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Federal Court finds ticket reseller misled consumers

April 23, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

“Consumers must be clearly told that there are additional fees associated with a displayed price,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned, following a decision by Australia’s Federal Court regarding conduct liable to mislead the public.

Australia’s Federal Court found ticket reseller Viagogo AG made false or misleading representations and engaged in conduct liable to mislead the public when reselling entertainment, music and live sport event tickets, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.

The court found Viagogo misled consumers by claiming tickets to certain events were scarce when the scarcity only referred to the tickets available on its resale platform and didn’t include tickets available elsewhere.

Anyone who scans the New South Wales Fair Trading complaints register will be familiar with the name of Swiss-based Viagogo, which regularly generates far more complaints in the state than does any travel agent or airline.

Commenting on the Federal Court decision, ACCC Chair Rod Sims said: “Viagogo’s claims misled consumers into buying tickets by including claims like ‘less than 1% tickets remaining’ to create a false sense of urgency.”

The Court also found that using the word ‘official’ in its online advertisements was misleading. As a result of this, consumers were misled into thinking they were purchasing tickets from an official site, when in fact Viagogo is a ticket resale website.

“We urge consumers to only buy tickets from authorised sellers, or they risk their tickets being dishonoured at the gates or doors,” Sims said.

The Court also found that from 1 May 2017 to 26 June 2017, Viagogo’s website claims drew consumers in with a headline price but failed to sufficiently disclose additional fees or specify a single price for tickets.

The additional fees included a 27.6% booking fee which applied to most tickets.

“Viagogo was charging extraordinarily high booking fees and many consumers were caught out,” Sims said.

“Today’s Federal Court decision is a reminder to businesses that consumers must be clearly told that there are additional fees associated with a displayed price.”

The ACCC, which enforces the Australian Consumer Law that applies to tickets as well as other consumer goods and services, took action against Viagogo in August 2017. In recent years, various state and territory governments have also introduced specific legislation regulating the reselling of tickets, such as maximum price caps.

In outlining the complaint against Viagogo last year, ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard gave the following examples, 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 450.00 to AUD 579.95 (29% increase) when the AUD 125 booking fee and AUD 4.95 handling fees were included

Now the Federal Court has handed down its decision, it will determine penalties and orders against Viagogo at a later date.

The ACCC has published guides for consumers on how to purchase event tickets with confidence: Consumer tips for buying tickets

Edited by Peter Needham

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