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Government investigation demanded for ticket scalping practices (Music Insight)

You’re about to buy tickets for an artist you’ve been dying to see, only to find them priced three times higher than you’d expected.

You’ve been ripped off, and you’re not alone.

Consumer advocate group CHOICE recently released a report which found that many Australian concert goers are being exploited through third party websites that engage in dishonest commercial practices by producing fake or highly over-priced tickets.

In the same week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced it would take ticket resale company Viagogo to the Federal Court for alleged breaches of Australian Consumer Law.

The CHOICE study examined 1051 complaints from over 27 countries, including 438 in Australia, 353 in the UK, and 184 in New Zealand. The report singled out multiple reseller websites for their resale practices, including Viagogo, Ticketmaster Resale, Seatwave, StubHub and GETMEIN.

The CHOICE report, released in August, also showed the practice of hidden fees and price over-inflation was rife within the industry. The report singled out the practice of ‘artificial scarcity’ (where tickets are labelled as ‘selling fast’ or ‘only a few seats left’), which was particularly notable for high profile acts such as Adele, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and Harry Styles.

According to the report:

“Promoters are using tactics that create artificial scarcity and increase demand for tickets. These tactics create confusion about the number of tickets available and fuel sales on the secondary ticketing market, leaving consumers open to harm.”

Such practices led to a huge amount of confusion for consumers, particular around whether a certain website was, in fact, a legitimate reseller. 56% of case studies were charged hidden fees that inflated the ticket price. Hidden fees were listed as taxes (including VAT), booking fees and handling/delivery fees (even for electronic ticket delivery).

The worst examples saw 8% of case studies misled and charged for fake seats, then denied entry when they attempted to enter venues. 11% of case studies didn’t even receive their purchased tickets.

Many of the ticket prices were more than 600% higher than their original face value price. Some of the worst examples included tickets for Adele (673%) and Ed Sheeran (657%).

The worst perpetrator was Viagogo, making up 89% of all complaints about hidden fee pricing.

The report called for multiple mechanisms to be put in place, including price caps, a total ban on resale and organised resale websites, bans on resale for major events, and for the inclusion of transparency measures, such as on what information has to be shown on resale websites.

Labor was quick to condemn the Federal Government for its lack of action, with Shadow Arts Minister Tony Burke and Shadow Consumer Affairs Minister Tim Hammond releasing a joint statement on Wednesday:

“From May 10 of this year, Labor has been calling on the Government to urgently look into the fake ticket reseller Viagogo and take action by talking to the major search engines to prevent consumers being exposed to the dishonest practice of being sold fake or overpriced tickets,” the statement said.

“Concerts, festivals and other live entertainment are one of the biggest discretionary purchases that consumers will make each a year. Consumers deserve to know that their hard-earned money will purchase them a legitimate ticket to the advertised event.

“For months now Labor has been advocating on behalf of consumers who have been ripped off by third-party ticket sellers when trying to purchase tickets to their favourite musicians or sporting teams and it is about time the Minister responsible did his job and stopped this disgraceful practice.”


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