Viagogo withholding refunds for cancelled events says watchdog
Viagogo is dodging its responsibilities to customers by refusing to refund events cancelled due to coronavirus, Which? has found.
The consumer champion has heard from disgruntled Viagogo customers who have been denied refunds for events cancelled by the organisers – with the secondary ticketing site seeking to exploit loopholes in its own refund policy by claiming they have only been postponed.
Many festivals including Wireless and Leeds Festival have been cancelled this summer due to coronavirus. The organisers have offered customers the option to transfer tickets to 2021 – but are also offering refunds to those who may not be able to make the event next year, or who may not want to attend a festival with a completely different line-up of artists.
However, Viagogo has refused to offer the same rights to customers who booked their tickets to the same events through the secondary ticket site.
Viagogo has wriggled out of issuing refunds, adding a clause to its cancellation policy which states if an event organiser offers tickets or vouchers to another event customers will be entitled to those tickets or vouchers.
Melissa Taylor paid over £270 for two Wireless Festival tickets in June. However, despite the official announcement stating that the event has been cancelled, Viagogo refused to refund her on the basis that organisers have offered customers the option to carry over their ticket to next year.
Melissa told Which? said “My partner has a job where he’s required to go away at the last minute. We can’t commit to next year.”
Gordon Scott was also refused a refund after buying tickets for Leeds festival to see Rage Against the Machine. Viagogo claims the event has been postponed and not cancelled, but Gordon said the tickets are “useless” to him if Rage Against the Machine are not playing again next year.
Gordon has since been refunded but only after countless hours chasing Viagogo and contacting the organisers personally. However, he suspects others may not be as lucky and may not have the “tenacity to hound them like we did.”
Viagogo said: “Tickets for these particular events carry over and are valid for the event in 2021, so as per our terms and conditions the customer is not entitled to a refund in this situation.”
Festival Republic, the organisers of Wireless, Reading and Leeds Festivals, confirmed to Which? their events have indeed been cancelled rather than postponed and said they will be contacting the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) about Viagogo’s behaviour.
It said that while tickets bought through a secondary ticketing site would be accepted, it has yet to issue tickets for 2020 or 2021 so customers should be wary of any tickets currently sold on third-party sites.
Tony Woods had tickets to this year’s Open Championship. But despite the organisers insisting the event had been cancelled, Viagogo refused to refund the tickets as the event organisers had also given customers the option to transfer their ticket to next year.
The R&A, the organisers of The Open Championship, told Which? that its terms and conditions prohibit the resale of tickets on websites like Viagogo and if it “detects these tickets they will be cancelled” – meaning Tony’s tickets will almost certainly be rendered invalid even if he tried to attend the event in 2021.
Tony has been able to get his money back through his bank but fears Viagogo will dispute the refund.
Customers with tickets to rescheduled events have also been refused refunds, even if they are unable to make the new date.
Faye Hearn had tickets to see My Chemical Romance in June 2020, and while the concert has been rescheduled for the same date in 2021 Faye is unable to attend as it clashes with a wedding she is due to attend. Viagogo is refusing to issue a refund and instead advising her to try re-listing the tickets on their website.
Faye has since been refunded after making a chargeback claim via her bank, however many others may be stuck in a similar situation.
Last year, the CMA threatened to take Viagogo to court if it did not comply with a court order the CMA secured against it in relation to how it displayed information on its UK website. Viagogo subsequently made enough changes to its website that the CMA decided it no longer needed to pursue the legal action. However, these latest findings from Which? show the company continues to treat its customers poorly.
Viagogo’s ongoing treatment of consumers raises further questions about its proposed merger with secondary-ticketing rival StubHub. Which? has expressed concerns about the deal, and the prospect of a company with a well-established record of ripping off customers gaining a dominant position in the secondary ticketing industry.
Adam French, Which? Consumer Rights Expert, said: “Viagogo has a history of ripping customers off and skirting the law, and in these challenging times it seems to be dodging its responsibilities to customers when considering requests for refunds.
“The secondary ticketing site must follow the stance taken by festival organisers and simply refund those who have tickets to an event cancelled due to coronavirus.
“The CMA should continue to investigate its proposed merger with StubHub and carefully consider whether increasing the market share of a company that arguably fails to treat customers fairly will be in the best interest of consumers.”
Right of reply
A Viagogo spokesperson said: “This is an unprecedented time for the live events industry, and we understand that customers might be left disappointed by the fact that thousands of events globally are being postponed, rescheduled or cancelled.
“Our customer service teams are working hard to confirm the status of all events and contact customers to inform them of any changes. If an event is rescheduled, the customer’s tickets remain valid, per our terms and conditions and therefore they are not entitled to a refund. The customer always has the option of relisting their tickets on the platform if they can no longer attend the new date. If an event is completely cancelled the customer is entitled to a cash refund or 125% voucher. In the case of refunds, we appreciate our customers patience while we process their request.
“Any ticket restrictions are clearly labelled at the top of our website. We disagree with such restrictions and think they are not beneficial to fans. We would welcome the opportunity to work directly with event organisers so that fans get maximum access to events, which we believe should be the ultimate goal of everyone in the industry.”