In a complaint filed with the Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC) on September 17, which MediaNama has reviewed, independent tech law and policy researcher Raghav Ahooja has alleged that ticket reselling website Viagogo is in violation of multiple Indian laws including the IT Rules, 2021, the E-Commerce Rules 2020, and the Competition Act, 2002.
Viagogo is an intermediary that allows ticket owners to list their tickets for sale to interested buyers. Along with other events, the site is currently selling tickets for the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. But these second-hand tickets have been listed at highly inflated prices. For example, tickets to India vs. Pakistan match on October 14 bought for ~Rs.4000-5000 are being listed for over Rs 2 lakhs. This is in violation of various Indian laws and the ticket Terms and Conditions, Ahooja alleged in his complaint.
“Viagogo AG does not have a good track record of obeying laws and has been prosecuted on multiple occasions across jurisdictions. Viagogo AG is a company registered in Switzerland that connects buyers and sellers and earns by charging a commission on every successful transaction. Thus, it is not a neutral party as it benefits from every subsequent transaction done on its platform and is incentivised to not do its due diligence and omit following the law of the land.” — Complaint filed by Raghav Ahooja
Ahooja has asked the GAC to rule that Viagogo cannot claim safe harbor protections under section 79(1) of the IT Act because of its non-observance of the above-mentioned laws. “If that is granted, I will consider pursuing legal action against the company in a court of law,” Ahooja told MediaNama.
Grievance Appellate Committees were set up under the IT Rules, 2021, to allow users to appeal any grievances that were not satisfactorily resolved by an intermediary. The committee’s decision is binding on the intermediary.
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What are the allegations against Viagogo?
1. Violation of IT Rules, 2021:
- No grievance officer appointed: The IT Rules, 2021, require all intermediaries to appoint a grievance officer for users to file any complaints with and publish the name and contact details of the officer on their website and app. Viagogo has not appointed any such officer in India despite being an intermediary under the IT Rules, the complaint alleges.
- Hosting content that contravenes laws of the country: The IT Rules also require intermediaries to make reasonable efforts to not host any information that violates any law for the time being in force, but Viagogo is listing second-hand tickets in violation of the E-Commerce Rules, 2020 and the Competition Act, 2002, the complaint states.
2. Violation of E-Commerce Rules, 2020: Viagogo is a marketplace e-commerce entity under the E-Commerce Rules, 2020, and is required to appoint a nodal officer or an alternate senior designated functionary who is resident in India, which it hasn’t. Moreover, the site is deploying “unfair trade practices” in violation of rule 4(3) by reselling tickets at 80 or even 100 times the official price. “By gaining unreasonable profit by imposing on consumers any unjustified price and making an arbitrary classification of consumers by disallowing an average citizen of India to purchase tickets owing to the extremely high prices of the tickets,” Viagogo is in violation of the E-Commerce Rules, the complaint alleges.
3. Violation of Competition Act, 2002: The Competition Act “was enacted to prevent practices having adverse effect on competition and to protect the interests of consumers.” By encouraging scalping and touting (reselling tickets at a higher price for a profit), Viagogo is engaging in anti-competitive practices that have an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.
The Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup India 2023 state that the sale of tickets can only be carried out by “Official Ticketing Agents or the Authorised Agents or through any other sale or transfer mechanism authorised in writing by or on behalf of IBC (ICC Business Corporation).” Viagogo does not fit any of these criteria. Furthermore, the T&Cs state that the tickets are non-transferable and cannot be sold resold/transferred for commercial gain at a price greater than the original sale price. Tickets sold via official sources resurface within seconds on Viagogo and the website also ranks at the top of the Google Search when a user searches for ICC World Cup Tickets.
By violating the ticket T&Cs, the activities of Viagogo “harm the consumers” and “lead to deterioration of distribution of goods or provision of services,” thus leading to an appreciable adverse effect on consumers in violation of section 3(1) and section 3(4)(d) and (e) of the Competition Act, the complaint alleges.
The complaint also claims that Viagogo is abusing its dominant position by indirectly imposing unfair or discriminatory prices in the purchase or sale of tickets and limiting or restricting the provision of services. “This has to be looked at in the light of section 19(4), especially (4)(d) and (f), as ‘Viagogo’ wields economic power as well as commercial advantages over other competitors since it is shown as the first result in a Google Search, and the dependence of consumers on ‘Viagogo’ as the only prominent marketplace platform offering such tickets, albeit at extremely high prices, due to inability to buy from the Official Ticketing Agent,” the complaint states.
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