UPDATE: This article was amended to reflect the Victorian Government's announcement that the concert would be designated as a major event on Tuesday 27th June, 2023, and Viagogo's response to the announcement.
Tickets for the Australian tour of arguably the world's biggest pop star, Taylor Swift, are a hot commodity – and ticket scalpers know it.
Limited VIP packages to Swift's Sydney and Melbourne shows went on sale on Monday. Scalpers wasted no time in exploiting the high demand, seeking to resell the tickets at excessively high mark-ups.
A check by CHOICE on Monday found that tickets to the Sydney concert were being sold for prices as high as $2678 per ticket on the reselling website Viagogo. Another major ticket reselling website, The Ticket Merchant, was reselling tickets for up to $1999 each.
Tickets to the Sydney concert were being sold for prices as high as $2678 per ticket on the reselling website Viagogo
The original sale price for the VIP packages sold through the official ticket seller, Ticketek, were as high as $1249. Anti-scalping legislation in NSW prevents the reselling of tickets for more than 10% above the original price, so the resold tickets on Viagogo and The Ticket Merchant are possibly in breach of the law.
The Ticket Merchant responds
The Ticket Merchant says they have a compliance team who monitors the website and removes listings in breach of state legislation.
"If a ticket is sold in breach of these legislations, the customer is refunded on identification of the breach," a spokesperson says.
"Taylor Swift has a huge number of face-value price points, with tickets available to be purchased from multiple sources. All of these allocations often come in with different price points, which makes policing listings quite difficult.
If something doesn't appear to be in compliance we ask for evidence and remove the listingThe Ticket Merchant spokesperson
"The process we follow is to ask the seller to provide the face value when listing and if something doesn't appear to be in compliance we ask for evidence and remove the listing.
"At present, there are no listings live on our website for this event in Sydney."
A CHOICE check found the listings available earlier on Monday had been taken down by late Monday afternoon.
Viagogo's bad history
Viagogo did not initially respond to our questions on Monday, but since the announcement about the concert's upgraded status, a Viagogo spokesperson has contacted CHOICE and says: "In response to Victoria declaring the Taylor Swift tour a major event, we have taken the necessary measures to ensure our platform is in full compliance with federal and state law in Australia."
In 2020, the Swiss-based company Viagogo was handed a $7 million fine in a Federal Court case brought on by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
It came after CHOICE awarded the company a well-deserved Shonky Award in 2017 for misleading and ripping off customers. The company has been the subject of numerous NSW Office of Fair Trading complaints and investigations.
Ticketing websites risk penalties
According to the NSW Office of Fair Trading, the maximum penalties for breaching ticket scalping laws are $110,000 for a corporation or $22,000 for an individual.
CHOICE head of policy and government relations Patrick Veyret says the conduct was "disappointing and shocking".
"This appears to be a flagrant disregard of ticket scalping laws in New South Wales. The conduct should firmly be in the crosshairs of consumer protection regulators," he says.
Huge prices not the only pitfall for buyers
Some consumers have paid for tickets they never receive.
As well as paying inflated prices, CHOICE has reported extensively on customers who purchased tickets through reselling websites only to never receive their tickets, receive fake tickets, or be turned away at the venue. In NSW the ticket issuer can also cancel the ticket resold as a part of state legislation.
It's why consumers should steer clear of unauthorised ticket resellers and only buy tickets from the official website or official reseller. In the case of the Swift concert, Ticketek says there will be an official reselling website from September onwards.
Weak laws in Victoria
Swift's Eras Tour will present shows in Sydney and Melbourne. In Victoria, weaker ticket-scalping legislation meant scalpers may have been able to resell Taylor Swift tickets at hugely inflated prices without breaching the law.
The Victorian legislation says the Minister must first designate a sporting or entertainment event a "major event" before anti-scalping legislation affects ticket reselling and when a limit of 10% above the original sale price is imposed.
The Minister must first designate a sporting or entertainment event a 'major event' before anti-scalping legislation affects ticket reselling
As of Monday, the Swift concert was not listed on the Victorian government's website as a "major event", despite it being held at Australia's biggest stadium, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The government did eventually designate the Eras Tour as a major event on Tuesday afternoon.
Veyret says the designation rule means Victoria's laws lag behind other states and territories.
"We need clear and consistent federal ticket scalping rules in Australia. We currently have a piecemeal approach to ticket scalping regulations across different states and territories. People deserve the same consumer protections across the country," he says.
Digital platforms need to take greater responsibility for promoting the websites of illegal resellersCHOICE head of policy and government relations Patrick Veyret
Veyret says there is also a role for Google to play in taking down or not accepting advertising from illegal resellers, who often pay to appear at the top of search results when fans are looking for tickets.
"Digital platforms need to take greater responsibility for promoting the websites of illegal resellers. Digital platforms need to be more proactive in protecting people from the harms of potentially unlawful ticket scalping," he says.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.