Event ticket reseller Viagogo has been fined $7 million for misleading customers by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) who says Viagogo breached Australian Consumer Law.
The fine was handed down by the ACCC who said that Viagogo AG made “false or misleading representations when reselling tickets for live music and sports events,” a significant breach of Australian Consumer Law.
The ACCC says that by purporting to be an ‘official’ seller of tickets to live music, theatre and sporting events, telling customers that tickets were limited and misleading customers as to event prices – by imposing a 27.6% booking fee at checkout – Viagogo was deserving of a $7 million fine.
“Today’s $7 million penalty sends a strong signal to businesses like Viagogo conducting business in Australia that they cannot get away with profiting from misleading Australian consumers about the price of tickets they are selling.” ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims
In a statement, the ACCC has said that “from 1 May 2017 to 26 June 2017, Viagogo’s website attracted consumers by advertising a headline price which did not specify a total price for tickets. It also failed to adequately disclose to consumers that it was not a primary ticket seller.”
The commission pointed to two blatant examples of Viagogo misleading customers, including to Ashes cricket matches, where tickets were listed at $330.15 but were in reality priced at $426.81 after a booking fee was imposed, and to the Book of Mormon musical where tickets were listed at $135, but were eventually raised to $177.45 after booking and handling fees.
Handing down the fine, Justice Burley said that Viagogo misled consumers on “an industrial scale,” and was clearly in breach of Australian Consumer Law, acting in a deliberate manner.
Burley said that the company gave “the appearance of being a company that is indifferent to the interests of Australian consumers and which prefers to elevate its own profit motives above those interests, even when on notice of the potential for harm being done.”
The court found that the company’s technique of stating there were “only a few tickets left” for popular events “had the effect of drawing the consumer further into a marketing web and also a transactional web,” Burley said, adding that “it fundamentally mislead consumers as to the nature of Viagogo’s business in order to attract consumers and acquire tickets.”
Chairman of the ACCC, Rod Sims has said that “Viagogo’s business practices were unacceptable.”
“Viagogo misled thousands of consumers into buying tickets at inflated prices when they created a false sense of urgency by suggesting tickets were scarce and when they advertised tickets at a lower price by not including unavoidable fees.”
“Today’s $7 million penalty sends a strong signal to businesses like Viagogo conducting business in Australia that they cannot get away with profiting from misleading Australian consumers about the price of tickets they are selling, or other misleading conduct.”
The Swiss-based company has issued a statement saying that it had “overhauled” the platform since legal proceedings were initiated in the Federal Court, and that they were in consultation with regulators in “a number of countries.”
“Viagogo is committed to providing an important service to consumers that use our platform,” the spokesperson said.