ACCC takes action against ticket reseller Viagogo

28/08/17 - Frank Chung, news.com.au

The consumer watchdog is taking controversial ticket reseller Viagogo to court following hundreds of complaints from ripped-off customers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleges the Swiss-based company, which has come under fire for heavy mark-ups, hidden fees, cancelled events and failure to provide refunds, breached Australian Consumer Law when reselling tickets for entertainment, music and live sport.

The ACCC alleges Viagogo made false or misleading representations and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct with 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 per cent booking fee for most events and a handling fee,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said in a statement on Monday.

A ticket to the Book of Mormon on Viagogo was marked up by 31 per cent, from $135 to $177.45 when the $37.50 booking fee and $4.95 handling fees were included.

Similarly, a three tickets for the Ashes 2017-18 increased by 29 per cent from $330.15 to $426.82 when the $91.71 booking fee and $4.95 handling fees were included.

And two Cat Stevens tickets were 29 per cent more expensive, increasing from $450 to $579.95 when the $125 booking fee and $4.95 handling fees were included.

The ACCC also alleges Viagogo misled consumers with claims tickets to certain events were scarce, without disclosing that it referred to tickets on its website only.

“Viagogo’s statements such as ‘less than 1 per cent 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,” Ms Rickard said.

The watchdog also alleges the company misled consumers by promoting itself as an authorised ticket reseller. “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 onsold by others,” Ms Rickard said.

The ACCC says it 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,” Ms Rickard said.

It comes after Fair Trading NSW issued a warning to consumers following 187 complaints and 237 inquiries about Viagogo. “Complaints to date have included delayed delivery, events being cancelled, heavily marked-up prices, hidden fees, and failure to provide refunds,” NSW Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said in a statement on Monday.

“With most complaints relating to two or more tickets, Fair Trading has estimated around 600 consumers have been ripped off at a cost of almost $130,000. This is simply not good enough, when consumers buy a product they rightly expect to get what they pay for.

“I’m putting consumers first and that’s why I’m issuing an urgent public warning about Viagogo’s unfair and unsatisfactory business services and practices.”

NSW Fair Trading says it has attempted to contact Viagogo nearly 200 times to discuss the complaints but most went unanswered until notice of the public warning was given.

Viagogo has appeared on NSW Fair Trading’s monthly Complaints Register eight times between November 2016 and July 2017, and was in the top five most complained about traders on five occasions.

“Viagogo says it will be more responsive in future; however, consumers should read all conditions carefully, and make credit card payments so they can claim a chargeback if necessary,” Mr Kean said.

“Until Viagogo adopts a more cooperative and professional approach, consumers are urged to be cautious using their website, and always check for available event tickets through an authorised primary ticket seller.”

Viagogo has been contacted for comment.

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