A judge in Australia has ordered Viagogo pay a $7 million fine over “misrepresentation” to consumers. Justice Stephen Burley issued the ruling in a case brought against the ticket resale marketplace by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Viagogo’s use of the word “official” in its marketing and claims about the scarcity of tickets were at the center of the lawsuit. Fees added to the price of tickets sold on its website were also raised as harmful to consumers in the case. The focus of the case was on the use of such terms and practices as far back as 2017, which led consumers to believe that the website was officially designated by venue or event organizers as a partner rather than an independently operating resale marketplace.
Justice Burley labelled such practices as “qualitatively a very serous representation.”
“It fundamentally misled consumers as to the nature of Viagogo’s business in order to attract consumers to acquire tickets,” he said.
Viagogo responded to the verdict by pointing out that it has “overhauled” its platform since the time of the initial accusations involved in the lawsuit in response to legal and civil challenges brought by government regulators in several countries, including the ACCC. “Viagogo is committed to providing an important service to consumers that use our platform,” a spokesman from the Swiss-based resale operation said.
2020 has not been kind to Viagogo, which closed a $4 billion purchase of competing marketplace StubHub in the first quarter, just as the pandemic began to grind live entertainment to a halt. Some have hypothesized that the debt load from that purchase coupled with the halt on business due to COVID-19 would force the company into bankruptcy. However, the company has continued on, drawing complaints for its policy shift against allowing refunds even for cancelled events, but still solvent.