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Government agency ACCC has instituted legal proceedings against Viagogo, saying its opaque fee structure and self-designation as an "official" seller deceive consumers
By Jon Chapple on 29 Aug 2017
Viagogo is facing legal action in Australia after being accused by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) of multiple breaches of consumer law over its “misleading” ticket pricing.
ACCC alleges the secretive, Swiss-headquartered secondary ticketer “made false or misleading representations, and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, regarding the price of tickets on its online platform by failing to disclose substantial fees” from 1 May 2017 to 26 June 2017.
“We allege that Viagogo failed to disclose significant and unavoidable fees upfront in the ticket price, including a 27.6% booking fee for most events and a handling fee,” says Delia Rickard, the deputy chair of ACCC, a government body responsible for bringing legal actions against companies that breach Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act.
ACCC, acting on information from consumers’ association Choice, cites several examples of the alleged illegal pricing, including the price of a ticket to The Book of Mormon increasing 31%, from A$135 to $177.45, after factoring in booking and handling fees, and two Cat Stevens tickets costing 29% more ($579.95, rather than $450) after fees.
It is also alleged Viagogo misled consumers by flagging tickets as almost sold out, without making clear this referred only to tickets listed on Viagogo, as well as promoting itself as an ‘official’ (ie primary) ticket seller on Google, mirroring the similar recent controversy in the UK.
Statements such as “‘less than 1% 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”, adds Rickard, while the use of the term ‘official” implies “that consumers could buy official original tickets, when in fact Viagogo is a platform for tickets that are being [sold on] by others”.
ACCC, which says it has received 473 complaints about Viagogo so far this year, is seeking “declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective publication orders, orders for a compliance programme and costs” from the Federal Court of Australia.
“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,” says Rickard.
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