Computicket monopoly tensions

2008-03-01 00:00

The gloves are off in the David and Goliath battle between ticketing giant Computicket and a new entrant on to the market, Strictly Tickets.

Strictly Tickets owner Gary Charne this week lodged a formal complaint with the Competitions Commission alleging that his business was unable to sell tickets to most major events in South Africa due to exclusivity agreements between market leader Computicket and local event organisers and venues.

In terms of these agreements, theatre owners are prohibited from selling tickets via any other ticketing company. However, they are allowed to sell tickets via their own ticket offices.

Theatre and event organanisers, including two in Durban, told Weekend Witness that they had received lawyers’ letters from Computicket informing them that, in terms of these existing exclusive agreements, they would take legal action if they sold tickets via any of its competitors.

Strictly Tickets has asked the Competitions Commission to investigate whether Computicket’s exclusive agreements amount to monopolistic behaviour. The company is owned by supermarket giant Shoprite Checkers and was formed via a merger of the two major players in the market — Shoprite’s existing ticketing operation and Computicket.

Strictly Tickets is the new kid on the block and at this point has a very small market share compared to Computicket. Other than Ticketconnection, which has Mr Price as its retail partner, there are no other major competitors.

Charne said he had been forced to remove four theatres from the websites of Strictly Tickets and key partners such as the DStv website portal. He said the majority of Strictly Tickets’ 54 ticketing partners also intended filing complaints. "I do not wish to provoke Computicket. However, without the right to sell tickets, I may as well close my business. It is a case of either speak up or shut down. Strictly Tickets was not launched to challenge Computicket, but rather to enhance what is already in the market."

The Competitions Commission will investigate whether enforcing these agreements amounts to monopolistic behaviour.

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