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ACCC takes on ticket reseller Viagogo, a familiar name

September 1, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Anyone who scans the New South Wales Fair Trading complaints register will be familiar with the name of online ticket reseller Viagogo, which regularly generates far more complaints than does any travel agent or airline, and which is now in the sights of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The latest NSW Fair Trading complaints register, for July, logs 30 complaints about Viagogo. For comparison, the nearest travel-related name on the list, Jetstar, generated 10 complaints.

The ACCC has now instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against viagogo AG (Viagogo) alleging it breached the Australian Consumer Law when reselling entertainment, music and live sport tickets from 1 May 2017 to 26 June 2017.

The action will be interesting, as Viagogo AG is located in Switzerland.

The ACCC alleges that Viagogo made false or misleading representations, and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, regarding the price of tickets on its online platform by failing to disclose substantial fees.

“We allege that Viagogo failed to disclose significant and unavoidable fees upfront in the ticket price, including a 27.6% booking fee for most events and a handling fee,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

For example, in relation to tickets advertised on Viagogo on 18 May 2017:

  • The price of a Book of Mormon ticket increased from  AUD 135 to AUD 177.45 (31% increase) when the AUD 37.50 booking fee and AUD 4.95 handling fees were included.
  • The total price for  three Ashes 2017-18 tickets increased from AUD 330.15 to AUD 426.82 (29% increase) when the AUD 91.71 booking fee and AUD 4.95 handling fees were included.
  • The total price for two Cat Stevens tickets increased from AUD 450 to AUD 579.95 (29% increase) when the AUD 125 booking fee and AUD 4.95 handling fees were included.

It is also alleged that Viagogo misled consumers by making representations on its website that tickets to certain events were scarce and likely to run out soon, without disclosing that  this “scarcity” referred to tickets on its website only.

“Viagogo’s statements such as ‘less than 1% of tickets remaining’ created a sense of urgency for people to buy them straight away, when tickets may have still been available through other ticket sources,” Rickard said.

The ACCC further alleges that Viagogo misled consumers by promoting itself as an authorised ticket seller through the use of the word “official” in search engine advertisements such as Google.

“By using the word ‘official’, we allege that Viagogo represented in these ads that consumers could buy official original tickets, when in fact Viagogo is a platform for tickets that are being on-sold by others.”

The ACCC has received 473 contacts about Viagogo from Australian consumers this year.

“The ACCC expects all ticket reselling websites to be clear and upfront about the fees they charge, the type of tickets they sell and the nature of their business,” Rickard said.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective publication orders, orders for a compliance program and costs.

As Viagogo AG is located in Switzerland, the ACCC is making arrangements for service of court documents on this entity.

Edited by Peter Needham

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