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Sucker punch: how tix sellers nix anti-scalping rules

New laws were meant to make online ticket reselling fairer for consumers. But many resellers are still skirting rules, and exploiting loopholes — leaving fans with a nasty aftertaste. Harlan Ockey investigates.

Sucker punch: how tix sellers nix anti-scalping rules

Photo: Shutterstock

Story by Harlan Ockey

As thousands of Swifties know to their cost: looking for last-minute tickets? Be careful. Victorian consumers are still feeling burned by online ticket resellers, despite legislation passed in 2022 to bring scalping under control.

Resale website Tixel sells tickets to events in ways that appear to violate federal and state legal guidelines, including reselling tickets without authorisation, obscuring their face value and bundling opaque ticket-and-hotel-deals, an investigation by The Citizen in October found.

The Ticket Merchant resells in-demand tickets for exorbitant prices, while fans report Viagogo sending customers unusable e-tickets, refusing refunds, and charging hefty hidden fees — none of which is explicitly banned under Victorian law.

It’s fair to say some fans are furious.

Changes made in 2022 to Victoria’s Major Events Act are meant to prevent ticket resale websites from reselling tickets for more than 10 per cent above their original price. However, these restrictions only apply to events the state government names as “major”, which does not include popular Melbourne concerts by international stars like The Weeknd and Paul McCartney.

This issue was highlighted last year by the June frenzy to acquire Taylor Swift tickets. Her Eras Tour was named a major event on 27 June 2023, but only after tickets were resold on Viagogo for $3,144 (249 per cent of their maximum original value, The Guardian reported). Meanwhile, more than 4 million fans missed out on buying tickets to the Australian concerts through the primary ticket market.

Event organisers can request major event status, according to the Victorian Premier’s office media advisor Bodil Droga, and this is evaluated by the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events. Criteria include “the size of the event, demand for tickets, exclusivity of the event to Victoria”, and “likely media coverage of the event”.

It is unclear why the Eras Tour was declared a major event so late, given the extremely high demand for tickets in other countries before the Australian leg of the tour was announced. Frontier Touring, the Eras Tour promoter, did not respond to The Citizen’s questions about its request to government.

Advocacy groups say these “major event declaration” laws are inconsistent, varying between events and across states.

“The more uniform it is, the easier it is to operate,” said Kim Tran, director of policy and governance at Live Performance Australia, the peak body for promoters, venues, and festivals.

Ticket resellers also continue to target customers in ways not covered by the current Victorian anti-scalping laws. In large social media groups like Facebook’s Victims of Viagogo, the Swiss-based global platform has a reputation for not sending the tickets a customer purchased, or sending tickets that are invalid when scanned at the venue.

Among published comments, one anonymous Victims of Viagogo user reported the company advising tickets purchased would be sent just one or two days before the event, and Viagogo would not refund customers if the tickets could not be picked up. Another group member, Melanie Neethling, reported not receiving tickets at all.


“When he Googled it, the first website [with tickets] was Viagogo,” Cheryl said.

Google removed Viagogo from its paid search results in July 2019 after the UK’s competition regulator launched legal action. This sent Viagogo further down the Google search rankings and led to a drop in website visits. It was reinstated in February 2020, as Google claimed Viagogo had improved its behavior.

After learning about its negative reputation the day after booking, Jayden contacted Viagogo and asked to return the tickets. Despite having a receipt and giving the company a second email address for verification, Viagogo responded, in emails viewed by The Citizen, that “we have not been able to locate the order described in your email”.

Before the concert, Viagogo emailed Jayden to tell him a refund would be impossible, as Viagogo “guaranteed the seller that they will be paid for their sale”. According to Cheryl, she and her son were sent e-tickets, but couldn’t open the files. Even after contacting their bank for help, said Cheryl, Viagogo “have refused any contact and we have not received a refund.”

Asked for comment on Viagogo’s refund process and how the company ensures its e-tickets are valid, a spokesperson told The Citizen “less than 0.02% of ticket holders” are unable to use their tickets. “Any customer who does not receive their order receives a full refund.”

Before 2022, the Victorian Major Events Act had last been revised four years earlier, with changes including coverage of performing arts events for the first time. “Prior to June 2018, the anti-scalping legislation only applied to major sporting events,” said Kim Tran.

“The Act used to be even narrower.”

Since the changes came into effect, 69 infringement notices have been issued under the Major Events Act, a freedom of information request by The Citizen revealed.

All but one notice was for individual unauthorised sellers advertising five or fewer tickets to a major event for more than 10 per cent above face value, the tickets’ original price. The final notice was for an individual who sold five or fewer ticket packages for more than 10 per cent above face value.

The federal government also introduced a legal information standard in 2022 that would require online ticket resellers to display the original value of their tickets alongside the resale price. Despite this new law, Viagogo did not always show the original price of its non-major event tickets in late 2023 during The Citizen‘s investigation.

Viagogo has added a “Face Value” icon to conform with this requirement – but its use is not uniform. Only fans looking for Melbourne concert tickets on viagogo.com/au will see a “Face Value” icon. The icon does not appear for those shopping via viagogo.com and the global site does not redirect for Australian users.

Meanwhile, Tixel, an Australian peer-to-peer reseller, typically does show face values for tickets — but not on its waitlists.

On a Tixel waitlist, customers can sign up to be notified if tickets become available, or automatically buy tickets if they become available in their price range. It is unclear if these tickets’ face value was described to the buyers before their automatic purchase.

Tixel’s press unit did not respond to The Citizen’s requests for more information on how its waitlists work.

While Viagogo and The Ticket Merchant stopped selling tickets to events after they were declared “major” in Australia, Tixel has continued to advertise and resell such tickets, including for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. And it appears to be skirting or flouting the anti-scalping rules in at least three ways.

While Tixel promises ticket prices are capped at 10 per cent above their face value, many Eras Tour listings do not disclose their original price. The price cannot be guessed from the seat details, either, as they are listed as “General Admission”. This is despite the official ticket sellers listing — there are no General Admission seats for these concerts — and a Major Events Act requirement that resellers provide full seat details.

Other goods for sale on Tixel have similarly opaque terms. Some sellers have packaged hotel accommodation in Melbourne along with their Taylor Swift tickets. The website’s records show these ticket packages often sold for over $1000. However, the face value of the hotel deal and ticket is not listed, and cannot be determined because the seat details are also listed as “General Admission”.

According to the site’s history, one Swift ticket was offered for just $6, with the seller noting “Pay the rest with bank account”. (Exactly how much was ultimately paid is not shown on Tixel.)

A spokesperson for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission told The Citizen the 2022 federal guidelines do not apply to private ticket sales through online marketplaces like Tixel, and stated the consumer watchdog was “unable to comment on specific businesses”.

But the hotel and “$6-plus-the-rest” deals do appear to be flouting Victorian laws. These state that resellers not authorised by a major event’s organiser must not sell tickets within a package including other goods or services. The intended resale price must also be clear on the reseller’s website.

Frontier Touring, the Eras Tour promoter, says Taylor Swift ticket resales are “strictly forbidden other than through Ticketek’s official resale platform”. Ticket purchases are linked to both a buyer’s phone number and Ticketek account, so the ticket will be invalidated at the venue if these do not match the original buyer.

Ticketek initially said Eras Tour hotel packages could not be officially resold at all, even on Ticketek’s own resale platform. Although the company eventually reversed course, these hotel packages could still only be officially resold during a single three week period in November and December 2023. The lack of chances to resell caused an uproar among some Australian Taylor Swift fans on social media.

— X user @iovethedrama said “This is actual insanity.”

Ticketek’s official ticket resale platform has also been plagued with difficulties. Its launch was postponed from September to November without explanation. Fans said the site was closed for three weeks in January, and reported queues of up to fourteen hours when it was usable again. “The site [Ticketek] have specifically said was the only place to resell tickets has been down more than it’s been up,” said X user @ashleighkatexx.

“Best bet is to wait till tickets can be shared and get them through Tixel.”

Fans who resell their tickets or hotel packages through Tixel may face legal consequences such as an infringement notice (requiring payment of $962), and risk having the ticket invalidated, but there have been few authorised ways to resell these tickets.

For fans with tickets to non-major events, there are no protections against inflated resale prices. Tickets for Blink-182’s February 13 Melbourne concert were being sold for $329 on The Ticket Merchant in December, while their face value was only $199 — 165 per cent of their original face value.


Viagogo, Tixel, and The Ticket Merchant also engage in “drip pricing” — adding extra fees during the purchasing process that were not advertised initially. “This strategy allows sellers to incorporate extra charges without discouraging potential buyers,” said RMIT finance researcher and associate professor Angel Zhong.

In 2023, in addition to Viagogo’s $9 ticket transfer charge, other fees included a “GST and Booking Fee” which remained the same regardless of how many tickets are purchased for an event. This was flagged next to the ticket price at the start of the ticket-purchasing process, but not calculated until the customer had agreed to the mobile ticket transfer fee and entered their personal details.

Since The Citizen‘s investigation, Viagogo has updated its website. The site revamp means for a fan buying tickets to a Slash concert, GST and booking fees are now included in the initially advertised price. However an additional $6 fee is added during the online checkout process for no obvious reason (the concert uses e-tickets; no ticket transfer or delivery fee should be needed, and none is mentioned).

The ACCC initiated legal proceedings against Viagogo in 2017 for drip pricing, failing to inform buyers it was not a primary ticket seller, and falsely claiming certain tickets were scarce. Viagogo’s drip prices at that time were typically 27.6 per cent. During the period The Citizen monitored resale practices, the mobile ticket transfer fee combined with the GST and booking fees added up to 36.7 per cent of the initially advertised price for some Weeknd tickets for sale in October. (The Weeknd announced in early November he would postpone his Australia-New Zealand tour until 2024.)

Tixel also charges additional fees that are not apparent until the buying process starts, and are not explained. The Citizen observed a wide range of tickets listed on the site in September and October, including for The Weeknd, Paul McCartney, and Blink-182, with “fees” always 8.9 per cent of the ticket price.

“In Australia, there are no explicit laws directly addressing drip pricing,” according to Zhong. Instead, the practice is covered under broader provisions in Australian Consumer Law that target deceptive practices and transparent pricing, she said.

“Legally, any unavoidable charge must be presented as prominently as the initially advertised price,” she said.

A spokesperson said Viagogo “uses its fees to support the development and maintenance” of its website. Viagogo did not answer questions about why these fees are hidden until late in the purchasing process.

This story was updated on 25 February 2024 to clarify that Viagogo drip pricing added fees worth up to 36.7 per cent of the initially advertised price for some Weeknd tickets, not the final price as originally reported. Additional material about changes made to Viagogo’s resales practices since The Citizen’s investigation were also added.

About The Citizen

THE CITIZEN is a publication of the Centre for Advancing Journalism. It has several aims. Foremost, it is a teaching tool that showcases the work of the students in the University of Melbourne’s Master of Journalism and Master of International Journalism programs, giving them real-world experience in working for publication and to deadline. Find out more →

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