The Commerce Commission says it accepts a series of changes that controversial online ticket seller Viagogo has made to its NZ website.
The regulator says the changes, plus a concession by Viagogo that its NZ website falls under NZ jurisdiction, mean it will no longer push for an interim injunction. An injunction hearing had been set for tomorrow.
However, the ComCom will continue to push for a full hearing. The consumer watchdog still wants its day in court to seek justice for some 1198 people who complained to it before the website changes were made.
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"The changes Viagogo has made to its website have largely addressed the interim injunction application filed by the Commission alleging that Viagogo was misrepresenting the price and availability of tickets, and the 'guarantees' attached to tickets," the Commission's general counsel Mary-Anne Borrowdale said.
And notwithstanding that Viagogo's changes were enough to head off the interim injunction hearing, the Commission is still recommending that consumers give Viagogo a swerve.
"We still urge ticket buyers to purchase from official ticket websites," Borrowdale said.
"Avoid clicking on the first internet search result you see for an event. Scroll down the page and find the official ticket outlet or, if you aren't sure, visit the artist's or organiser's website to find out who is the official ticket seller."
Many people who contacted the Herald to complain about Viagogo said they had not realised it was a second-hand or "scalping" site because of the way it was presented, and the fact it appeared at the top of Google results (with an ad) when they searched for tickets for a sports game or concert.
The Commerce Commission alleged in a statement of claim filed in November 2018 that Viagogo had made misleading statements about ticket scarcity (many who complained to the Herald had been unaware official channels still had tickets in stock, in some cases much more cheaply).
The regulator also alleged that Viagogo was not upfront about substantial fees, and that it made guarantees about the validity of tickets that it was not able to enforce.
The Commerce Commission also alleges that Viagogo's platform was used to sell tickets for the 2017 Irish and British Lions tour of New Zealand.
While "scalping" of tickets is not ordinarily illegal (although it is under review), the Major Events Management Act (2007) specifically rules out the resale of tickets in specific cases, including Lions tours.
In July, Google suspended Viagogo from its Ad Words platform worldwide, saying the US-founded, Swiss-incorporated company had breached its terms and conditions - which include ticket resellers clearly identifying themselves as such. Viagogo was reinstated by Google in November.
Stubhub - which has a common founder - filled the void on Google NZ during Viagogo's ban. Viagogo is in the process of buying Stubhub in a $6.25 billion deal, still subject to regulatory approval.
Viagogo could not be immediately reached for comment. In November, managing director Cris Miller said his company wanted to work constructively with the Commerce Commission to resolve issues. He would not detail all changes to Viagogo's NZ website, but said they included an upfront estimate of all fees.
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Miller denied complaints from Rugby NZ and Tennis NZ that the sale ticket had been sold multiple times on his company's platform. He said a seller would not get paid if that was proved after a complaint was initiated by a buyer. Viagogo would not have stayed in business for years if it has behaved as alleged by the ComCom, Miller said.
The interim injunction hearing that had been set for Friday was set after a series of preliminary legal skirmishes.
If February last year, the Commerce Commission's bid for an interim injunction hearing was thrown out on a technicality as Viagogo it had not been properly served (the Swiss-incorporated company argued it should be served in its home country).
The ComCom won an appeal in October, at which point March 6 was set as the date for the interim injunction hearing. A date for the full hearing has yet to be set.