Last week, hundreds of punters were turned away at the gates after purchasing what they believed to be legitimate tickets through Viagogo to Australian dates of Elton John’s current farewell tour.
As The Music reported, around 200 fans at Sir Elton’s show in Adelaide alone were told they had purchased fraudulent tickets and were unable to enter the venue with them.
If you’re unfamiliar with them, Viagogo is a Swiss ticket resale website that has long been criticised for allowing scalpers to sell overpriced tickets to events while charging exorbitant fees in the process.
In 2018, musicians like Tash Sultana and Gang of Youths along with Laneway Festival backed a campaign to have the company banned in Australia, and earlier this year, the company was found guilty of misleading consumers by the Australian Federal Court.
Back in July of this year, Google suspended Viagogo from advertising in search results. However, the suspension apparently hasn’t lasted very long, and Viagogo has returned to appearing at the top of paid search results.
Over the weekend The Project reported on the incident, chatting to Mushroom Group and Frontier Touring founder Michael Gudinski.
“I’m appalled, I’m frustrated, and I think the whole thing is a ridiculous scam that’s taken years to get rid of, that’s come back right at us,” commented Gudinski.
“People are gullible sometimes. A lot of these shows aren’t even sold out. Scalping is one thing. What they do is they take a ticket and sell the same ticket a hundred times. It’s criminal, it’s fraudulent, and I feel so sorry for so many of the fans.”
“They’re not scalpers, they’re robbers. How they sleep at night is beyond me.”
When asked whether the government should be involved, Gudinski replied “Look, it’s a federal issue. The government was involved, and the ACCC certainly got the Google advertising stopped, after it took us a number of years. Here we are a few months later, they’re back on top.”
Gudinski isn’t the only one to criticise the company. Last week, Chugg Entertainment head Michael Chugg told The Music, “We’ve just got to keep fighting. It’s fucking terrible and people are getting caught up in this shit. Google needs to realise they’re doing the wrong thing.”
Live Performance Australia CEO Evelyn Richardson commented in a statement “Our industry has been calling out Viagogo for its misleading practices for some time now, and it has also been subject to Federal Court action by the ACCC.”
“I have today written to Google’s Australia and New Zealand managing director, Melanie Silva, seeking an urgent clarification of the commitments that have been given by Viagogo around its business practices and how these conform with the standards Google expects of its advertisers. We have also sought her assurance that consumers who commence their ticket purchase journey through Google can expect the full protections afforded by Australian Consumer Law.”
“Consumers beware,” Richardson added. “Viagogo has form, and we have grave concerns about its business practices.”
UPDATE 09/12/19, 3.21pm: Viagogo has issued a statement in response. Read it in full below.
“We’ve listened to our customers and we have made improvements to our platform so customers feel safe and secure using our website to access tickets to events. We are also committed to the viagogo guarantee. This ensures that, if a problem arises, we will step in to provide comparable replacement tickets or a refund.
“Viagogo has worked over the past few months with Google to address their concerns. A free, open and transparent ticket resale market is in the interests of consumers. It provides a valuable mechanism to recoup the cost of unwanted tickets and protects against fraud and the kind of scams that previously plagued the streets outside venues.
“It also gives fans a second chance to see an event they might have missed due to the long lead-in time for major events; or buy a ticket at the last minute if your team performed unexpectedly at a knock-out sporting event; or to access tickets that may not otherwise ever reach the general public (like promotional or corporate tickets or tightly held season tickets).
“We are focused on stamping out bot technology. We have repeatedly asked the primary ticket market to work with us to deliver a better experience for fans, but unfortunately, they aren’t interested.
“We also believe event organisers should be prohibited from cancelling tickets purely on the basis they have been resold. This is absolutely unfair for Australians fans. If you can sell your clothes, your car even your house when your circumstances change, why can’t you sell a concert ticket?”