The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has instituted proceedings against online ticket reseller Viagogo, alleging that the company has breached the Australian Consumer Law.
The announcement has been made following the issuing of urgent warnings from Australia's state governments to consumers about the dangers of using the company to purchase tickets.
It's alleged that Viagogo made false or misleading representations, and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, regarding the price of tickets on its online platform by failing to disclose substantial fees -- including a 27.6 percent booking fee for most events.
The company, which is headquartered in Geneva, has been the subject of numerous complaints made to consumer watchdogs across the country by furious customers who have had refunds refused and been hit with heavily marked-up prices and hidden fees when using the site.
A total of 473 complaints were made about Viagogo to the ACCC this year, which is alleged to have misled consumers by promoting itself as an authorised ticket seller in search engine advertisements.
"By using the word 'official', we allege that Viagogo represented in these ads that consumers could buy official original tickets, when in fact Viagogo is a platform for tickets that are being on-sold by others," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
Viagogo operates as a secondary market for ticket-selling, often for the most popular, high-profile and in demand concerts and events. Ticketholders who have made purchases through official outlets often list their tickets at a high markup on the site for others to buy.
For example, in relation to tickets advertised on Viagogo on 18 May 2017:
- The price of a Book of Mormon ticket increased from $135 to $177.45 (31% increase) when the $37.50 booking fee and $4.95 handling fees were included
- The total price for three Ashes 2017-18 tickets increased from $330.15 to $426.82 (29% increase) when the $91.71 booking fee and $4.95 handling fees were included
- The total price for two Cat Stevens tickets increased from $450.00 to $579.95 (29% increase) when the $125 booking fee and $4.95 handling fees were included
In the past eight months, NSW Fair Trading alone has received 187 complaints and 237 enquiries from consumers about the company, according to Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean.
"With most complaints relating to two or more tickets, Fair Trading has estimated around 600 consumers have been ripped off at a cost of almost $130,000," he said.
"This is simply not good enough, when consumers buy a product they rightly expect to get what they pay for.
"I'm putting consumers first and that's why I'm issuing an urgent public warning about Viagogo's unfair and unsatisfactory business services and practices."
Queensland's Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath issued a similar warning over the weekend and noted that Viagogo has refused to engage with the state's Office of Fair Trading.
"The number of complaints received and the failure of Viagogo to attempt to resolve them is very concerning," D'Ath said.
"Viagogo's conduct to date shows they have little interest in resolving consumer complaints and are unwilling to act in good faith if something goes wrong.
"Until such time as Viagogo improves its business practices, I urge consumers to think twice before dealing with them."
The Western Australian government has also said that 45 complaints have been received in relation to Viagogo ticket sales, up from only nine in 2016.
Aussies hoping to snag a ticket to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games have been warned against using Viagogo, where tickets to the opening ceremony are currently advertised for over $1000.
The only thing is, the actual tickets haven't been issued yet.
"And even when they are, the terms and conditions of Games tickets prevents their resale in this manner," D'Ath said.
"Any consumer buying scalped Games ticket can expect to be refused entry when they turn up at the gate."
However, it wouldn't be the first time ticketholders who have bought through Viagogo were refused entry -- of the 143 people refused entry to this year's Hopman Cup in Perth, 129 had bought tickets through the site.
In March, an 18-year-old was turned away from a performance of The Book of Mormon in Melbourne after purchasing an 'invalid' ticket through Viagogo for $257.
Scalpers commonly use the site to resell tickets at inflated prices or go one step further and sell copies of the tickets to several buyers.
Viagogo has been the subject of an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which is currently in it's final stages.