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Viagogo accused of “underhand profiteering” in its home country

By | Published on Friday 9 April 2021


Often controversial secondary ticketing website Viagogo is facing new legal action in the country where it is officially based, that being Switzerland.

The Consumer Protection Foundation in Bern – or the Stiftung für Konsumentenschutz if you prefer – has filed a criminal complaint against the ticket resale site, accusing Viagogo of fraud and unfair business practices.

The Foundation’s core allegation is that Viagogo is allowing sellers on its platform to sell tickets for shows that have already been cancelled because of ongoing COVID restrictions.

It says that in January this year it bought tickets for a comedy show in Switzerland itself and a music show in the Netherlands, both of which had already been cancelled at the point the transaction took place.

Subsequent requests for a refund were initially rejected by Viagogo, the Foundation claims, and while it may well ultimately get its money back, that process will likely take several months.

Viagogo, it then claims, is taking advantage of the chaos created by the pandemic – and confusion around different COVID rules in different countries and regions – to sell tickets for events that are not taking place. This, it reckons, is “underhand profiteering that urgently needs to be prohibited”.

It’s not the first time Viagogo has been targeted with legal action in its home country.

However, when Switzerland’s State Secretariat For Economic Affairs went legal over allegations Viagogo was not transparent about its status as a market place for ticket touts, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court dismissed the case. It ruled that Viagogo never claimed to be a primary ticket seller and does not otherwise issue false information about its business model.

Regarding the new allegations from the Consumer Protection Foundation about tickets being sold for already cancelled shows, Viagogo insists that any such sales are a mistake and that affected customers will get a full refund.

However, director of the pan-European campaign against for-profit ticket touting, Sam Shemtob at FEAT, welcomed the move by the Foundation. He told CMU: “It’s encouraging to see the Swiss consumer protection body stepping up with a criminal complaint, adding to nearly 60 legal cases and initiatives against secondary ticketing marketplaces that have taken place across Europe in recent years”.

Noting that proposed legal reforms in the European Union could further hinder Viagogo’s frequently criticised operations in the years ahead, Shemtob added: “While Viagogo does its best to flout national regulations, even closing European offices and ‘moving’ to Switzerland, regulators are catching up. The proposal for the upcoming Digital Services Act promises to close many of Viagogo’s favourite loopholes, including its efforts to evade EU law by being based ‘just outside'”.

UPDATE 15 Apr 2021, 5.00pm: A spokesperson for Viagogo has commented on this story, telling CMU: “The pandemic has created significant disruption to the live events industry, with thousands of events being postponed, rescheduled and cancelled. All players in the ticket market – including the primary market – are facing major challenges in this regard. Consequently, we are processing an enormous number of event reschedules around the world and apologise for any delays”.

“Once an event’s status is determined, we inform our users as quickly as possible. Should event status ever be incorrect at the time of purchase or an event be cancelled outright, buyers are entitled to a refund. If any tickets are on sale for cancelled events, this is an error and would be due to the many rapid event changes Viagogo is reviewing globally due to the current circumstances”.