After years of consumer complaints, controversial ticket reseller Viagogo has been found guilty of misleading Australian customers.
The online ticket reseller made a name for itself by appearing to be an official retailer for tickets to music, sporting and theatre events, while selling to customers who felt rushed to make a purchase, many of whom later realised they paid exorbitant prices.
On Thursday, the Federal Court found Viagogo misled consumers by claiming tickets to certain events were scarce when the scarcity referred only to those available on its resale platform and not any that were available elsewhere.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission pursued the Swiss-based ticket retailer for its practices, after industry back-lash and hundreds of consumer complaints about the site’s heavy mark-ups, hidden fees and cancelled events.
“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,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
In one case, a Victorian psychiatric nurse was charged $104.98 in fees when she booked two tickets to comedy theatre show The Book of Mormon in 2017.
The woman said several warnings that tickets were running out made her feel anxious. She paid the fees as she was worried she’d lose her tickets.
News: Court finds ticket reseller Viagogo misled consumers https://t.co/eAFqTRId8P
— ACCC (@acccgovau) April 18, 2019
The court also found that Viagogo’s use of the word “official” in its online advertisements was misleading. It misled consumers into thinking they were purchasing from an official site, when in fact Viagogo is a ticket resale website.
“We urge consumers to only buy tickets from authorised sellers, or they risk their tickets being dishonoured at the gates or doors,” Mr Sims said.
Between May and June 2017, Viagogo’s website drew consumers in with a headline price but failed to disclose additional fees, which included a 27.6 per cent booking fee, or specify a single price for tickets, the court also found.
“Viagogo was charging extraordinarily high booking fees and many consumers were caught out,” Mr Sims said.
“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.”
Industry pressure has been mounting against the site, with artists such as Gang of Youths and The Rubens throwing their support behind the anti-Viagogo campaign.
In November, Gang of Youths took to Instagram to ask fans to publicly share their stories of being ripped off by the reseller.
“As many of you have encountered, Viagogo has become one of the most disgraceful and disruptive scams our live industry has faced in recent years,” the band wrote. “Viagogo impacts promoters, managers, venues, ticket agencies and most importantly artists and their fans.”
In a statement following the Federal Court judgment, Viagogo spokesman Cris Miller said the company was disappointed by the ruling.
“It does not reflect our current ticketing platform and the many changes we have made. We strongly believe our website is compliant and we will continue to work closely and constructively with the ACCC,” he said.
“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 don’t believe anyone should have to take that risk.”
“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.”
Penalties and orders against Viagogo will be determined at a later date.