Hundreds are complaining about Viagogo selling tickets to events before tickets are even available

Adele tickets are among those sold by Viagogo. Photo: Robert Gauthier/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

If you search for tickets for concerts or sport matches online, chances are the website at the top of the listings will be Swiss company Viagogo.

The business has been accused of scamming consumers by pretending to sell tickets to events before they’ve officially gone on sale, selling fake tickets and charging massively inflated prices.

Recently Viagogo was advertising tickets for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games – before they were even on sale.

It’s become one of the most complained about companies in Australia and authorities appear powerless to do anything about it.

On the weekend, New South Wales better regulation minister Matt Kean issued a “warning” about the business.

Queensland attorney-general Yvette D’Ath said people should “think twice before dealing with them”.

And that’s it.

Kean was unable to say what further action his office or the NSW Fair Trading could or planned to take when asked about it this morning.

The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission subsequently announced, following the publication of this story, that it was launching legal action against Viagogo for breaches of Australian Consumer Law and misleading or deceptive conduct.

Authorities in the UK, the US and Switzerland are also believed to be investigating.

Others have been lobbying Google to stop Viagogo appearing at the top of search results – most often as a paid advertisement.

Google has said previously that it “detailed policies designed to promote a safe and positive experience for our users” and people should complain if consumers think its policies have been breached.

Kean said in 2017 NSW Fair Trading received 187 complaints, and 237 enquiries, about Viagogo and 600 consumers had been “ripped off” nearly $130,000.

“Complaints to date have included delayed delivery, events being cancelled, heavily marked-up prices, hidden fees, and failure to provide refunds,” he said.

“I’m issuing an urgent public warning about Viagogo’s unfair and unsatisfactory business services and practices.”

Kean said Fair Trading tried more than 194 times to contact Viagogo about the complaints and was ignored until it said the public warning was coming.

Viagogo appeared on Fair Trading’s monthly complaints register eight times between November 2016 and July 2017, and was in the top five most complained about traders on five occasions.

Viagogo launched in Australia in late 2013.

D’Ath told a similar story with the Queensland Office of Fair Trading (QOFT) receiving 43 complaints in the last 12 months about tickets with incorrect names, that are fake, or don’t arrive.

“Claims of hidden fees and charges are common,” she said.

Adele, Midnight Oil and Paul McCartney concerts as well as the State of Origin have been among the problems and again, Viagogo ignored Queensland officials.

“The number of complaints received and the failure of Viagogo to attempt to resolve them is very concerning,” D’Ath said.

Queensland also has tough laws on reselling tickets that could land the buyer in trouble. It’s illegal to resell or buy resold tickets for more than 10% above face value for events at Queensland’s major venues.

Complaints and media awareness about the problem has been ongoing for more than five months. ABC TV’s consumer rights show The Checkout covered some of Viagogo’s behaviour in a comic sketch in April:

Consumer advocacy group Choice has been campaigning against Viagogo, saying it found listings for Adele’s concert advertised as the “Cheapest in Sydney!” at $145, which was $41 more than the cheapest tickets still available through the official outlet.

It also told the story of Dugald Docherty, who paid $2201 for a ticket to see Barcelona and Real Madrid play. When ill health prevented him from going to the game, he spent five months trying to get Viagogo to resell or refund the tickets and subsequently discovered that the most expensive genuine tickets cost $442, that amid a $1759 price gouge, there was a $512 “service charge”.

A representative for Real Madrid also confirmed the Viagogo ticket was not authentic because tickets only go on sale the week before a match. Docherty bought his ticket eight months beforehand.

He eventually received a refund after the fraud was pointed out to Viagogo.