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Regulator litigation could result in apology ads from Viagogo in New Zealand

By | Published on Monday 20 August 2018


A competition law expert in New Zealand has said that the country’s Commerce Commission has a good chance of winning in its legal battle with Viagogo, which could result in the always contentious secondary ticketing firm having to take out ads apologising for having misled the public.

The Commission last week announced that it would now take the ticket resale website to court after completing an investigation into its operations. The regulator’s legal action will allege that Viagogo has breached laws contained in New Zealand’s Fair Trading Act and will seek an injunction preventing future breaches.

Viagogo, of course, is the most controversial of all the secondary ticketing companies. It has been criticised by multiple regulators in multiple countries for confusing ticket buyers and breaking consumer rights law. And it is facing similar legal action by the Competition & Consumer Commission in Australia, plus the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority is also planning on taking the rogue resale service to court.

Speaking to Newshub earlier today, lawyer John Land of Bankside Chambers in Auckland said that the Commission had a good case against Viagogo based on the statements it put out last week. He told the broadcaster: “If Viagogo have done what the Commission says they’ve done, well, that looks like a breach of the Fair Trading Act”.

In addition to getting an injunction stopping Viagogo from breaching the country’s consumer rights laws, the Commission also said last week that it would seek a ‘corrective advertising order’. Land explained that in this scenario the company would be forced to take out adverts in various media correcting misleading statements it has previously made.

To illustrate how that works, he cited a high profile case that occurred in New Zealand a decade ago, when GlaxoSmithKline was accused of making misleading statements about how much vitamin C was contained in its Ribena drink in the country.

In that case, Land explains, GlaxoSmithKline was ordered to take out half page adverts in “four newspapers around the country, twice; plus the company had to put on their website for 28 days a statement saying ‘what we said about vitamin C in Ribena was not correct’. That’s exactly the sort of thing the Commission will be looking for”.

It remains to be seen how Viagogo responds to the action in New Zealand. With its base in Switzerland, the company has a reputation of ignoring the demands of regulators whenever it can. And, of course, it declined to attend a select committee hearing in the UK parliament on the secondary market, a very unusual step for a company with active operations in Britain.

Land reckons that Viagogo would comply with any court orders there, otherwise it would end up being banned from operating in New Zealand. Although, of course, as an internet-based business, it might be hard to enforce such a ban. Nevertheless, it does feel like an increasing number of hurdles are now being slowly placed in front of the Viagogo business, which might eventually force it to abandon its more anti-consumer policies or maybe even to ultimately call it a day entirely.