Ticket reseller Viagogo has been fined $7 million for misleading Australian consumers with Google advertisements, undisclosed fees and deceptive claims about ticket availability.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took Viagogo to court over its practices when reselling tickets for entertainment, music and live sport events.
In 2019, a Federal Court judge found the online marketplace had breached Australian Consumer Law and made false or misleading representations.
The court previously found the ticket exchange and resale company had misled consumers by claiming tickets were scarce when the scarcity referred only to those available on its platform.
On Friday, Justice Stephen Burley ordered Viagogo to pay a penalty of $7 million and awarded costs against it.
The judge ordered the company to undertake a compliance program and issued an injunction preventing it from continuing the offending conduct.
The company has long been the target of customer complaints, industry backlash and court action overseas.
The Swiss-based company had previously come under the ACCC’s microscope in 2017 for exploiting fans with inflated prices.
In the ACCC’s case, the spotlight was placed on Viagogo’s use of the word “official” in its Google advertisements over two months in 2017. The wording led many customers to believe it was an official seller rather than an online marketplace.
Search engine giant Google last year took action against the reselling platform, banning it from prime position in search results following sustained complaints about inflated prices and misleading claims.
The court also found Viagogo’s use of phrases such as “only a few tickets left” was deceptive because they did not relate to the overall availability of tickets to an event, but rather to tickets available through its own website.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the statements created a false sense of urgency.
The watchdog also successfully pursued the company over its added fees, which included a 27.6 per cent booking fee that applied to most tickets in the 2017 period.
The court found the website had drawn customers in with an advertised price but did not sufficiently disclose “extraordinarily high” additional fees.
Viagogo has since claimed its fees are clearly disclosed.
Viagogo has long defended its practices, insisting it does not prey upon the ignorance of consumers, claiming only 1 per cent of its customers experience problems.
In 2019, the company claimed the outcome did not reflect its current platform and said there had been “many changes” since the ruling, also promising to work “closely and constructively” with the ACCC.
Many artists have characterised the ticket resale site as a hotbed of scalping and called for it to be banned in Australia.
The Australian consumer watchdog (ACCC) has previously advised consumers to avoid buying tickets from resale websites altogether. Even official resale websites have been found to sell tickets at markups of almost 400 per cent.