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90% of tickets on Viagogo sold by commercial touts, says New Zealand Commerce Commission

By | Published on Friday 17 February 2023


New Zealand’s Commerce Commission this week told the High Court in Auckland that 90% of the tickets sold via often controversial secondary ticketing platform Viagogo are put on sale by professional touts. It also revealed that the consumer rights regulator has received 1300 complaints or communications about the ticket resale site.

The Commission first filed legal proceedings against Viagogo all the way back in 2018, accusing it of breaching New Zealand’s consumer protection laws. The various issues raised by the regulator echoed complaints made about the secondary ticketing platform by artists, politicians and consumer rights groups in multiple other countries.

That includes misleading communications – both on the Viagogo site and in its Google ads – about the status of ticket sellers on the platform, the total price of tickets once all fees have been added, the availability of tickets, and the guarantee that Viagogo offers its customers.

On that latter point, Viagogo pledges to refund a customer’s money if the touted tickets they buy don’t get them into a show.

But touts and touting sites generally have been widely criticised for not clearly communicating the risk of touted tickets being cancelled by a promoter, while Viagogo specifically has faced criticism for making it tricky to even get the refund when that happens.

As part of its legal action, the Commission initially sought an injunction forcing Viagogo to stop some of those practices immediately, while the wider litigation went through the motions.

However, in the end that didn’t happen because Viagogo voluntarily agreed to make some changes to its site in the country. But the wider legal case continues and has now finally reached court.

The Commission is, of course, aware that a common Viagogo defence is that it’s mainly a platform to allow music fans who, for some reason, can’t attend a show to sell on their non-refundable tickets.

With that in mind, the Commission’s opening statement in court stressed that Viagogo is, in fact, mainly a marketplace for commercial level touts – or ‘scalpers’ if you prefer.

According to Stuff, the Commission’s legal rep, Andy Luck, told the court in Auckland: “Viagogo admits that over 90% of tickets that are sold in New Zealand are from scalpers; people selling tickets in commercial quantities. It’s a website for ticket scalpers to sell to the general public”.

Luck then summarised various issues with Viagogo and the way it promotes and advertises tickets. The touts using the platform often used bots to hoover up tickets from primary sites, he said. And some touts advertise for sale tickets they don’t even have yet, he added, something Viagogo should be doing more to stop.

Viagogo and the touts that use it also know there’s a real risk customers with touted tickets won’t get into a show. “That’s known in Viagogo as ‘Refused At Gate’ or RAG”, Luck said, adding: “That risk is not fairly represented to buyers”.

In response, Viagogo’s legal rep Aaron Lloyd denied that the platform misleads customers about the unofficial status of its sellers and bigged up the company’s money back guarantee. And while some of the criticisms made against specific touts may be justified, he said, anger about those issues shouldn’t be directed at Viagogo.

The court case is due to conclude early next month.