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Ticketek fined $15,000 for Fair Trading Act Breach

Ticketek fined $15,000 plus costs for breaching Fair Trading Act

Misleading representations made by Ticketek New Zealand Limited regarding customers’ rights to a refund and its failure to adequately disclose its service fee have cost the event ticketing agency $16,520.

Ticketek pleaded guilty in the Christchurch District Court in June this year to four charges, laid by the Commerce Commission, of breaching the Fair Trading Act. The judge’s decision on sentencing was reserved at that time and released this week.

The first two charges related to Ticketek quoting ticket prices on its website and over the phone exclusive of booking fees. These fees, of $6 per booking by phone or internet (or $2 per ticket when booked over the counter), were divulged only after the customer had decided to purchase.

Commission Chair, Paula Rebstock, said factors that affect the total price to be paid for a product or service must be clearly disclosed every time the price is advertised.

“It is not good enough to have additional charges disclosed only at the point of ordering, and this holds true whether the representations are made on a website, on the telephone or in print,” she said.

The other two charges related to misleading representations made by Ticketek in relation to customers’ rights to a refund under the Consumer Guarantees Act. On one of these charges, Ticketek had refused to provide a refund of the $2 per ticket booking fee to a customer who had booked tickets to a show that was later cancelled.

Ticketek pleaded guilty to this charge because it acknowledged that it had not, in the complainant’s case, disclosed to him at the time of the sale of the tickets that the service fees element of the price was non-refundable.

Ms Rebstock said that businesses need to ensure their refunds policies do not mislead customers. “Customers have a right to a refund when shows are cancelled by promoters. When customers are not informed accurately about their rights, they may be misled into believing that there is no point in seeking a refund.”

Judge Abbott did not directly rule on the issue of whether a full refund, including service fees, should be given and noted that it would need to be determined by the courts on another occasion. He did comment, however, that “one would have thought that Ticketek should look for redress in respect of its own revenue not to customers who have purchased tickets but to the promoters of the event.”

Ms Rebstock said that the Commerce Commission would undertake further discussions with Ticketek in light of the judge’s comments with a view to resolving the issues of refunding all booking fees whenever events are cancelled.

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