The Commerce Commission has inched closer to a substantive High Court hearing of its claims against online ticket seller Viagogo as the pair's legal trench warfare continues.
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The regulator appeared in the High Court at Auckland this week for timetabling orders on its push for an interim injunction. A hearing was set down for March 6 next year, when Viagogo's protest to jurisdiction will be heard.
At the same time, the ComCom has revealed it has now received 1148 complaints from Kiwis about Viagogo - extending the Swiss-incorporated firm's record as the regulator's most complained-about trader over the past 24 months.
The ComCom first tried for an interim injunction in February. It claimed Viagogo had made false or misleading claims about that:
• It was an "official" seller when it was not.
• Tickets were limited or about to sell out.
• Consumers were "guaranteed" to receive valid tickets for their event.
• The price of tickets, when its "headline" prices were unobtainable because of the addition of GST and various fees.
The regulator wanted the court to order Viagogo to halt those alleged sales practices ahead of a substantial hearing.
Multiple people who contacted the Herald were not aware that Viagogo was a marketplace for second-hand sellers or "scalpers", and that tickets sold on Viagogo could be priced above those still available through official channels.
Many were also caught out by substantial fees and currency conversion costs (sellers on Viagogo of tickets to NZ events are often in Eastern Europe or elsewhere offshore).
But the February attempt fell over when the High Court ruled that Viagogo (whose lawyers insisted it be served in its home country of Switzerland) had not been formally served and that the High Court did not have jurisdiction.
U2 experiment shows Viagogo plays by different rules in UK and NZ
Viagogo guilty of 'extensive fraudulent behaviour', watchdog alleges in court
But the ComCom appealed and, following a Court of Appeal hearing on August 29, a decision released October 2 said that the High Court erred in finding it did not have jurisdiction.
The ComCom said it would consider changes made to Viagogo's website before deciding to press on with its case.
Viagogo managing director Cris Miller told the Herald that changes, including a new all-inclusive up-front price, addressed the ComCom's concerns.
He was optimistic his company could work constructively with the regulator, heading off its day in court.
A spokesman for the ComCom said it was assessing Viagogo's changes "to determine whether they are comprehensive and effective in answering its concerns in the case". But in the meantime, it's continuing for a substantive hearing - the next step toward which will be Viagogo's jurisdiction protest on March 6.
The hearing was granted as Miller told the Herald about two major business developments.
One is that Google has just lifted the suspension on Viagogo that it imposed in July, setting the stage for the ticket reseller to resume its habitual, paid-for spot atop search results for tickets. A Google spokeswoman would not comment substantively, but it seems Viagogo's changes have been enough to satisfy the search giant.
The other is that Viagogo is buying rival StubHub in a US$4.05 billion ($6.25b) deal. Miller was formerly with StubHub - as was his boss, StubHub and Viagogo founder Eric Baker. StubHub ads immediately filled the void after Viagogo disappeared from Google NZ in July.
Miller said if the deal gained regulatory approval in the new year, StubHub and Viagogo would co-list tickets.