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NZ Commerce Commission has strong case against Viagogo, lawyer says

New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has a strong chance of winning its case against Viagogo, according to an expert in competition law.

The Commission last week announced that it would commence civil proceedings in the country’s High Court against the Switzerland-based ticket resale website.

The proceedings will be held under the Fair Trading Act, and the Commission will be seeking declarations that Viagogo has breached the Act, an injunction restraining it from further breaches and corrective advertising orders.

The Commission will base its claim on its belief that Viagogo made false or misleading representations that it was an official ticket seller, when it was not; that tickets it marketed were limited or about to sell out; and that consumers were guaranteed to receive valid tickets for their event.

The Commission also believes Viagogo has made misleading claims about the price of tickets, stating that its ‘headline’ prices were unobtainable because of the addition of various fees.

The Commission will also allege that Viagogo’s contract includes an unfair contract term. The term states that all disputes brought by a consumer must be heard in Swiss courts under Swiss law, but Viagogo can choose to take court action against consumers in the consumer’s own country.

John Land, a lawyer for Bankside Chambers in Auckland, has expressed his belief that based on what the Commerce Commission has said about the case, there’s a good chance Viagogo will be found guilty.

He told the Newshub website: “If Viagogo have done what the commission says they’ve done, well, that looks like a breach of the Fair Trading Act.”

Land said he expects Viagogo to comply with any court orders, in the event of victory for the Commerce Commission, as otherwise it will be barred from New Zealand. He also compared the case to one involving GlaxoSmithKline and its Ribena drinks brand.

The decade-old case involved claims GlaxoSmithKline made about the levels of vitamin C in Ribena products. Land added: “What happened with the Ribena case was orders for half-page ads (in the) Saturday papers, four newspapers around the country, twice; plus the company had to put on their website for 28 days a statement saying what we said about vitamin C in Ribena was not correct. That’s exactly the sort of thing the commission will be looking for.”

New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has joined a growing group of international enforcement agencies who are bringing similar cases against Viagogo. The company faces court or enforcement action in SwitzerlandGermanyFranceSpainthe UK and Australia.

Since the beginning of 2017, the Commission said it has received more than 400 complaints about Viagogo, making it the most complained-about trader in that period.

Image: Soumil Koumar