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Commerce Commission describes Viagogo as a ‘marketplace for scalpers and fraudsters’ in Auckland High Court
New Zealand’s Commerce Commission described ticket reseller of Viagogo of “extensive fraudulent behaviour” in the Auckland High Court yesterday.
Seeking an injunction to prohibit the Swiss-based reseller site from making misleading claims on its website, Lawyers representing the Commission described Viagogo as a "marketplace for scalpers and fraudsters" in their submission to Court today.
Commerce Commission lawyer Nicholas Flanagan said the company was misleading New Zealand consumers about ticket availability, final fees and consumer guarantees having received over 600 complaints about allegedly over-priced or invalid tickets.
Having not been expected to appear at the hearing, Viagogo was represented by MinterEllisonRuddWatts partner Aaron Lloyd on a "Pickwick basis" (with no written submissions prepared).
Lloyd told the Court that it was "easy for the Commission to put the boot into my client" with what he called "hyperbole" when Viagogo had in fact been a successful business for 10 years - and that it could not have been successful for that period if its service was based on misrepresentation.
He argued that Viagogo should be served in its home country of Switzerland.
Viagogo had no place of business in New Zealand, he said, and its website was based offshore.
The Commission has argued that serving in Switzerland would take at least six months.
Lloyd said his appearance did not mean Viagogo accepted local jurisdiction. He indicated a protest would be filed on that basis.
However, in the middle of proceedings, the two sides appeared to reach a possible agreement that could include changes to how the website was worded, as well as a more upfront approach to how fees were added.
Earlier in the day the Commission presented evidence of what it claimed were Viagogo's misrepresentations.
It included affidavits from New Zealanders who had purchased tickets off Viagogo only to find the tickets had been sold multiple times. Other customers who bought tickets off the site discovered they had been charged more than they had agreed to.
Evidence was also presented by Flanagan that scalpers were encouraged to target events such as the 2017 Lions rugby tour, with emails sent out to potential sellers alerting them to the on-sell potential of the matches.
Subsequent checks by New Zealand Rugby at stadium gates found hundreds of spectators with invalid or fraudulent tickets that had been purchased via Viagogo.
Tickets to All Blacks games came under the Major Events Management Act which makes it illegal to sell the tickets to national rugby games for higher than their face value.
Judge Patricia Courtney requested memoranda from both sides by the end of the week to address questions she had regarding the case. She did not give a time-frame for when her ruling would be made.
Viagogo made changes to its United KIngdom website following orders won by the UK’s Competition Markets Authority in November last year. However, this year the CMA has expressed "serious concerns" Viagogo is not following another part of the orders - to submit to an independent review of instances were its ticket guarantee was not followed through.
After the hearing, Viagogo sent the following statement to the New Zealand Herald, advising:
"All tickets on Viagogo are valid and it is perfectly legal to resell a ticket or give it to someone else if you want to. The tickets sold on Viagogo's platform are genuine tickets that have been sold on by the original ticket purchaser in good faith. Viagogo aims to provide buyers with the widest possible choice of tickets to events, and enables sellers to reach a global audience. Every ticket is backed with the Viagogo guarantee."
Editor's note: Received from Viagogo following our publication of the news item Commerce Commission interim injunction against Viagogo set for New Zealand High Court hearing.
8th December 2018 - Viagogo agrees to UK competition authority demands on ticket resales
12th September 2018 - Viagogo responds to calls for Google AdWords service to reject its resales
15th August 2018 - New Zealand Commerce Commission begins court action against Viagogo
8th August 2018 - New Zealand Rugby calls meeting to help fans tackle ticket resellers
5th June 2018 - FIFA makes criminal complaint against ticket reseller Viagogo
3rd March 2018 - Lions tour helps deliver 2017 profit for New Zealand Rugby
8th February 2018 - Google to demand ticket resale site transparency
23rd November 2017 - Google updates AdWords policy to restrict online ticket scalpers
30th August 2017 - Consumer NZ calls for clampdown on ticket resellers
28th August 2017 - ACCC commences legal action against ticket reseller Viagogo
20th April 2017 - Consumer NZ investigates ticket resellers
23rd February 2017 - Ticket reseller Viagogo hit by multiple Spanish legal actions
13th January 2017 - Southlanders warned about overseas ticketing websites
24th September 2016 - Growing use of bots for hot sport and entertainment tickets reignite scalping debate
30th August 2016 - Baycourt warns against online ticket scalpers
28th June 2016 - New Zealand Rugby denies price gouging over Lions tour tickets
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