Controversial online ticket company Viagogo has been found guilty of misleading Australian consumers.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) pursued the Swiss-based ticket reseller for its practices when selling tickets to music, sport and theatre events, which have been the subject of customer complaints, industry backlash and court action overseas.
Common complaints on online review sites and dedicated Facebook groups are that customers believed it to be the official ticket seller due to its top position in Google search results, felt rushed to purchase for fear of missing out on the tickets, and only later realised they may have paid well above the original ticket price.
Viagogo is being sued by the Commerce Commission in New Zealand for allegedly breaching the Fair Trading Act.
The New Zealand government has also announced it will take measures to prevent ticket scalping in New Zealand.
The Australian Federal Court has found that between May and June 2017, Viagogo misled consumers by using the word "official" in its Google advertisements.
Witnesses told the court that they found Viagogo through a Google search and believed it to be the official seller, but Viagogo argued that they had failed to take reasonable care of their own interests.
"In my view an ordinary consumer would understand the words 'Buy Now, viagogo Official Site' to convey that if the consumer followed the link, he or she would be taken to a website where tickets for the relevant event could be obtained from the official, or authorised vendor," Justice Stephen Burley said in his judgement.
The court found that Viagogo failed to adequately disclose that claims of "only a few tickets left" and "tickets for this event are selling fast" related only to tickets available through its website - not the overall availability of tickets to an event.
The ACCC also took issue with Viagogo's failure to disclose significant and unavoidable fees until late in the booking process.
The court agreed and found Viagogo made false or misleading representations about prices on its ticket and seating selection page, as customers could not purchase tickets for the prices listed.
The ACCC said the additional charges added to the final bill included a 27.6 percent booking fee, which applied to most tickets during the period.
"Viagogo was charging extraordinarily high booking fees and many consumers were caught out," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
"We urge consumers to only buy tickets from authorised sellers, or they risk their tickets being dishonoured at the gates or doors.
"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."
In a recent interview with ABC's The Business, Viagogo managing director Cris Miller said the company was confident that its fees were now clearly disclosed, despite the booking and handling fees still not being visible until late in the transaction.
"The feedback that we're getting from our own customer call centre, [is] that the fees are prominent, you are able to see them, again you have a review page to see everything you're going to get charged for," Mr Miller said.
In a statement following the Federal Court judgement, Viagogo said it 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," Viagogo said.
"We are disappointed that the Chair of the [ACCC] does not support the greater competition that Viagogo and other ticket resellers bring to the market which provides greater choice for Australians consumers."
The court will hand down penalties against Viagogo at a later date.
- ABC / RNZ