Viagogo in ACCC Federal Court action over fees

HIDDEN fees in buying second-hand tickets for Hunter concerts may be a thing of the past, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleging reselling website Viagogo breached consumer law with the practice. 

The consumer watchdog has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court regarding Viagogo’s conduct between May 1 and June 26 this year. The ACCC cited three examples of hidden charges, including a 29 per cent increase in price for three Ashes tickets when more than $96 in charges was added. 

Two Cat Stevens tickets also increased from $450 to $579.95 after fees, the watchdog alleges. 

“We allege that Viagogo failed to disclose significant and unavoidable fees upfront in the ticket price, including a 27.6 per cent booking fee for most events and a handling fee,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“The ACCC expects all ticket reselling websites to be clear and upfront about the fees they charge, the type of tickets they sell and the nature of their business,” Ms Rickard said.  

It is further alleged Viagogo indicated tickets were close to running out but failed to declare the scarcity referred only to resale tickets available through their channels. “Viagogo’s statements such as ‘less than 1% of tickets remaining’ created a sense of urgency for people to buy them straight away, when tickets may have still been available through other ticket sources,” Ms Rickard said.

The ACCC said it received 473 contacts about Viagogo from Australian consumers this year alone. NSW Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean on Sunday estimated about 600 consumers had lost almost $130,000 through Viagogo, which was among the top five most complained about businesses for five months of the past year.

"Complaints to date have included delayed delivery, events being cancelled, heavily marked-up prices, hidden fees, and failure to provide refunds," Mr Kean said. "I'm issuing an urgent public warning about Viagogo's unfair and unsatisfactory business services and practices...this is simply not good enough."

The ACCC warns patrons to buy tickets from authorised sellers, ensure they look closely at search results to sidestep advertisers and to pay with a credit card to allow for a potential chargeback if the sale falls through. 

Ticket sellers are not allowed to make false or misleading claims about the availability of tickets, and must accurately detail costs.