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Viagogo defends business amid global backlash

"The ticket resale market exists with or without us."

Jack Derwin

Digital Journalist, Your Money

Facing global criticism, secondary ticket marketplace Viagogo has parachuted a top executive into Canberra to stage a charm offensive and avoid a tougher operating environment.

The second-hand ticket platform which allows ticket holders of often sold-out events to resell to fans has faced intense scrutiny for large price mark-ups and stories of fake tickets.

Speaking on TICKY, head of business development Cris Miller defended the business claiming it filled a gap in the market.

“The resale market exists with or without us. What we’re doing is filling a gap to make things more safe and secure,” he told Your Money chief business reporter Leo Shanahan.

“We believe it’s a beneficial service for a lot of fans.”

Miller also downplayed issues with the fraudulent tickets.

“Less than one per cent of the tickets on our website do actually have a problem and what we do in these rare instances is we step into the middle of that transaction and try to find a suitable replacement,” he claimed.

“If there is a problem like I said we offer a suitable replacement ticket. In the really rare extreme circumstances, we provide a refund.”

However, critics of the site argue otherwise.

Of 2,710 ratings given to Viagogo on Australian review site ProductReview, more than 90 per cent were one-star reviews.

The latest review online for Viagogo
The latest review online for Viagogo

Common complaints include inflated prices, large booking fees and high-pressure sales tactics online.

Australian artists have joined the chorus against Viagogo, including ARIA-winning band Gang of Youths who slammed it on Instagram as “one of the most disgraceful and disruptive scams over live industry has faced in recent years”.

Gang of Youths, who took to Instagram to mount the attack of the platform late last year, asked for case studies from fans on the site’s practices to help mount political pressure to ban the company from Australia.

Labor had already indicated that if it were to take office in the upcoming federal election, it would cap the resale price of tickets at 10 per cent more than the original value.

That would cut Viagogo’s margins in less than half, with the ACCC alleging in 2017 that the company had “failed to disclose significant and unavoidable fees upfront in the ticket price, including a 27.6 per cent booking fee for most events and a handling fee.”

Another sore point for consumers is Viagogo’s prominent position as the top ad result for ticket searches online, placing it above official outlets.

Just last year Labor MP and shadow arts minister Tony Burke lashed the online re-seller in Parliament.

“When they’re selling something that turns out to not be valid, they’re engaging in theft,” Burke said.

“Can we continue with a situation where the search engines are receiving advertising dollars to continue to promote sites like that?”

Regarding the company’s policy of refunding customers in extreme cases, Burke said it wasn’t satisfactory.

“Viagogo’s official policy is if you turn up and it turns out to be a fake ticket, they’ll give you your money back. Well, that’s not much good if you’ve flown to be at the venue,” he said. 

Despite the criticisms, Miller maintains that without Viagogo, people would simply buy from scalpers elsewhere.

“Without us, people will go to other channels such as Facebook Marketplace, or they might go to Twitter or potentially back to the streets.”

Watch the full interview above.

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