Controversial online ticket reseller Viagogo has been found guilty of misleading Australian consumers by creating a "false sense of urgency" and giving the appearance it was an "official" site.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took action against the Switzerland-based company in 2017 after hundreds of complaints from ripped-off consumers about heavy mark-ups, hidden fees, cancelled events and failure to provide refunds.
That came after NSW Fair Trading warned consumers to avoid doing business with Viagogo, saying it had reports of up to 600 consumers being ripped off at a cost of almost A$130,000 ($138,897).
The Federal Court on Thursday agreed with the ACCC, finding Viagogo breached Australian Consumer Law by making false or misleading representations and engaging in conduct liable to mislead the public.
The court found Viagogo misled consumers by claiming tickets to certain events were scarce when the scarcity only referred to the tickets available on its resale platform and didn't include tickets available elsewhere.
It also found that using the word "official" in its online ads misled consumers into thinking they were purchasing tickets from an official site.
"Viagogo's claims misled consumers into buying tickets by including claims like 'less than 1 per cent tickets remaining' to create a false sense of urgency," ACCC chair Rod Sims said in a statement.
"We urge consumers to only buy tickets from authorised sellers, or they risk their tickets being dishonoured at the gates or doors."
The court also found that from May until June 2017, Viagogo's website lured consumers with a headline price while failing to sufficiently disclose additional fees — including a 27.6 per cent booking fee — or specify a single price for tickets.
"Viagogo was charging extraordinarily high booking fees and many consumers were caught out," Sims said. "Today's Federal Court decision is a reminder to businesses that consumers must be clearly told that there are additional fees associated with a displayed price."
Penalties will be determined at a later date. The maximum penalty is A$1.1 million per contravention.
Viagogo has been contacted for comment.