracts with their customers), this means that before the customer places an order, you must:

  • Display all the relevant ‘characteristics’ of the contract being offered e.g. you must give clear information about the performances being offered for sale, dates & times, prices, any kind of processing charge and/or delivery fees. 
  • Give customers access to speak to you after the sale has been completed, without having to pay to call a premium rate number. 
  • Make it explicitly clear that the consumer is entering into a contract of sale with you and make it clear that the consumer has an obligation to pay. 

After a contract has been made (i.e. when a booking is confirmed), you must:

  • provide a summary of the contract in a “durable medium”. That means you must tell people about what they have booked in a format that you can’t change, such as an email containing an order summary. Sending a customer an email containing a link to an order summary shown online is not permissible, nor is just verbally giving booking confirmation. 

Your customers have enhanced rights to cancel distance contracts made off your premises.

  • If a customer purchases a gift voucher, merchandise item or some of other kind of product from you in a distance contract, they have the right to cancel that contract for up to 14 days. If a consumer chooses to cancel, the refund must be given within 14 days of cancellation.
  • However, there are exemptions from the right to cancel, including ticket sales. The new regulations to not apply to these kinds of purchases. 

You can’t ‘pre-populate’ any additional payment options during a booking process:

  • This is a key one for arts organisations. It means you can’t automatically include things like ‘optional ticket insurance’ or ‘premium delivery options’ in a customer basket. They must make the choice themselves. 
  • Whilst the regulations do not specifically reference donations, they could be interpreted to suggest that adding a donation into a customer basket automatically is prohibited and that while you can of course still ask for a donation, it must be added voluntarily.

There are other requirements set out by the regulation regarding delivery of goods, risk and non-delivery of goods. Which? published a summary on the changes and UK Theatre have published a comprehensive interpretation of the regulations and how they affect their members, so check those out for more information.

 

Do the changes affect my organisation?

The changes relate to the contracts that consumers and merchants enter into at the point of sale and there are three main types affected:

  • “on premise contracts” 
  • “off premise contracts”
  • and the key one - “distance contracts”.

In the arts context, this means the regulations apply to organisations like theatres and arts centres when they:

  • sell tickets at their venue, 
  • sell tickets from their venue to customers in advance (such as over the phone or online),
  • and sell tickets from more than one location to their customers in advance (for example, a theatre group selling tickets for multiple venues). 
     

What’s Spektrix doing about the new rules?

The software that our users employ at the box office and within their website already provides options that are compliant with the regulation. 

We currently offer a feature called ‘donation on the way to checkout’ that allows our customers to ask bookers for a donation of a suggested amount on the way to the checkout - but it is not automatically added into a customer basket.  

Spektrix users have the option to ask for a suggested donation amount, but it is possible to ask for a donation without suggesting an amount. If our users are in any doubt, they should select this option to be sure of full compliance. To provide further flexibility here, we’re also planning to add a new button here called ‘continue without donation’ in the next couple of months that will be rolled out to all of our clients within one of our regular releases. 

 

Who’s responsible for making my organisation compliant with the new rules?

Ultimately as the merchant, you are responsible for ensuring you are trading within consumer regulations. Of course, your ability to be compliant is dependent upon the services and systems you use (i.e. your box office system) offering the appropriate options. A key advantage of a cloud-based system such as Spektrix is our ability to react to changes like this and roll them out to all of our customers at the same time, with the minimum of fuss.

We’re very much in favour of any new rulings that make it easier, clearer and fairer for audiences to book and are strongly against any kinds of sales tactics designed to make a quick buck and rip off consumers in the process. 

As with all regulatory requirements, we’ll closely monitor the situation and make updates to Spektrix to all of our users simultaneously if we need to. If you have any questions about the above, just get in touch!