Block Viagogo website in Australia
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A Harvard University graduate is the man behind controversial ticket reselling website Viagogo which is being used by scalpers as a platform to scam concert-goers around the world.
Viagogo, founded by American businessman Eric Baker in 2005, is being investigated by the Commerce Commission for alleged false and misleading representations, which could breach the Fair Trading Act.
Viagogo is an online platform that is used by people to buy and sell tickets to events and concerts. In New Zealand, many consumers have been left out of pocket, and with fake tickets, to concerts such as Celine Dion, Ed Sheeran, Shania Twain and Bruno Mars.
Numerous emails to the Swiss-based company have gone unanswered, however, one response refered back to Viagogo's frequently asked questions section, which does not have information about what victims of scalpers can do.
SYDNEY dad Gordon* had planned to surprise his teenage daughter with Green Day concert tickets.
At the time, the band had just announced an Australian tour and he was determined she wasn’t going to miss out. He’d never bought concert tickets online before so he did a Google search and clicked on the first listing that came up — Viagogo.com.
“Reading the rundown on their website, they indicated they were a legitimate ticket seller on behalf of the promoter,” he said. “I wasn’t aware that the pre-sale tickets were even available yet so I was thrilled at the time to find them.”
Gordon said the tickets were listed at $172.57 each but it was only after pressing the purchase button that he realised the true expense of the tickets — a whopping $453.54, which included $108.40 for booking and delivery fees.
“When I clicked on buy, I was made aware that there would be some admin fees but wasn’t advised on what those fees were,” he said. “It wasn’t until they’d charged my credit card that the true amount actually came up on the invoice.”
Gordon received purchase notification via email and realised there was no seat allocation included, indicating there weren’t actually any tickets. “So what they were selling was an expectation of a product, which we call in Australia fraud,” he says.
And despite numerous requests for answers and a refund, Viagogo was not forthcoming in providing Gordon with either.
Two days after his purchase, when the authorised seller had released pre-sale tickets, his tickets were delivered electronically. But by this time, Gordon had lost all trust in the company and assumed the tickets were fraudulent. He went to the authorised ticket seller and purchased two more concert tickets.
As shocking as it is, Gordon’s story is not unique. Thousands of Australians are being increasingly ripped off by over-inflated ticket prices and exorbitant service fees on ticket resale websites, according to a damning report released this month by the consumer advocacy group Choice.
They’ve uncovered consistent false claims, dishonest pricing practices and illegal ticket mark-ups by at least two websites targeting Australian consumers.
In response, the advocacy group has lodged an official complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) claiming ‘misleading and deceptive conduct’ by ticket marketplace websites Viagogo and Ticketmaster Resale.
THE GREAT TICKETING RIP-OFF
Earlier this month, tickets for Midnight Oil’s Australian tour sold out on Ticketmaster within minutes to the frustration of devastated fans.
Just a short time later, thousands of “unwanted” tickets appeared on Viagogo and Ticketmaster Resale at ridiculously inflated prices.
Other recent ticketed events shared a similar experience — tickets for Adele, Justin Bieber, Bruce Springsteen and Guns N’ Roses were all in hot demand. According to Choice, in some instances tickets were selling for 500 per cent above their original price, ensuring tidy profits for scalpers and resale websites alike.
Forthcoming concert tours by Jimmy Barnes, Elton John, The Rolling Stones and Hanson, even before they were made available on pre-sale release, were listed “for sale” on the Viagogo site at prices far exceeding their original value.
Linda and David’s* recent experience with Viagogo left them out-of-pocket and furious after being duped into buying overpriced tickets to see their hero David Attenborough in conversation last month.
“David Attenborough is a living legend … he’s done so much for wildlife conservation,” Linda said. “On impulse we decided to buy tickets to see him speak live in Sydney,” Linda explained. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially as he’s nearing 90 years old.”
Linda said when they checked for tickets online, Ticketmaster had already sold out so they Googled the event and the first listing to come up was for Viagogo. She said they weren’t familiar with the site but it appeared to be legitimate.
“Each time we looked at the site over the next half-hour the price of the tickets increased and then, suddenly, our preferred seating option was “sold out”. We didn’t want to miss out so we quickly bought the tickets,” she said.
After purchasing the tickets for over $600, the couple logged back onto the Viagogo website from another device and searched for tickets again, discovering their preferred seating actually hadn’t sold out at all. Linda said she immediately emailed Viagogo and requested a refund.
“We felt the website had mislead us in what tickets were still available and wanted to change our tickets,” she said. “Their response was that they couldn’t give us a refund or exchange because of their guarantee to the seller, so we had to just suck it up.”
SCALPING, BY ANY OTHER NAME
Scalping isn’t necessarily illegal in Australia, although in Queensland and South Australia it’s an offence for scalpers to charge more than 10 per cent above the original ticket price for events at major events and/or specified venues.
There are also some laws in place that protect certain “major events” from scalpers but these are often focused on sporting events only, limited in scope and difficult to enforce.
Geneva-based Viagogo and Australia’s own Ticketmaster Resale launched in Australia less than five years ago, promising greater transparency and governance in the secondary ticket market with reassuring “guarantees”. They offered a platform for people to sell “unwanted” concert tickets for sold-out events to those who may have missed out on the original ticket release.
But instead scalpers, preying on uninformed and desperate consumers, are infiltrating these sites and legally bypassing anti-scalping laws in some states and territories. And it’s not just scalpers who’re profiteering.
While the price of tickets are set by the sellers themselves, the resale sites profit from large commissions in the form of service or booking fees charged to both sellers and buyers on the sale of each ticket.
According to Choice’s report, Viagogo takes about 28 per cent commission and Ticketmaster Resale demands a 21 per cent commission for each resale ticket sold and bought — a cost that isn’t clearly stated during on-site transactions.
When things go awry with ticket purchases from these two websites, the only way consumers can contact them is via an online email form. And despite “guarantees”, so many consumers report receiving no response — or indeed guaranteed refunds — after purchased tickets have proven counterfeit, according to Choice.
SCALPERS ON NOTICE
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has long been an active advocate for change in protecting consumers from scalpers.
Last week he reintroduced a Notice of Motion to the Senate, calling for laws, “to better protect consumers from ticket scalpers’’.
The motion was successfully passed on Monday, March 20 with the support of Greens and Labor Party senators.
“A resolution passed in the Senate today has put ticket scalpers on notice that there is widespread support for legislative reform to crack down on their trade and better protect consumers,” Xenophon stated on his website after the momentous win.
“Genuine Australian fans are being unfairly deprived of tickets because ticket scalpers are using automated systems to buy a bulk of tickets when they are released. They’re then onselling them for massive amounts to those that missed out,” he said.
“It’s a clear cornering of a market that hurts consumers. Of course consumers need to be aware of the risk of resale sites, but they can easily be misled from the feedback I have been getting.”
News.com.au was still waiting for a response from Viagogo and Ticketmaster Resale at time of publication.
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