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Controversial ticket seller Viagogo snubs NZ court

Author
Chris Keall, NZ Herald ,
Section
Business,
Publish Date
Monday, 4 February 2019, 2:52p.m.
The Commerce Commission is investigating the online company. (Photo / Getty)
The Commerce Commission is investigating the online company. (Photo / Getty)

Viagogo is set to be a no-show at its High Court hearing in Auckland tomorrow.

The Commerce Commission has filed an injunction for restraint of trade against the controversial, Swiss-based online ticket seller, which has generated hundreds of complaints.

Barring a last-minute change, the hearing is set to be a one-sided affair.

Viagogo refused to be served, the Commerce Commission says.

The ticket seller has not made any written submissions, and will not have legal representation at the hearing - although the Herald understands it may have observers in the public gallery.

The Commerce Commission, which has collected upwards of 587 complaints about Viagogo, alleges the site has made false claims about the scarcity of tickets to multiple events; frequently allowed the same ticket to be resold multiple times; and made false representations about a money-back guarantee. The regulator alleges that at least 79 Kiwis have been sent invalid tickets.

It also alleges that undisclosed fees increase the price of a ticket by a third, and says that Viagogo's dispute-resolution process, which requires a customer to work through a Swiss court, is unreasonable.

Multiple customers have also told the Herald, and the commission, that they thought Viagogo was an official ticket seller because the high-rotate Google advertisers typically appears at the top of search results for any given event. They only realised it was a second-hand or "scalping" site after later learning tickets were far cheaper through official channels.

Serious concerns' that UK court order ignored

A number of regulators around the world have taken legal action against Viagogo. In the case of the Commerce Commission's opposite number in the UK, the Competition Markets Authority, it was successful - but it alleges Viagogo has simply ignored the verdict.

On November 27 last year, the CMA said the order required Viagogo to undergo an independently supervised review of unpaid claims under its guarantee from January 2016 to November 2018, as well as making various amendments to its sales practices.

Now, the UK watchdog says it has "serious concerns that Viagogo has not complied with important aspects of the court order we secured against them." It says it will return to court if Viagogo continues to, in its view, ignore the order.

Meanwhile, yet another Viagogo complaint has come to the Herald's attention.

Auckland-based event consultant Ryan "The Lion" Ashton says, "I was searching for tickets and Viagogo came up with top three results so I blindly clicked. I believe it said 'official tickets' which I took to also mean 'official ticket resellers' and just thought 'yeah cool'."

Events consultant Ryan "The Lion" Ashton says he paid twice the going rate for tickets to Florence and the Machine's Auckland gig, and blames Viagogo. Photo / Supplied.

Like other customers, Ashton received a number of pop-up messages about the number of tickets left, designed to put him under time pressure. "I had promised my wife I'd take her to Florence and the Machine so thought I better move it," he says.

"I thought I was buying $197 VIP tickets but found I had received $98 tickets that I paid double for and $100 booking fee which I think is bull****."

The Herald has asked Viagogo for comment. The company has repeatedly declined to comment on individual customers' complaints, or various allegations made in the Commerce Commission's statement of claim.

Last week, it offered a general comment:

"Sellers on Viagogo are only paid for their tickets after the buyer has successfully gained entry to the event. If there are any issues with the tickets - eg. they send invalid tickets - they will not be paid. These security measures ensure that fraudulent sellers do not operate on our marketplace and that our buyers are protected."

Google refused to comment on Viagogo. A spokeswoman said it won't comment on individual advertisers, and that it will investigate a complaint about any advertiser.

The ComCom's statement of claim is here.

 

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