Consumer NZ is urging the Commerce Commission to take action against ticket resellers like Viagogo, after an investigation suggested exploitation of consumers is rife on the sites.
Among numerous alarming stories uncovered by Consumer NZ and its Australian counterpart, Choice, following the four-month investigation were one of a rugby fan who paid a 700 per cent mark-up for a Crusaders vs Hurricanes Super Rugby ticket.
Mark-ups of more than 500 per cent were said to be common, and the consumer watchdogs’ research suggested that international scalping groups were exploiting the reselling market.
A major part of the problem lay with the websites – including Viagogo, StubHub, Ticketmaster Resale, GetMeIn and Seatwave – using Google advertising to push their promotions to the top of Google search results and labelling their offers as “official”.
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Consumer NZ head of research Jessica Wilson urged the Commerce Commission to follow the lead of its Australian counterpart and take legal action against the resellers. The New Zealand body says it is investigating.
Wilson said action was also needed from event promoters and official ticket agencies, who she said “pressured” consumers to pay excessive prices for tickets from resale sites. Promoters and ticket companies should be clear about the number of tickets available for general sale, the number of events planned and the number of seats per venue.
Other findings from the research were that:
* 56 per cent of people were charged extra fees on top of the ticket price
* 89 per cent of complaints regarding hidden fees were about Viagogo
* 11 per cent of purchasers said they had paid for tickets that never arrived
* 8 per cent reported receiving fake tickets
Wilson said the investigation also found 85 per cent of purchasers didn’t know they were dealing with a ticket resale site.
There was a total of 1051 consumers (184 from NZ) who expressed dismay at steep prices, hidden fees and confusion about who they were dealing with.
They also complained about poor customer service, tickets never arriving and fraudulent tickets.
Wilson said search engines also had a part to play in making sure consumers knew who was behind ticket offers promoted in search results.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has begun action in the Federal Court accusing Viagogo of a range of misleading or deceptive conduct, including duping customers about the true cost of seats at big-name concerts and sporting events.
It includes an alleged failure to disclose “significant and unavoidable fees up-front in the ticket price”, such as a 27.6 per cent booking fee that’s applied to most events, the watchdog said.
The NZ Commerce Commission is under way with its own investigation into Viagogo, after 60 complaints were made by NZ consumers.
The commission would not comment any further, however it did encourage consumers to read information on ticket reselling via their website before purchasing event tickets.
Some Kiwi ticket buyers have been left devastated after forking out thousands of dollars for tickets through resale sites.
In November, Simone Mohr shelled out $3000 for Adele tickets on Viagogo after missing out on the official Ticketmaster release, only to have them rejected at the stadium because the original buyer had been refunded for them. As well, they were revealed to be worth just $800.
Consumer NZ said it was acceptable for legitimate ticket holders to sell tickets to events that they could not go to, on the likes of TradeMe.
Wilson said the confusion was a result of resellers advertising themselves as official sites “and consumers get tripped up by them”.
Viagogo has been contacted for comment via its Facebook page.