Viagogo, the Swiss-based international ticker reseller, has been fined a whopping $7-million for misleading Australian consumers.
The penalty was imposed this week by the Federal Court, after it found in 2019 that the company had made numerous false or misleading representations to Australians – including that it was the ‘official’ seller of tickets to particular events, that certain tickets were scarce.
Viagogo also misled customers about the pricing of tickets. Tickets were promoted at a certain price, but when fees were added – which had not been disclosed up front – the final cost was far higher.
Ashes test ticket prices were high
“Examples included a ticket for the Book of Mormon [musical] advertised at $135, but which was sold for $177.45 including booking and handling fees, as well as Ashes cricket tickets advertised at $330.15, but sold for $426.81 after fees were added,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a statement.
Justice Burley described the misrepresentations as serious or very serious, and considered the conduct demonstrated a level of deliberateness. He described one category of misrepresentations as having been made on “an industrial scale”.
The offences occurred between 1 May 2017 and 26 June 2017.
‘Indifferent’ to consumer interests
Viagogo’s responses were described by the judge as giving it “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”.
ACCC Chair Rod Sims said: “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.”
The Court also observed the need for general and specific deterrence in this matter, particularly to make it clear to corporations which conduct internet-based operations in Australia that they are subject to the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
Viagogo has overhauled platform
In a statement carried by the Guardian Australia newspaper, Viagogo spokesperson said the penalty decision covered a period of less than eight weeks.
“Since that time, we have overhauled our platform – a process that included consultation with consumer protection regulators in a number of countries.”
“We are carefully considering today’s decision and for that reason we cannot provide further comment at this time.”