Viagogo is considering its next move after the controversial ticket reselling platform was handed a A$7 million ($5 million) fine for misleading Australian consumers.
Australia’s competition authority the ACCC launched proceedings against Viagogo in 2017, claiming the Switzerland-based company had made false and misleading representations when reselling tickets to live music and sports events.
In one example, the ACCC said the total price for two Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam) tickets was found to increase from A$450.00 ($357) to A$579.95 ($460), a rise of 29%, when the A$125 ($100) booking and A$4.95 ($4) handling fees were added.
In April 2019, the Federal Court found Viagogo in breach of consumer law. Justice Burley went on to describe one category of representations as having been made on “an industrial scale”.
The company’s business practices were “unacceptable,” says ACCC Chair Rod Sims. “Viagogo misled thousands of consumers into buying tickets at inflated prices when they created a false sense of urgency by suggesting tickets were scarce and when they advertised tickets at a lower price by not including unavoidable fees.”
The federal court’s stiff penalty is meant as a warning to other companies that breached consumer protections.
The court also ordered an injunction against Viagogo, to reinforce the need for adherence to the ACL, and ordered Viagogo to conduct a compliance program and pay the ACCC’s costs.
The penalty “sends a strong signal to businesses like Viagogo conducting business in Australia that they cannot get away with profiting from misleading Australian consumers about the price of the tickets they are selling, or other misleading conduct,” Sims adds.
Live Performance Australia welcomed the court’s decision as a “good outcome for consumers and our artists.” The trade body also thanked the ACCC for taking action.
A good outcome for consumers and our artists. Thank you to the ACCC for taking action.https://t.co/5tvt84HwYE
— Live Performance Aus (@LivePerfAust) October 2, 2020
Earlier, the ACCC said it was prompted to take the legal route after it had 473 contacts about the reseller from Australian consumers.
A spokesperson for Viagogo notes the penalty decision relates to issues on its Australian website in mid-2017.
“The matters considered in the proceeding covered a period of less than 8 weeks,” reads a statement emailed to Billboard.
“Since that time, we have overhauled our platform – a process that included consultation with consumer protection regulators in a number of countries. Viagogo is committed to providing an important service to consumers that use our platform.”
According to the media release, Viagogo’s reps are “carefully considering the decision.”