Business News Digital Legal Live Business Top Stories

New Zealand regulator asks whether buying tickets from Viagogo is “worth the risk”

By | Published on Tuesday 6 March 2018


New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has told consumers to “seriously consider” whether buying tickets from Viagogo is “worth the risk”. The statement follows a flurry of coverage in the New Zealand press about Bruno Mars fans being turned away at the door after buying tickets to his shows through the often controversial secondary ticketing platform.

Writer Tommy Wilson, who was attending a Mars gig with his wife and daughter, was among those who found their Viagogo acquired tickets didn’t grant them entry. He told the New Zealand Herald that about 70 people were turned away from the venue that night, all with tickets bought at hiked up prices on the resale site. He had taken all of those people’s contact details and planned to complain on their behalf to the Commission.

For its part, the Commission is already investigating Viagogo, the most controversial of all the ticket resale sites. Yesterday it said in a statement: “The Commerce Commission is advising consumers to seriously consider whether buying tickets from ticket reselling website Viagogo is worth the risk after the latest series of complaints”.

The Commission, which exists to enforce fair trading and competition laws in New Zealand, says it has now received 228 complaints about Viagogo. Twenty one of those came in this weekend in relation to Celine Dion, Ed Sheeran and Shania Twain shows, and some upcoming sporting events, as well as the aforementioned Bruno Mars concerts.

The regulator is focusing on those complains that centre on alleged “false representations” made by Viagogo or ticket resellers using its services. This includes the secondary site implying that it is an official seller, incorrect information being provided about tickets being sold, and messaging that suggests tickets for a show are running out across the board, when Viagogo only knows about tickets being sold on its platform.

Other complaints relate to fake tickets being sold, the same ticket being sold multiple times, or consumers not receiving tickets they have bought and struggling to get a refund. All the classic Viagogo complaints!

The Commission’s Stuart Wallace says: “Our investigation has been focused on alleged false and misleading representations made by Viagogo which could breach the Fair Trading Act. We are currently seeking expert legal advice on whether and how we can enforce New Zealand consumer laws against Viagogo which is based in Switzerland”.

He added: “Over the weekend we received a wave of new complaints and there is a wealth of media coverage of consumers feeling ripped off after buying tickets from Viagogo. We are concerned our previous consumer advice via social media and on our website about the risks of ticket resale are not getting through. We strongly advise consumers to have their eyes wide open if they are considering buying tickets from Viagogo”.

In line with advice given by anti-touting campaigners, like the FanFair Alliance in the UK, Wallace adds that consumers seeking tickets should start from the artist’s official website, and follow the links to primary ticket agents, rather than relying on a Google search, which will often have touted tickets at the top.

Wallace: “We suspect consumers type the name of the artist they want to see into a search engine and then click the first result that appears – which is often Viagogo. We recommend consumers buy from primary ticket sellers. They can do this by visiting the artist or event’s official website and following the links from there”.

The Commerce Commission also noted that some of its counterparts elsewhere in the world are also investigating Viagogo, including the Australian Competition And Consumer Commission, which has actually begun legal proceedings against the secondary site.

Those investigations come as the anti-touting campaign increases in volume in various countries, and lawmakers seem more willing than in the past to actively regulate – or even outlaw – the resale of tickets for profit online.