Hong Kong Sevens

‘Ticket-touting on steroids’ – UK body surprised Hong Kong Sevens is using Viagogo as online reseller for tickets

FanFair Alliance says Viagogo has a poor reputation in UK and was last year dumped by the Scottish Rugby Union for exploiting fans

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2018, 11:29am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 11:41am

A UK anti-touting body said it was “surprised” Hong Kong Sevens organisers would partner online secondary market ticket sellers Viagogo, given they were dumped as a sponsor by the Scottish Rugby Union last year.

Adam Webb, spokesman for FanFair Alliance, said Viagogo had a poor reputation in the UK after authorities raided its London offices last November as part of an investigation into possible breaches of consumer law. Viagogo maintains it has not broken any laws in the UK.

“I'm surprised anyone would want to partner them,” Webb told the Post. “The brand has so much negative publicity because they rip people off and I’m surprised that people would want to partner them. The way they distort prices on the market, it’s ticket-touting on steroids.”

Viagogo’s UK site was reported to be selling tickets for last weekend’s Six Nations Calcutta Cup rugby match at Murrayfield between Scotland and England at up to 10 times the highest face value sold by the SRU.

A year earlier, the SFU ditched Viagogo as its official sponsor after it was revealed in the media how they were supposedly exploiting fans.

Tickets available on Viagogo for the Murrayfield game also lacked seat numbers, which is reportedly a breach of the UK’s Consumer Rights Act for stadiums with allocated seating.

Buying and selling Hong Kong Sevens tickets? New ‘marketplace’ to protect fans

In New Zealand, it was reported last week that some fans who bought tickets through Viagogo to see singer Robbie Williams in Dunedin found their tickets were invalid.

And in Australia, Viagogo was taken to court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissions last year over misleading or deceptive conduct by failing to disclose substantial fees in the price of tickets.

Three-day tickets selling on Viagogo for the Hong Kong Sevens on Tuesday were going for more than HK$3,000. The original price of a three-day package is HK$1,950. The Sevens take place from April 6-8.

The Hong Kong Rugby Union resorted to Viagogo in 2015 to counter the touts who sell Sevens tickets at exorbitant prices outside Hong Kong Stadium. However, last year, the touts continued to mill around So Kon Po and appeared to be doing good business.

HKRU chief executive Robbie McRobbie said on Monday the body had not changed its stance since November, when he last commented on Viagogo after the raid on its UK office was reported.

“Our highest priority at the Hong Kong Rugby Union is ensuring that those who want to purchase tickets for the Sevens can do so with maximum convenience and confidence, both in our public ticket sale as well as via the secondary ticket market,” McRobbie said at the time.

“To date, our use of Viagogo has been successful in this effort, particularly with their provided guarantee for consumers that all purchases made through Viagogo are guaranteed genuine and subject to full refunds if not.

Hong Kong Sevens tickets safe to buy, assures union chief despite UK probe into online reseller Viagogo

“We are aware of the recent issues surrounding secondary ticket resellers in the United Kingdom and are in contact presently with our local Viagogo representatives to learn more about this issue.

“We will continue to closely monitor this situation to ensure that the interests of our consumers are safeguarded to the highest degree possible.”

This month, the UK government announced new rules that require resellers to provide information about tickets, including location of seats, disclosure of any restrictions and the original price of the ticket.

Secondary sellers must also supply a unique ticket number if specified by the event organiser to allow consumers to identify the seat, standing area or location.

The Post contacted Viagogo’s media department asking what kind of assurances the company would give to Hong Kong Sevens fans who made purchases through their website that tickets would be genuine. They were also asked to confirm that Sevens tickets on their website were fan-to-fan transactions and not a platform for touts.

Viagogo’s response was to point to the FAQ page on their website.

“Viagogo is a marketplace and doesn’t buy or sell tickets,” the site says. “Viagogo provides a platform for third party sellers to sell tickets to event goers. Viagogo does not set ticket prices, sellers set their own prices, which may be above or below the original face value. Where demand is high and tickets are limited, prices increase.”

Watch: Dispatches’ documentary on ticket touting

Recently, Google banned online resellers such as Viagogo from implying they were primary ticket sellers.

“We found that one reseller paid to be on top of the Google ranking when someone searches for those particular tickets,” said Webb, who added that such companies often buy primary tickets in bulk with staff using multiple credit cards.

A Google search for “Hong Kong Sevens tickets” saw a paid Viagogo ad at the top of the results. Its trading page featured heavy Hong Kong Sevens branding.

In 2002, Channel 4’s “Dispatches” programme won a High Court battle with Viagogo to broadcast a documentary into the “hidden practices” of online resellers.