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Australian court grants Viagogo reprieve over paying A$7m fine

Viagogo has been allowed to postpone paying its A$7m (£3.9m/€4.3m/$5m) fine for breaching the Australian Consumer Law by making false or misleading representations when reselling tickets to live events.

The Swiss secondary ticketing platform was handed the fine in October after the Federal Court found the controversial firm deceived consumers by claiming it was the ‘official’ seller of tickets and that certain tickets were scarce.

However, with an appeal against that decision pending, the Federal Court said Viagogo could delay paying the fine until proceedings concluded.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which enforces the Australian Consumer Law which applies to tickets as well as other consumer goods and services, brought legal action against the firm in 2017, and in April 2019 the court found Viagogo had misled consumers.

Viagogo is appealing that 2019 ruling, though the court last year ordered the firm to pay a fine of A$7m for its violations of Australian consumer rights law. The resale firm has since requested payment of that fine be put on hold pending the outcome of the appeal, which was approved yesterday (Thursday).

The firm also detailed how the COVID-19 had heavily impacted the live entertainment industry and had a “catastrophic effect” on its own revenue.

It reported a second-quarter net loss in 2020 and that it had been forced to significantly reduce its workforce, stating that being forced to pay the fine would result in further job losses.

The ACCC opposed the reprieve, claiming that a fine being potentially financially disastrous was not a basis for either a penalty not to be imposed or be stayed pending appeal.

However, the judge accepted Viagogo’s arguments, highlighting that the live industry could restart later this year. According to the Australian Associated Press, she added: “I note that the appellant is not suggesting it cannot now pay, rather it is the impact of doing so now that is relied on.”