Viagogo faces a month-long civil trial in New Zealand’s High Court from today (Wednesday) as its long-standing battle with the country’s market watchdog continues.
The Commerce Commission began action against the resale site five years ago after a series of complaints from fans who claimed to have bought fake tickets and paid over the odds for sporting fixtures and music events.
Under threat of a court injunction, Viagogo made several changes to its operations in New Zealand in response to the regulator’s claims in 2020, but the Commerce Commission is still chasing further action.
The commission is asking the court to formally declare that Viagogo has breached the Fair Trading Act. It also wants the clause that was in Viagogo’s contract, which claimed it could only be sued by customers in New Zealand through the Swiss courts, to be formally declared unfair.
The hearing was to start on Monday, but it was delayed for two days due to fears over Cyclone Gabrielle.
The Commerce Commission began civil proceedings against Viagogo in August 2018. It accused Viagogo of breaching New Zealand’s Fair Trading Act by claiming, among other things, to be an ‘official’ seller when it was not and that tickets were limited or about to sell out.
In May 2020, Viagogo, under threat of a formal injunction, agreed to take reasonable steps to ensure that the phrases “All tickets 100% guaranteed!” or “100% guaranteed” would not appear in Google search results.
At the time, Mary-Anne Borrowdale, the commission’s general counsel, consumer and competition, said that while the changes meant it would not pursue an injunction, the substantive case remained resolved.
She said at the time: “The main case continues and we will continue to move towards a full hearing on the matters we first raised in August 2018. We still urge ticket buyers to purchase from official ticket websites. Avoid clicking on the first internet search result you see for an event. Scroll down the page and find the official ticket outlet or, if you aren’t sure, visit the artist’s or organiser’s website to find out who is the official ticket seller.”
Viagogo managing director Cris Miller said: “Viagogo cannot make detailed comment on the legal claims while the matter is before the court. However, we can say that the issues raised by the Commerce Commission relate to the way our ticketing website worked in the past and do not reflect current operations. We believe that we have addressed the matters of concern raised by the NZ Commerce Commission and have made it a priority to ensure the Viagogo website is operated transparently and in compliance with consumer expectations and consumer protection legislation. We remain committed to complying with these requirements.
“While it would be easy to prejudge Viagogo in this matter, we ask that you allow the court process to play out and hear the perspective of both sides.”