4 Mar 2019

Ticket scalping crackdown: Govt targets 'unfair' practice

6:10 pm on 4 March 2019

The government plans to ban ticket-buying bots and introduce a price cap on ticket resales in a crackdown on scalpers.

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Hundreds of complaints have been made over Viagogo's ticket resales. Photo: 123rf.com

Announcing the crackdown on ticket scalping today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi said the world's biggest reseller Viagogo was the most complained about trader since 2017, with the Commerce Commission receiving more than 400 compaints.

They said they were seeking feedback from the public on the potential changes, which also included tougher enforcement around rules about diclosing information to consumers.

A discussion document provided by Mr Faafoi suggested a price cap could take various forms including:

  • Original sale price plus 10 percent
  • Original sale price plus resale costs
  • Either of the above, whichever is lowest

Requirements for original sellers and resellers - to prominently display ticket prices and seating locations, whether they were the original seller, or even what the original price was - were also suggested.

The documents also noted that monitoring and enforcement of a ban on ticket-buying bots could prove difficult.

Ms Ardern, who is also the minister of arts, culture and heritage, said the practice of scalping - reselling tickets to sold-out events at vastly inflated prices - was affecting the local cultural sector as well as big international events.

Some tickets for last week's Te Matatini festival were listed for $498. The four-day pass was originally priced at $100.

"Many New Zealanders are being subject to ticketing scams and fraud, including buying tickets at inflated prices from unofficial sights," Ms Ardern said.

"Professional scalpers are using ticket bots to buy up large quantities of tickets online and then re-sell them at hugely inflated prices."

She said tickets for a local musical production of Blood Brothers were recently advertised on the website for $105 more than the $30 face-value price.

She said it was "fundamentally unfair" that others were profiting while the arts and culture sector was short-changed.

"When you see stories of people who have put their hard-earned money into a gift or an event for a special occassion and they believe they've bought a ticket legitimately and they have not or they've put in a huge outlay over and above the original ticket price, that's just not fair," Ms Ardern said.

"In some cases they're not even gaining entry to the event. It's devastating for those individuals. It's devastating for the artists as well when they hear these stories. So I think there's an obligation and a responsibility on us to do something about it."

Mr Faafoi stressed that the government is not targeting people who legitimately cannot make it to a show and need to sell their tickets.

He said he was concerned that the Fair Trading Act, which prohibits misleading and deceptive behaviour, did not go far enough to protect consumers.

"It is a significant problem. There's little or no protection for consumers at the moment unless it's one of the events under the legislation that is currently there," he said.

"This will give broader protection to those consumers who are being caught out by some of these websites."

He said ticket-buying bots had already been banned in the US, the UK and NSW Australia.

The government did not signal a specific interest in any of the options and called for the public to make submissions.

Consultation will run until 18 April after which legislation will be drafted.

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