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HK Consumer Council takes aim at secondary ticketing

Referencing public controversies overseas, the Consumer Council argues the government of Hong Kong must act to remove the legal grey area around ticket resale

By Jon Chapple on 18 Oct 2018

Consumer Council chairman Wong Yuk-shan is also president of Open University of Hong Kong

Consumer Council chairman Wong Yuk-shan is also president of Open University of Hong Kong


image © Open University of Hong Kong

The Consumer Council of Hong Kong has warned the region’s ticket buyers against purchasing from secondary ticketing sites, which it claims are price-gouging consumers for purchases not covered under consumer protection laws.

Taking aim at three unnamed resale platforms (according to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2017, secondary ticketing has limited traction in Hong Kong, though Viagogo and StubHub’s local spend on Google ads is “significant”), the Consumer Council criticises the lack of information about resold tickets, including the face value, T&Cs and seat row and location; inability for consumers to reach customer service departments; and the use of high-pressure sales tactics (such as messages reading “less than 1% tickets left available” or “4 people have just bought tickets for this event”).

“Such aggressive sales tactic [sic] was most evidently deployed by one of the platforms which sprinkled throughout the entire booking process with such messages,” says the authority, which is tasked with protecting Hongkongers from fraud and unfair business practices.

“This sort of practice has led to a public controversy in Australia where the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission decided to take prosecution against the operators of related platforms in a court action last year, pointing out that such sales tactics are tantamount to false and misleading trade practices. The court case is still underway.”

The council has called for a review of existing legislation “to remove the grey area in the law”

Secondary ticketing is a legal grey area in Hong Kong – until 1997 a British dependency, and now a ‘special administrative region’ (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China – with regulatory oversight limited to privately run venues, where it is illegal to sell tickets above face value under the Places of Public Entertainment (POPE) ordinance.

Hong Kong’s head of government, chief executive Carrie Lam, said earlier this year she would look at extending the ban to public venues – which include two stadia, the 40,000-capacity Hong Kong Stadium and 3,500-cap. Queen Elizabeth Stadium – and increase the fine for violating the POPE ordinance.

The council has called for a review of existing legislation “to remove the grey area in the law, for the benefit of consumers”. It has also urged consumers to refrain from buying tickets through “unofficial channels”, as it “will only serve to fuel the speculation on already inflated prices of big-ticket events”.

 


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