Northern Ireland fans of popular boyband One Direction have been left feeling short-changed after tickets for the group's Belfast shows sold out in just under 11 seconds.
Online site Ticketmaster posted ‘sold out’ almost instantly after the X Factor finalists' first UK and Ireland tour was introduced.
At the same time, a large number of tickets started appearing on Ticketmaster's sister site Get Me In! — at prices up to nine times face value.
Parents of the disappointed fans are concerned they are being forced into a position of paying extortionate amounts for the Waterfront Hall shows in January.
Belfast councillor Bob Stoker (below) said he was concerned families are being cheated out of their hard-earned cash due to “massively inflated” prices.
“The fact that tickets sold out immediately on one site only to reappear instantly on another at a higher price is strange,” he said.
“I would encourage no-one to pay over the odds for tickets.
“If there is something untoward going on, then that is profiteering and that is touting, and I will be asking the people who operate the Waterfront to check if any rules have been broken.”
Mr Stoker added: “I will also be asking the Consumer Council to see if there has been any wrongdoing in this case.”
Two Manchester front row tickets have already been posted on eBay for a staggering £599, while two sets of two tickets for the Belfast shows are currently priced at £175 and £155 respectively.
The Belfast dates, on January 25 and 26, represent the climax of the band's 21-date debut tour.
But from the time it was announced at the start of this month, fans reported difficulties accessing the Ticketmaster site. The same could not be said, however, for Get Me In! (www.getmein.com), which began offering tickets to various arena shows.
Ticketmaster — which gets 25% of every Get Me In! sale — describes it as a safe and secure marketplace guaranteeing consumers get the tickets they purchase.
Sellers are supposed to offer tickets they’ve paid for but can’t use for genuine reasons — in other words no touting is supposed to be going on. But those sellers can charge whatever they want — and One Direction fans were being asked to pay up to £200 for tickets that should cost £29.50.
One annoyed parent posted online: “If I had my way, I would high bid all of the tickets on eBay and then not pay. This is profiteering from the misery of children.”
A spokesman for Ticketmaster said there had been “an extraordinary level of demand” for One Direction tickets. “Ticketmaster only had a limited number of tickets for these concerts and as demand far outstripped the number of tickets available, there have unfortunately been a large number of disappointed fans,” he said.
“Ticketmaster never diverts tickets allocated to it for sale to fans at face value to Get Me In! and all such tickets are priced and sold through Ticketmaster.”
The spokesman added that the “vast majority of tickets” are sold at face value to fans who attend the event.
One Direction finished third in the X Factor last year. The group, comprising Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson, are due to release their first album next month. Their debut single, What Makes You Beautiful, recently shot to No.1 on iTunes downloads within 15 minutes of being released. Their book Dare To Dream, which was released recently, has also rocketed up the charts.