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Russia’s Ponominalu investigated over drip pricing

Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has opened an investigation into leading ticket agency Ponominalu over alleged drip pricing.

According to the competition regulator, Ponominalu misrepresented the price of tickets for a January show by Kasta (Каста), a popular hip-hop group, in an advertisement on Vkontakte, Russia’s Facebook equivalent.

The advert, placed in late 2018, said Kasta would play a large show in Moscow, with tickets priced at 1,500₽ (€21). However, says FAS, when the buyer reached checkout on Ponominalu.ru, the minimum price payable was 1,650₽.

“The advertisement did not contain any information about service fees and commission for purchasing tickets on the internet, and it is impossible to purchase tickets on the site [Ponominalu.ru] without paying a service fee,” reads a statement from FAS’s Moscow office.

“The advertisement did not contain any information about service fees and commission”

If found guilty, Ponominalu.ru is liable for a fine up to half a million rubles (€7,000). An initial hearing took place on 26 June.

According to Moscow Ticketing Forum MD Katerina Kirillova, promoters who consciously rely on sales through Vkontakte, Russia’s most popular social network, in 2017 sold an average 30% of their tickets through the service.

According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2018, Ponominalu is Russia’s second larger ticket seller, after Kassim.ru, which generated revenues of 7.1bn₽ (€88m) in 2017. Ponominalu was acquired by Russia’s largest mobile network, MTS, last February.

Several other ticket sellers have been warned or sanctioned for not including the full cost in the price of tickets, including in the UK, the Netherlands and, most recently, Canada, where Ticketmaster was slapped with a $4m fine.

 


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Ticketmaster to pay $4m to settle Canada lawsuit

Ticketmaster has agreed to pay a C$4 million (US$3.1m) fine to settle an investigation by the Canadian Competition Bureau into alleged deceptive pricing online.

Three Ticketmaster companies, Ticketmaster LLC, TNow Entertainment Group Inc. and Ticketmaster Canada LP, will additionally pay $500,000 (US$382,200) to settle costs incurred by the bureau during its investigation, according to the competition regulator.

The Competition Bureau brought legal action against Ticketmaster Canada in January 2018, after an investigation found Ticketmaster’s advertised prices are deceptive because consumers must pay additional fees added later in the purchasing process. “This practice, which is known as ‘drip pricing’, results in consumers paying much higher prices than advertised,” said the bureau. “Ticketmaster’s mandatory fees often inflate the advertised price by more than 20% and, in some cases, by over 65%.”

“The bureau expects all ticket vendors to take note and review their marketing practice”

As part of a consent agreement registered with Canada’s Competition Tribunal, the Ticketmaster companies will also establish a “compliance programme” to ensure their advertising complies with Canadian law. The consent agreement has the force of a court order and will be binding for ten years.

The settlement concludes the regulator’s legal action against Ticketmaster. A private class-action lawsuit, led by Merchant Law Group, remains unresolved.

“Canadians should be able to trust that the prices advertised are the ones they will pay when purchasing tickets online,” says Canadian competition commissioner Matthew Boswell, commenting on the resolution of the case. “The bureau will remain vigilant and will not tolerate misleading representations.

“The bureau expects all ticket vendors to take note and review their marketing practices, knowing that the bureau continues to examine similar issues in the marketplace and will take action as necessary.”

 


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TM software not illegal, says Canada watchdog

The Canadian Competition Bureau has closed its investigation into Ticketmaster’s TradeDesk, concluding the software does not contravene federal competition legislation.

The Competition Bureau, a Canadian government agency responsible for enforcing competition law, investigated the matter following allegations that Ticketmaster was facilitating the mass touting of tickets by enabling professional resellers to bulk-buy primary inventory and then sell it on the secondary market using TradeDesk, with the covert approval of Ticketmaster employees.

The company strenuously denied the allegations, with Ticketmaster North America president Jared Smith stating: “Ticketmaster does not have, and has never had, any programme or product that helps professional resellers gain an advantage to buy tickets ahead of fans.”

“We remain committed to advancing our ongoing litigation”

The Competition Bureau concluded that the company’s conduct did not contravene any rulings after reviewing public allegations, complaints and video evidence, as well as examining Ticketmaster’s behaviour, marketing practices and industry interactions.

The competition watchdog will, however, continue to pursue ongoing litigation against Ticketmaster, Live Nation and affiliated companies with regards to alleged misleading advertising in its ticket pricing.

“The Competition Act is the best tool to crack down on false or misleading representations, including misleading ticket price advertising,” says Matthew Bossell, the bureau’s interim commissioner for competition.

“That’s why we sued Ticketmaster, and we remain committed to advancing our ongoing litigation.”

 


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Advertising Standards secures changes to Viagogo pricing

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has revealed today that it has secured “significant changes” to controversial secondary ticketer Viagogo’s website, replacing what they deemed “misleading” pricing information with “transparent” figures.

The news follows the ASA’s decision back in May to list the ticketing website as a “non-compliant online advertiser,” for failing to state all fees associated with tickets upfront. The authority had received 23 complaints, some from the campaign group FanFair Alliance and promoters Festival Republic and Kilimajaro Live, taking issue with the website’s pricing strategy and its use of the word “official” in advertisements.

Under the new pricing arrangements, Viagogo will state “one single price … at the start of the consumer journey”, including VAT and booking fees

The ASA confirmed in a statement today that it has worked with the website “to bring about these material changes.” Under the new pricing arrangements, Viagogo will state “one single price […] at the start of the consumer journey” – which will include VAT and booking fees. With these amendments, the ASA has withdrawn its sanctions against Viagogo, including its referral of the secondary ticketer to National Trading Standards.

The decision does not, however, have any effect on the court proceedings brought against Viagogo by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Last week, the British competition authority marked the end of its year-long investigation into the Geneva-based company by announcing it would be launching proceedings against Viagogo for its continued failure to “overhaul the way [it does] business.”

 


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ASA clamps down on secondaries’ drip pricing

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today ordered the ‘big four’ secondary ticketing platforms to remove what it calls the “misleading presentation of pricing information” from their websites.

The ASA’s intervention – which follows a recent judgment against Ticketmaster over its description of Platinum tickets as the “best available” – is a response to concerns raised, including by anti-touting campaign group FanFair Alliance, about “misleading pricing” by secondary ticketing sites, says the advertising watchdog.

Following an investigation in which it discovered additional fees and charges were added at the end of the booking process – so-called drip pricing – the ASA has banned Viagogo, StubHub UK and Ticketmaster’s Get Me In! and Seatwave from not making clear the total ticket price at the beginning of the booking process; not including the booking fee upfront; and not making clear the applicable delivery fee.

In addition, the authority has barred Viagogo from calling itself an “official site” (something also outlawed by Google in its recent overhaul of its AdWords policy) and making the claim its tickets have a “100% guarantee”, when in fact promoters have been known to invalidate tickets bought on the site, such as with Ed Sheeran’s Divide tour.

British advertising rules now require quoted prices to include non-optional taxes and fees that apply to all, or most, buyers, as well any delivery fees.

“The message is simple and clear: the price you see at the start should be the price you pay at the end”

The UK drip pricing crackdown follows similar enforcement actions in Canada and the Netherlands.

Commenting on the decision, ASA chief executive Guy Parker (pictured) says: “Many of us will recognise the frustration of being happy with the initial price of tickets on a secondary website only to be stung by hefty fees when we come to book. The message from our rulings is simple and it’s clear: the price you see at the start should be the price you pay at the end.”

Adam Webb, campaign manager for FanFair Alliance, adds: “FanFair Alliance is aware of thousands of UK music fans who feel ripped off by so-called secondary ticketing platforms. Almost without fail, these victims share three recurring complaints: they were directed via Google advertising towards these sites; they thought they were purchasing from an authorised seller; and they were misled on pricing.

“While we welcome today’s ASA ruling and hope it goes some way to addressing this latter issue, what’s absolutely crucial now is enforcement. Without proper sanctions, we fear that much-needed reforms will not be implemented, particularly by Viagogo, and the public will continue to be duped.”

“For Ed’s shows we’ve taken every effort to cut out the online touts and ensure that his fans can buy tickets at the price we set,” comments Ed Sheeran’s manager, Stuart Camp. “That’s a major challenge when so-called secondary ticketing sites like Viagogo blatantly mislead the public, and why we strongly back both the FanFair Alliance campaign and this ASA ruling.”

 


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Ticketmaster Canada hit with drip pricing class action

Following last week’s complaint by Canada’s Competition Bureau over the “deceptive” practice of drip pricing tickets, Ticketmaster and Live Nation have been hit with a class-action lawsuit that seeks damages and repayment for those affected by “improperly collected fees”.

The lawsuit was initiated by ‘class-action king’ Tony Merchant on behalf of a proposed class “consisting of all persons, corporations or other entities who purchased tickets subject to inflated prices” during a specific period. The lead plaintiff, Micheal Lindenbach, estimates he has paid more than C$1,000 in ‘drip fees’ over the past five years, according to Marchant.

According to the Competition Bureau, Canadian law requires all mandatory additional costs to be included in the price of the ticket. Conversely, said its commissioner, John Pecman, “Ticketmaster’s mandatory fees often inflate the advertised price by more than 20% and, in some cases, by over 65%”, through the check-out process.

“On Friday, Merchant Law Group launched a class action litigation which seeks compensation and repayment to affected Canadian residents for all improperly collected fees due to drip pricing techniques used by Ticketmaster and Live Nation,” says Merchant.

“Canadians always expect to pay the price advertised, whether it’s for buying groceries or tickets to a concert”

“Canadians always expect to pay the price advertised, whether it’s for buying groceries or tickets to a concert. Ticketmaster and Live Nation collected these fees by advertising a much lower price for tickets, then jacking up the price.

“This case is particularly egregious given the dominant position which these companies hold over online ticket sales. When you consider the millions of sales transactions done by Ticketmaster in Canada each year, the magnitude of this class action becomes clear.”

In addition to Canada, drip pricing has also recently come under scrutiny in several European countries, including France and the Netherlands. The latter’s competition watchdog, the Authority for Consumers and Markets, said in October it was satisfied the ticketing sector had “turned a corner” after a majority of companies agreed to list all additional unavoidable costs up front.

Live Nation declined to comment on pending litigation.

 


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Canadian Competition Bureau sues Ticketmaster

The Canadian Competition Bureau has followed through on its threat to take legal action against ticketing companies engaged in drip pricing, announcing late yesterday it is suing Ticketmaster over alleged “deceptive” claims relating to its ticket pricing.

An investigation by the Competition Bureau, the Canadian government agency responsible for enforcing competition law, found Ticketmaster’s advertised prices are deceptive because consumers must pay additional fees added later in the purchasing process. “This practice, which is known as ‘drip pricing’, results in consumers paying much higher prices than advertised,” reads a statement from the bureau. “Ticketmaster’s mandatory fees often inflate the advertised price by more than 20% and, in some cases, by over 65%.”

“In July, we called on ticket vendors to review their marketing practices,” explains Canada’s commissioner of competition, John Pecman. “Today, we are filing an application with the [Competition] Tribunal to stop Ticketmaster from making deceptive claims to consumers.

“Consumers must have confidence that advertised prices are the ones they will pay”

“Together, these actions send a strong signal to online retailers: consumers must have confidence that advertised prices are the ones they will pay.”

Ticketmaster, says the bureau, has made the alleged deceptive claims – which include service fees, ‘facility charges’ and order processing fees – on several of its websites, including ticketmaster.ca, ticketsnow.com and ticketweb.ca, as well as on mobile apps.

Drip pricing has also recently come under scrutiny in several European countries, including France and the Netherlands. The latter’s competition watchdog, the Authority for Consumers and Markets, said in October it was satisfied the ticketing sector had “turned a corner” after a majority of companies agreed to list all additional unavoidable costs up front.

 


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Dutch ticketers comply with drip pricing ban

Tickets sold online in the Netherlands are now listed with all ‘unavoidable’ costs, such as booking and processing fees, listed upfront, following a successful intervention by the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM).

ACM in July warned the country’s leading ticket agencies – which, according to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2017, are Ticketmaster, Eventim, Ticketpoint and Paylogic – that all extra costs must be listed in the ‘base price’ of the ticket, giving them until 1 October to comply. ACM’s counterpart in Canada, the Competition Bureau, followed suit the following week, warning sellers they could face court action unless they ceased drip pricing online.

Under Dutch law, ‘avoidable costs’, such as optional extras or upgrades, may be displayed at a later stage in the booking process.

“ACM has established that the sector has turned a corner,” comments Bernadette van Buchem, director of ACM’s consumer department. “Trade organisations have played a positive role in that process.

“Consumers are now able to see at the start of the booking process what a ticket will cost them, including all unavoidable costs. This will enable them to compare prices better. Providers are able to compete more fairly on price.”

 


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“Misleading” Viagogo facing Australia court case

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.

Choice shops secondary ticket sites to Aus govt

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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