POLITICS

Labor Wants A Crackdown On 'Rip Off' Ticket Scalping Sites

Tickets for a cancer benefit are being resold at a 300 percent markup on Viagogo.

09/06/2017 12:22 PM AEST | Updated 09/06/2017 3:52 PM AEST
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Calls are growing for a crackdown on ticket resale websites, with the Labor party adding its voice to the push after revelations tickets for a cancer fundraiser were being resold at three times their original value.

As reported by News Corp, tickets to Melbourne's 'Playing It Forward' concert -- in benefit of musicians' charity Support Act and the Olivia Newton-John Wellness Centre -- were released in a limited pre-sale this week. The concert is to help support Aussie musician Stuart Fraser, a founding member of Noiseworks and a player in bands alongside John Farnham and Jimmy Barnes, who was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Tickets to the concert retail for between $109.90 and $149.90 on official ticketing websites, but soon after the pre-sale allocation ran out, News Corp reported a pair of tickets were advertised on resale site Viagogo for $900 -- that's $450 each.

Viagogo and similar sites like Ticketmaster Resale operate as a secondary market for ticket-selling, often for the most popular, high-profile and in-demand concerts. Once tickets have been purchased from official outlets, ticketholders can list them on these marketplaces -- often at a high markup -- for others to buy. Some tickets are being resold because ticketholders cannot attend or made a mistake in purchasing, but some are bought and resold purely for profit.

While there is nothing legally wrong with this, shadow arts minister Tony Burke is calling for stronger regulations to protect consumers from highly inflated ticket prices, and to protect promoters from having tickets to their events scalped on marketplaces such as Viagogo, Ebay and Gumtree.

Sites like Viagogo and Ticketmaster Resale have been the subject of complaints to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, following repeated similar incidents around tickets for high-profile concerts for Justin Bieber and Midnight Oil.

Burke said tickets being sold for a huge mark-up for a charity concert presented "a new low".

"Australians are continuing to be ripped off online through the website Viagogo," he said in a statement.

"The problem is not getting better, it's getting worse.

"For anyone who buys their fundraising tickets (at a markup), the money doesn't go to the charitable cause, it goes to people who are ripping off concertgoers and there's every chance that when you turn up, you won't get in the door anyway."

Just last week, Burke spoke in parliament about the issue, and introduced a motion into the House of Representatives calling on the government to take action to crackdown on the practice, following scalpers snapping up tickets to Ed Sheeran's upcoming Australian tour.

"For Ed Sheeran, within a few days tickets that were worth less than $200 were being resold for about $3500. And in that resale market there is no guarantee that the people who buy them will ever even get in the door. I have found when I have been to events that people who we were meant to meet never even got in the door because when they turned up they discovered they had purchased fake tickets," Burke said.

Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack, whose portfolio includes consumer affairs, told HuffPost Australia that the government was aware of the problems.

"There are a number of the issues surrounding online ticket purchasing, not only issues concerning consumers being misled about the price of tickets but also technological issues concerning 'bots' which enable the automatic purchase of a large number of tickets which are then resold at a higher price," he said in a statement.

"It is important that consumers know that existing consumer law protections do apply to ticket scalping practices and offer protection against ticket scalping activities. In particular, it is against the law to mislead or deceive consumers or make false representations to consumers. Consumers should also know that their consumer guarantee rights apply."

"I have also asked the Treasury to work with the Department of Communications and Arts to see what more can be done to protect consumers."

In some cases (examples here, here and here), scalpers sell the same ticket to many different people, emailing the same ticket to multiple victims and leaving them all disappointed when they are refused entry to the concert or sporting event.

Burke is calling on search engines like Google and Bing to stop listing links to sites like Viagogo, to stop hopeful ticket buyers from resorting to spending vast sums of money on inflated or fake tickets.

HuffPost Australia has contacted Viagogo for comment.

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