Hello everyone, Samantha again.
After the difficulties getting tickets for the Doctor Who Celebration 50th anniversary convention I experienced on Monday, Alison of Pesky People contacted the BBC. Dealing with the matter was passed to the Communications Officer for BBC Worldwide, Chris Hicks. We also passed on yesterday’s storify, which collated tweets showing the extent of the problem for disabled fans, and passed on another three complaints which came in to the Pesky People site directly.
Chris was in email contact quite quickly on Monday, and a couple of times yesterday. He assured us that they were “looking into this as a matter of urgency”, would provide “a full and detailed response”, and hoped to “speak to all of the people who had issues getting disabled/carer tickets” and “provide a satisfactory outcome for everyone”. Chris said “this was taking a little longer than expected due to the various stakeholders involved”.
We were pleased the BBC were committed to resolving the issues and appeared to be taking the matter seriously.
This afternoon, Chris emailed his response.
Dear Samantha and Jane,
Thank you very much for raising the issues you faced when booking tickets for the Doctor Who 50th Celebration. We take all complaints extremely seriously and we appreciate your patience whilst we have been looking into these issues.
We realise there has been some confusion in the ticket booking process. Tickets for the Celebration were available to purchase either on the phone or online. In making our event as accessible as possible, an additional free carer ticket was made available to all who required it. It was the carer tickets only that had to be booked by the phone and not the standard event ticket. This should have been made clearer and in relation to the purchase of the photo, we are discussing this with our ticket service provider.
To the customer service issues you raised, we had an unprecedented number of calls when the Celebration tickets went on sale and therefore this did affect the length of time it took callers to get through and, clearly, the service you received on the phone. We are sorry that this was your experience of purchasing tickets to the Celebration and we will look to ensure a better experience in future.
We are of course happy to reimburse the expenses Samantha incurred for travel to the Doctor Who Experience. I should be grateful if you could forward to me the correspondence you have previously sent and I will arrange for this to be paid as soon as possible.
The Doctor Who Celebration team
I am personally very disappointed with this reply. I feel it doesn’t address the issues raised at all, and is basically fobbing me, and everyone else who had the same issues, off.
Chris doesn’t address:
- the fact that disabled people did not have equality of access, as they needed to book tickets by phone only, rather than online or by phone. This is a breach of thr Equality Act 2010. More seriously, some people have disabilities which mean they cannot book by phone, a serious breach of the EA.
- Disabled people, including myself, were wrongly informed, in email and on the website, that they could only get their tickets on the phone. Chris’s response indicates we could have booked our tickets online, then phoned to arrange the free PA tickets. While this would still not represent equality of access, it would have been an improvement, had the incorrect information not been communicated.
- Disabled people had to phone an expensive premuim rate phoneline to secure tickets. Not only did the phoneline repeatedly disconnect people, and was a premium rate line with an expensive “per connection” charge, this was just the main box office, not a dedicated line for disabled customers. Some disabled people made over 100 phonecalls to this number.
- The staff on this number were ill informed, they told me that the Saturday was sold out at 10am. The twitter feed indicates it didn’t sell out until after 12. As I could only book on the phone, not on the website, this means I was discriminated against in gaining tickets for the Saturday.
- Disabled customers had no option to purchase photo opportunities, as this could only be done online after purchasing a ticket. This is clear case of not providing equal access to goods or services.
- Some disabled customers bought VIP tickets as it was unclear on the website whether their access needs would be met by standard tickets.
- A number of people gave up and paid full price for tickets for carers.
- Nothing has been suggested to put right the inequality of access, to compensate for the time, cost, and inconvenience experienced by disabled people as a result of the poor access, to resolve the issue of access to all days of the convention, photo opportunities or to refund those who paid for a carer ticket in desperation.
- No commitment has been made to improve the access information on the website, or to improve future booking procedures for disabled customers.
- The scope of this issue constitutes serious disability discrimination, this is not an isolated case and is a serious breach of the Equality Act. This has not been addressed.
- No apology has been offered to disabled customers.
We feel that this response is hardly “full and detailed”, nor is it “satisfactory”. We’ll be feeding all of this back to the BBC, with a detailed list of questions, which we will share once finalised. I personally am very disappointed in the BBC.
BBC Worldwide is a massive, money making arm of the BBC. They have the resources to do better. We know they have the knowledge to do better, as we helped with that bit!
And they have a legal responsbility to provide equality of access.
Please do let us know what you think of the BBC’s access, and particularly of their response to the complaint, in the comments section. And please share this story. Thanks.