New Zealand consumer agency claims court win against Viagogo

New Zealand’s top court has ordered Viagogo to handle customer disputes through the country’s own legal system following a six-year battle.

The Commerce Commission said it has achieved a legal victory over the ticket reseller “after the company repeatedly mislead customers about its authenticity as an official ticket seller, its status as a resale platform, and the price, scarcity, and validity of tickets”.

The government agency’s legal action against Viagogo began in 2018, concluding with the High Court’s ruling against the company. It involved a period in which the company challenged efforts to subject it to New Zealand jurisdiction. The High Court trial finally began last February.

Fair Trading General Manager Vanessa Horne said Viagogo went so far as to require in its terms and conditions that any customer disputes had to be dealt with through the Swiss courts, which the High Court has now deemed to be an “unfair contract term” under the Fair Trading Act.

The High Court has ordered that Viagogo correct the misleading information on its website and update its terms and conditions in contracts with consumers to allow for customer disputes to be dealt with through the New Zealand courts.

The Commerce Commission said Viagogo has indicated it will appeal the decision.

‘Viagogo among most-complained about traders’

Horne said Viagogo was one of the Commission’s most complained about traders, as many Kiwi consumers were unknowingly buying tickets that were not valid for admission. She added that Viagogo was denying New Zealanders protections enshrined under the Fair Trading Act.

Horne said: “The Commission is aware of a large number of reports from consumers who had purchased event tickets from Viagogo, booked flights and travel to attend the event, only to be turned away at the entrance when they found out for the first time that their tickets weren’t authentic. This resulted in significant distress and financial impacts for consumers.

“We took this case on behalf of every one of those Kiwi consumers and pursued this large global entity over more than eight years – and we now have a ruling that will require Viagogo to be upfront with Kiwi consumers about what they’re buying and ensure a fairer resolution system for settling disputes against Viagogo in the future.”

History of the legal battle

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.

Posted in Asia | LegalTagged |