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Viagogo faces fines in Oz and court action in New Zealand

AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND -
World News
June 6, 2019

CONTROVERSIAL TICKETING resale site Viagogo broke consumer law by making false or misleading representations and engaging in conduct liable to mislead the public, the Federal Court has ruled.

People were deceived into buying tickets they thought were scarce and the company didn’t sufficiently disclose its fees, which were as high as 28 per cent of the ticket price.

“Viagogo’s claims misled consumers into buying tickets by including claims like ‘less than one per cent tickets remaining’ to create a false sense of urgency,” says Rod Simms, Chair of consumer watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which brought the case.

Among the examples cited by the ACCC was the cost of two Cat Stevens tickets increasing from A$450 (US$317) to A$579.95 (US$408) – a 29 per cent rise – when the A$125 (US$88) booking fee and A$4.95 (US$3.49) handling fees were included.

The court also found that using the word ‘official’ in Viagogo’s online adverts was misleading. As a result, consumers didn’t realise they were buying from a resale site.

Simms says the ACCC has received over 3,500 complaints about Viagogo in recent years.

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

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

Viagogo’s head of business development Cris Miller says in a statement, “We are disappointed by the ruling. It does not reflect our current ticketing platform and the many changes we have made. We strongly believe our website is compliant.”

Penalties will be decided by the court at a later date. The maximum fine is A$1.1 million (US$775,000) per contravention.

Elsewhere, the New Zealand Commerce Commission is appealing the High Court’s decision declining to grant an interim injunction against Viagogo. The Commission applied for the injunction to prevent website claims by Viagogo, which the Commission alleges are misleading. The injunction does not seek to prevent Viagogo reselling tickets, but to prevent it making statements the commission believes breach the Fair Trading Act – in particular that it is an “official” ticket seller.

“We have decided to appeal it because of the ongoing harm that we believe New Zealanders are being caused by Viagogo’s marketing. The number of complaints about it is unprecedented, with nearly 950 received,” reports Commission chair, Mark Berry.

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