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Angry parents to meet New Zealand Commerce Commission over Viagogo’s fake Bruno Mars tickets 

By | Published on Monday 5 March 2018


New Zealand-based writer Tommy Wilson will meet with the country’s Commerce Commission tomorrow to speak on behalf of 70 people who were refused entry to a Bruno Mars show this weekend. They had all bought their tickets via the infamous resale site Viagogo.

Local media have reported on a plethora of people who bought tickets for Mars’s recent shows in New Zealand at hiked up prices on the often controversial secondary ticketing website and who then were refused admission at the door. That includes Wilson, who was attending the show with his wife and thirteen year old daughter.

Most of those reports talk about ‘fake tickets’. Although, of course, there is more than one reason why tickets bought on the secondary market might fail to get you into a show. The seller may be fraudulently selling fake tickets that would never have worked at the door. Or the promoter of the show may have cancelled the tickets after seeing them being touted, resale usually being in breach of a ticket’s terms and conditions.

Secondary sites generally promise a full refund if buyers can’t get into a show with their touted ticket. However, getting refunds – or indeed any response at all – out of Viagogo is famously tricky. Even if a refund is secured, that doesn’t overcome the disappointment on the night when ticketholders can’t get into the show.

By a stroke of luck, Wilson’s daughter did actually get in. He told the New Zealand Herald: “I just stood outside hoping someone would come along and that is what happened. It was a bit of a divine appointment”. Another family whose daughter had not been able to attend at the last minute had a spare ticket. “So we entrusted the family to take our daughter – your gut sometimes tells you when people are good people, and they were”.

However, Wilson went on, plenty of other people with fake or cancelled tickets in their hands weren’t so lucky. “There were lines of girls and young ones just bawling their eyes out”, Wilson told the newspaper. He went on: “There were 70 of us, and that was just our group from that night. No one should be able to break people’s hearts like that”.

Campaigning against online ticket touting has been gaining momentum in a number of countries, of course, not least the UK via the FanFair initiative.

Viagogo comes in for particular criticism, though it is not alone. A common complaint raised by those campaigns is that many consumers remain confused by the difference between primary and secondary ticketing sites. Something the language traditionally used by secondary sites exacerbates.

Another disappointed Bruno Mars fan told Stuff that the Viagogo site had seemed “genuine and professional” when she bought her tickets for the show. She admitted that she did query her booking when the price of the tickets suddenly shot up from $184 to $526 each, but that she went ahead with the purchase because she desperately wanted to go to the concert. “I feel like a fool”, she told Stuff after being refused entry to the gig. “I should have stopped when I saw the price, but I didn’t, I went ahead and bought them”.

Secondary ticketing sites that want to advertise on Google do now need to be clearer about their unofficial status, following a recent change to the search engine’s advertiser rules. Although the jury is out on how effective those new regulations will be.

Meanwhile, back in New Zealand, Wilson took contact details from the other 70 people unable to enter this weekend’s Bruno Mars concert because of Viagogo-bought tickets. He and one other parent affected will now share those people’s grievances with the New Zealand’s government’s Commerce Commission, which already announced that it was investigating the secondary ticketing site last year. It remains to be seen what the Commission says to Wilson et al.

While lawmakers were mainly hesitant to regulate online ticket touting in the past, in the last couple of years there does seem to be more support in political circles for introducing new laws limiting secondary ticketing, or at least forcing some transparency on the resale market.