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News March 8, 2017

Ticket resale websites to face the ACCC over unfair scalping practices

Ticket resale websites to face the ACCC over unfair scalping practices

Scalping. We know you’re sick of it, we are too. The artists hate it, and the whole industry recognises it’s an issue, but there still doesn’t seem to be any sort of solution to it, even as the problem gets increasingly worse.

And the source of many of the problems? The supposedly legitimate ticket resale sites that make it that much easier for punters to get gouged at ridiculously inflated prices, such as Ticketmaster Resale and the Swiss-owned Viagogo.

Thankfully, a big push is being made against these two sites today, triple j reports, with the news that both are the subject of a fresh complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) by consumer advocacy group CHOICE, who accuse the platforms of deceptive conduct.

The websites allow fans to re-sell tickets in the event that they’re unable to attend a show, but with no cap on the asking price, scalpers are free, and even encouraged, to buy tickets in bulk and re-sell them immediately at ridiculously inflated prices.

“The ideal outcome from here is that these ticket resellers clean up their act,” CHOICE spokesman Tom Godrey told triple j. “We don’t want to see consumers paying hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars for tickets.”

While the consumer group have had the issue on their radar for a while now, they insist that the ACCC must be allowed the time to look into the issue, and any possible solutions.

“Now that this has been raised with the ACCC it’s important they have time to do a thorough and detailed investigation, I think the tide of complaints we’re getting and the number of people who are clearly frustrated by these ticket resale sites will add to the pressure on the regulator to act swiftly.”

The issue has been back under the spotlight of late (although it has never really left), with Midnight Oil putting extensive measures in place in an attempt to prevent their hugely-anticipated tour, their first in 15 years, from being impacted by scalping.

The band limited the number of tickets that could be purchased in a single transaction, and passed on digital tickets in favour of physical ones, which will only be sent out in August, limiting their potential to be resold. They also announced new shows in Melbourne and Sydney soon after the first sold out, and announced that stores of tickets for other shows were being held back, to be sold at a later date.

Still, tickets resurfaced online at inflated prices almost immediately, and frontman Peter Garrett took to Twitter to applaud the new action.

The tour’s presenters, Frontier Touring, also announced that they are are planning their own submission to the ACCC, citing the “misleading sales tactics and language” at work. They too took to social media, but this time to collect the personal accounts of gig-goers who feel they’ve been wronged by the ticketing outlets.

“As part of our on-going fight against scalpers,” they wrote, “Frontier Touring are currently in the process of collating stories of those who have purchased through ticket resale sites and had an unsatisfactory experience.

“Such experiences may include being misled about what you were purchasing, believing you were on an official ticketing website due to advertised search listings on search engines, or instances where you have purchased tickets only to arrive at the concert to find your tickets were fake or had been sold to multiple people.”

The main claims being leveled against the resale facilities by CHOICE follow a similar theme, arguing that these resale sites present themselves as being ‘official’ outlets offering a level of consumer protection that buyers wouldn’t receive when purchasing tickets from other unofficial sources, but CHOICE argue that this is categorically not the case. Further accusations of unscrupulous additional charges have been leveled against Viagogo specifically, with over $50 being tacked on to one ticket earlier this year.

Another concern is that, in Queensland especially, purchasers can even find themselves unintentionally breaking the law, with fines of up to $600 in place for paying more than the extra 10% that local laws allow – although the ticketing sites take care to cover themselves in the fine print for these sorts of breaches.

“Worst case scenario, is having paid all that money, you can be left outside the ground, facing a fine,” Godrey explains – a nightmare situation for a dedicated gig-goer, but merely the extreme end of a system that clearly isn’t doing enough to protect its consumers.

CHOICE want to ensure that the companies “have to take steps to fix the problem,” and promises that, if they’re found in breach of the law, they see “significant penalties”.

Ticketmaster Resale defended its practices in a statement to the ABC, claiming it was “100 per cent committed to transparency and is continually reviewing its practices and platforms to ensure it is fully compliant with applicable regulations”.

“We see ourselves as the leading example of good practice in the ticketing market and will continue to work to provide customers with fair and transparent pricing structures,” it said, adding that in instances of “inappropriate action” being highlighted to them, they “take appropriate action to ensure the sellers address those issues.”

That action clearly hasn’t been enough to prevent ridiculously inflated ticket prices and dodgy dealings so far, so it’s now in the hands of the ACCC as we eagerly await their findings.

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


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