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News August 29, 2017

LPA, Choice welcome ACCC’s legal proceedings against Viagogo

Lars Brandle
LPA, Choice welcome ACCC’s legal proceedings against Viagogo

Live Performance Australia and Choice welcomed the ACCC’s launch of legal action against Viagogo as the consumer advocacy group readies the publication of its own findings into the secondary ticketing space.

The ACCC on Monday said it initiated proceedings in the Federal Court against the Switzerland-based Viagogo alleging it breached consumer law when reselling ticketing from May 1, 2017 to June 26, 2017.

The competition watchdog claims Viagogo made false or misleading representations and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct with the price of tickets on its online platform by failing to disclose substantial fees. In this year alone, the ACCC has received 473 contacts about Viagogo from Australian consumers.

“We welcome the ACCC’s announcement yesterday and also the warning from the consumer agency,” Evelyn Richardson, CEO of Live Performance Australia, tells TIO.

“The ACCC sent a very clear message to the resale ticketing platforms that they’ve got to comply with Australian consumer laws and we think that’s really important and we support that.” The trade body recently published its Safe Tix Guide for consumers because, as Richardson notes, “the most people are informed, the more they can make choices which ensure they don’t get ripped off.”

A spokesperson for Choice applauded the ACCC’s big play but says its legal action highlights the need for urgent reform in the ticket resale space.

The ACCC’s move comes after Choice in March referred Viagogo and Ticketmaster Resale following an investigation into the companies ’”dodgy pricing practices” and marketing claims. Its probe found Viagogo, which launched in Australia in late 2013, was the “worst offender,” says a Choice spokesman, with the website found to discretely add booking, handling or VAT fees of up to 25%. These claims are seemingly backed up by the ACCC, which presented a case study where two Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam) tickets were found to increase from $450 to $579.95, a spike of 29%, when the $125 booking and $4.95 handling fees were factored-in.

“If their pricing issues weren’t bad enough,” says a Choice spokesman, Viagogo “markets itself as the ‘official’ site and claims to provide ‘consumer protection’.  Both claims are questionable at best and are likely to confuse and disadvantage consumers.”

The consumer rights group launched an international survey of the resale market, where the activity of Viagogo, Stubhub and Ticketmaster Resale and others were scrutinised.

The findings of its study on the Australian, New Zealand and U.K. ticket reseller markets will be unveiled on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Ticket Brokers Association (T.B.A) has distanced itself from Viagogo. The newly formed Melbourne –based organization, whose independent members include The Golden Ticket, Epic Tickets and Supatix, has called for the creation of “clear and transparent industry-wide standards” and ethical rules and procedures, with a goal to “protect the public from fraudulent conduct and foster positive consumer relations in the industry.”

LPA will shortly release a ticketing code of practice, which will be extended to have some provisions with respect to the secondary ticketing market. LPA will consult with the ACCC and will likely connect with the T.B.A before releasing it to the public.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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