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Consumer protection agency issues warning over ticket reseller Viagogo

Consumers have complained of Viagogo's hidden fees, overcharging on their credit cards and the inability to use tickets bought at a premium.

Kuvakaappaus Viagogo.com/fi -nettisivuilta.
Screen capture of Switzerland-based ticket reselling site Viagogo. Image: Viagogo.com/fi

The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority has issued a warning about using the Swiss-based ticket reseller Viagogo.

The consumer ombudsman said that over the past two years the agency has received about 500 complaints from consumers who had difficulties when they were buying tickets for concerts or other events.

The ombudsman said it found that Viagogo's website contained misleading information about the quantities and prices of tickets that were available for sale.

The country's Consumer Advisory Service and the consumer authority said that many consumers were under the impression that Viagogo is the official ticket vendor for various concerts and events. But the agencies say that is not the case.

Murky process

Viagogo's front page states that it is the "world's largest secondary marketplace for tickets to live events," and says that the firm guarantees tickets sold on the site. The site enables individuals to sell - as well as buy - tickets via the site

"Prices are set by sellers and may be below or above face value," the statement continued.

Links to tickets for major concerts and music festivals, as well as sporting events and comedy shows are also on the site's front page. A click on The Rolling Stones link brings visitors to the site to a page listing dozens of scheduled shows this spring and summer.

When the prospective ticket buyer reaches the available tickets for sale, there is a timed lock on what appear to be the cheapest available tickets - in this case they were 66 euros apiece for a show in Glendale, Arizona in May.

As seconds ticked by, animations of the pricier tickets on the page began to disappear, with a message stating the pricier tickets had "sold out" during the wait.

After ticket buyers reach the page to purchase their chosen seats, the site asks for email and address information before indicating the final price.

Only after entering personal information and reaching the payment page is the final price revealed, which included the ticket price, handling fee, VAT and booking fee. Each of the steps had a time-out feature of around four minutes. If a buyer did not make the purchase in time, the tickets would become unavailable, so consumers are encouraged to buy quickly.

The handling fee was three euros for each ticket, while the booking fee was 21 euros apiece. The two tickets, which were listed for 132 for a pair, were then offered for 179 euros, after the added fees and tax.

One star on Trustpilot.com

But many consumers around the world have reported having difficulty even after having secured tickets on the site, according to news reports.

In one example, a 70-year old woman told the UK's Telegraph news outlet that she paid ten times the regular ticket price for an opera ticket bought on Viagogo. She bought a ticket for about 344 euros from the secondary seller when the original ticket cost only 34 euros. On the night of the opera, the woman said she found herself in the "nosebleed seats" with an obstructed view.

There are many other accounts of unhappy Viagogo customers to be found online, as well.

Viagogo has an average rating of one out of five stars on the international consumer site trustpilot.com, with 42 percent of more than 25,000 reviews calling the ticket seller's services "bad."

A Trustpilot review by "John in Dublin" two days ago gave Viagogo two stars, writing "I will never deal with this company again. Had one experience and that was enough. Shame on you for charging such [inflated] prices."

Tickets sold on site may be useless

The Finnish consumer watchdog said Viagogo's extra, unseen charges were only part of the problem and that the firm is at the centre of an ongoing civil case in a Swiss court over their practices. In October 2017 the ombudsman asked the company for explanations about problems that had been reported by consumers in Finland, but since the civil case is still pending, the ombudsman said it would wait for a ruling before taking further action.

The consumer agency said that Viagogo does not clearly explain to ticket buyers that there may be restrictions associated with buying resold tickets. For example, many event organisers require tickets to be used by the original buyers.

The agency also said that consumers told them the site contains misleading information about the actual number of tickets that are available to buy.

When the site informs potential buyers that tickets are about to run out, it doesn't mention that it only refers to the ones on their site.

The agency said many consumers paid more for tickets on Viagogo than they would have from the original vendor.

The consumer agency recommended that consumers who have bought tickets on Viagogo with a credit or debit card and charged more than they agreed to pay should contact their bank. Troubled ticket buyers are also encouraged to contact the Consumer Advisory Services.

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