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Google urged to block online resellers who dupe ticket buyers
Consumer advocates have accused Google of being "complicit" in the controversial tactics used by some ticket resellers to allegedly dupe Australians ticket buyers into paying high fees entertainment and sport events.
Australian consumer group Choice, along with partner organisation Consumer NZ, has called on the internet search giant to stop accepting payments from ticket reselling companies that sees them placed at the top of internet ticket searches – generally above the official ticket sellers.
Earlier this week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced it was taking ticket reseller Viagogo to court for allegedly engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct.
The Swiss-based company, which also operates in the US, Europe and New Zealand, describes itself as an online ticket marketplace that allows consumers to buy and sell tickets to sporting events, concerts, and plays.
A joint Choice/Consumer NZ survey released on Wednesday showed multiple consumer about ticket resellers including Viagogo, Stubhub and TicketmasterResale.
They found that 79% of complainants mistakenly believed they were purchasing tickets from the official seller.
Choice spokesperson Tom Godfrey explained “once you land on a resale site, you don't really stand a chance with resellers using tricky tactics such as disguising buttons to look similar to authorised sellers or making 'official' claims.
"Search engines such as Google are complicit in the confusion because they allow resale websites to place paid links above official sites in search results."
On 29th August - a day after the ACCC launched proceedings against Viagogo — the top Google search results for ‘Ed Sheeran tickets’ and ‘Ashes tickets’ were ads for Viagogo.
Both Viagogo links included the word ‘official’.
Last month, Cricket Australia cancelled almost 3,000 tickets being sold via resale websites at inflated prices for December’s Ashes Test in Perth.
Godfrey added “clearly Google has a lot of work to do.
"As you go through these sites, claims that these resellers are the official site, claims that they offer consumer protection, lead consumers to believe that everything is okay, and it just isn't."
However, Google defends its advertising approval process.
The internet giant's advertising policy states that Google does not "allow ads or destinations that intend to deceive users by excluding relevant information or giving misleading information about products, services, or businesses".
Google also states that it bars advertisers which promise "products, services, or promotional offers that aren't easily found from the landing page".
A Google spokeswoman told the ABC that the internet giant did not comment on individual advertisers, advising in a statement “to make sure that ads are safe and appropriate for everyone, all ads go through an approval process using the AdWords advertising policies.
"Users can lodge complaints if they believe an advertiser breaches these policies and all complaints are investigated. Ads that violate our terms and conditions we will be removed."
Choice said the internet has given ticket resellers an air of legitimacy, but consumers still need to be vigilant, with Godfrey adding “if you saw these sellers in front of the venue there's no way you'd approach them and buy a ticket.
"What we're seeing is widespread fraud through this industry. We'd like to see a crackdown on misleading online advertising.
"The promoters, the venues and the ticketing companies need to be more transparent about the number of seats and tickets available.
"That way consumers can legitimately on-sell tickets without fear of being ripped off."
A petition to have Viagogo removed from Google can be found at www.ipetitions.com/petition/to-have-viagogo-removed-from-google
Lower image shows a Google search for Ashes tickets with the Viagogo listing stating 'Official Site'.
30th August 2017 - CONSUMER NZ CALLS FOR CLAMPDOWN ON TICKET RESELLERS
28th August 2017 - ACCC COMMENCES LEGAL ACTION AGAINST TICKET RESELLER VIAGOGO
24th August 2017 - CRICKET AUSTRALIA CANCELS 3,000 SCALPED TICKETS FOR PERTH ASHES TEST
8th August 2017 - LPA RELEASES GUIDE TO HELP CONSUMERS AVOID TICKETING SCAMS
17th May 2017 - PROMOTERS SLAM EXCLUSIVE WELLINGTON VENUES TICKET DEAL
20th April 2017 - CONSUMER NZ INVESTIGATES TICKET RESELLERS
8th March 2017 - CHOICE MAGAZINE ACCUSES TICKET RESALE SITES OF MISLEADING FANS
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
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