Australia's Competition Authority Launches Court Action Against Viagogo

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Australia’s competition watchdog is taking Viagogo to court to answer allegations the ticket reselling platform has ripped-off consumers.
 
The Australian Competition and Consumer Authority (ACCC) launched proceedings in the Federal Court against the Switzerland-based company asserting it breached consumer law when reselling entertainment, music, and live sport tickets from May 1, 2017 to June 26, 2017.

The ACCC claims 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 announcing their legal action.

In one example, the ACCC said the total price for two Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam) tickets was found to increase from AUS$450.00 ($357) to AUS$579.95 ($460), a rise of 29%, when the AUS$125 ($100) booking and AUS$4.95 ($4) handling fees were added.

The watchdog also alleged that Viagogo misled consumers by created a sense of urgency for people to snap up tickets when this “scarcity” referred to tickets on its own website, and the controversial business is said to have deceived by promoting itself as an authorized ticket seller through the use of the word “official” in advertisements on search engine such as Google.

Viagogo has become a big target Down Under. After conducting its own investigation, consumer rights group Choice last year lodged a complaint with the ACCC against Viagogo and Ticketmaster Resale, alleging misleading and deceptive conduct, while the likes of promoters Michael Chugg and Michael Gudinski have called on decision-makers in Canberra to fix what is seen as an escalating problem. Choice also launched its Ticked Off campaign page, which invites ticket buyers to share their experiences with online ticket sales while trade body Live Performance Australia has issued its own Safe Tix Guide to help consumers spot unscrupulous ticketing firms.

The ACCC was prompted to take action after it had 473 contacts about the reseller 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.  

With its court action, the ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective publication orders, orders for a compliance program and costs.