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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

MUST Complain About Manchester United Ticket Prices

By UWS - 19/11/2008 10:13 Original Article Can Be Viewed Here

MUST, the independent Manchester United supporters' trust, will today request that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigate three complaints about Manchester United ticketing policy. The fans' group believes the Club has acted unlawfully, so has called for a full investigation into a possible breach by MUFC of its statutory and legal obligations to Season Ticket holders. MUST has taken expert legal advice [Note 1] on Contract, Consumer and Competition Law. This expert advice indicates that MUFC is in breach of both the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and the Competition Act 1998 and that there is a high probability of the Complaint being successfully upheld. Specifically, the three complaints are that:

· MUFC's Season Ticket terms and conditions are in breach of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999.

· MUFC's Compulsory Automatic Cup Ticket Scheme is in breach of The Competition Act 1998, Part II, Section 18(2).

· MUFC's pricing policy is in breach of The Competition Act 1998, Part II, Section 18(2)(a).

The full complaint and supporting documents can be viewed at: MUST website In addition to complaints that United's rocketing ticket prices break the law, the fans have also pointed to specific assurances the Glazers gave to the Government following their takeover in May 2005 that prices would not rise. MUST say: "Over recent years we've seen unfair terms and huge ticket price rises imposed on supporters by club owners taking advantage of their loyalty. MPs from all political parties have raised concerns and even the Minister for Sport felt it necessary to launch an outspoken attack on the huge price rises at Old Trafford in recent years. For a long time Manchester United was by no means the worst offender having previously had an admirable policy of keeping prices relatively low despite the success of the club. All that changed when the Glazers took over. However now, with the help of a team of eminent competition lawyers, economists and experts in sports law, we have been able to compile a comprehensive complaint based on Competition and Contract Law, which could have welcome consequences for supporters at clubs throughout the country." - Duncan Drasdo, MUST Chief Executive "The Competition Act places strict obligations on all companies, including Football Clubs, not to abuse dominant market positions. By tying two separate products together, Manchester United, as dominant in its market, may well have breached the competition rules and I would urge the Office of Fair Trading to consider launching an investigation of this complaint" - Professor Steven Anderman, University of Essex. The FSF is fully supportive of the action being taken by MUST to respond to such unfair practices. If this action is successful it could have positive benefits for supporters at many clubs. - Dr Malcolm Clarke, Chair of the Football Supporters' Federation Background to MUFC's Ticketing Policies Since the 2005 Takeover: Since the takeover by the Glazer family in 2005, ticket prices for Manchester United have increased by around 50-60%. In 2007 MUFC made their Automatic Cup Scheme compulsory, meaning that all Season Ticket holders had to agree to purchase all home cup games at Old Trafford or lose their Season Ticket (although in 2008, following significant customer complaints, MUFC relaxed this requirement, exempting League Cup matches). 2007 also saw the introduction of a 'One Year' Season Ticket which also required holders to join the Automatic Cup Scheme but which did not guarantee them tickets for Cup Ties. Background to the Complaint and MUFC's breaches of the Law: The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 [Note 2] provide that in contracts where consumers have no say as to the Terms and Conditions, these conditions should not cause a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligation that are contrary to the requirements of good faith. MUFC breaches these regulations in the following ways: · 'Contract Bundling' (i.e. only allowing consumers to enter into the Season ticket Contract if they also enter into a contract to purchase all home cup tickets). · The consumer is forced to sign up to a contract for which they do not know the price. · The consumer does not know the quality of the product. · The consumer is forced to enter into a contract for all home cup games yet is not guaranteed a ticket. The Competition Act 1998 Part II [Note 3] states that a company that is in a 'Dominant Market Position' must not abuse this position. MUFC is in a Dominant Market Position when it comes to the sale of tickets for home matches at Old Trafford and is abusing its position in the following ways:

· Forcing Season Ticket holders to purchase tickets for all home Cup ties is a form of 'contract bundling' strictly prohibited by the Act.

· Forcing Season Ticket holders to sign a "blank cheque" for home cup matches, not knowing how much this will cost.

· Forcing Season Ticket holders to buy a product that may be an inferior product whilst also not guaranteeing them the product.

· MUFC has imposed unfair purchase prices for tickets. Since the 2005 takeover, prices for Season Tickets have increased by 50-60% (or potentially 166% if the compulsory Automatic Cup scheme is taken into account). These price rises have occurred despite representatives of the Glazer family making representations to the Department for Culture Media and Sport when the takeover was being investigated that they would not be increasing their ticket prices to pay off the interest payments on the debts incurred to purchase the club......Back To Home Page.....

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