The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected a FanFair complaint alleging Viagogo poses as a primary ticketing site with its Google ads
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“Many consumers were caught out”: Australian court rules in favour of watchdog’s complaint that Viagogo misled customers with obscured fees and claims of ticket scarcity
By Anna Grace on 18 Apr 2019
The Australian Federal Court has found that secondary ticketing platform Viagogo misled consumers, falsely marketing itself as an official ticket seller, exaggerating the scarcity of tickets and obscuring booking fees.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) instigated legal proceedings against Viagogo in 2017, alleging the 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.”
The federal court ruled today, Thursday 18 April, in favour of the Australian watchdog’s allegations, finding Viagogo in breach of consumer law.
The court found that the ticketing site claimed tickets to certain events were in short supply in order to incentivise buying, when in fact the scarcity only referred to the tickets available on its resale platform, and not elsewhere.
“Today’s 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 claims misled consumers into buying tickets by including claims like ‘less than 1 per cent tickets remaining’ to create a false sense of urgency,” says ACCC chair Rod Sims in a statement.
The ruling also objected to the presence of the word ‘official’ in Viagogo’s online adverts, which misled consumers into believing they were purchasing tickets from the event’s official ticketing site.
“Extraordinarily high booking fees” of 27.6% were another point of contention. The court found that the website failed to sufficiently disclose additional fees or specify a single price for tickets, instead attracting customers with the promise of prices that did not exist.
“Many consumers were caught out,” states Sims. “Today’s 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 the company is “disappointed by the ruling”, which “does not reflect” the ticketing platform in its current state, or the “many changes” the company has made.
“Without services like Viagogo, people would be forced to return to buying and selling tickets outside venues, or to use informal social media platforms”
“Our first priority continues to be to provide people with a safe and secure platform to buy or sell sport, music and entertainment tickets, many of which would otherwise not have been available to them due to the limited number that event organisers release to the box office.
“Without services like Viagogo, people would be forced to return to buying and selling tickets outside venues, or to use informal social media platforms where no customer protection exists.
“We are disappointed that the chair of the commission does not support the greater competition that Viagogo and other ticket resellers bring to the market which provides greater choice for Australians consumers,” states Miller.
The penalties that the controversial secondary ticketing company will receive are to be determined at a later date. The maximum penalty amount is set at AU$1.1million per contravention.
Anti-touting campaign group FanFair Alliance lodged a similar complaint against Viagogo in the UK last year. The country’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rejected the claims.
The secondary ticketer has been embroiled in multiple lawsuits across Australasia and Europe. The company recently resumed dialogue with the international press, after years of silence.