An unsuspecting Auckland man who bought tickets to a Super Rugby match that was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions is fighting to get his money back from ticket reseller Viagogo.
James Ayr follows more than 400 disappointed Kiwi customers to fall victim to the Switzerland-based online marketplace after buying nine tickets for the Blues vs Crusaders game for him and his friends.
"It was the event we had all been waiting for," Ayr told Newshub.
The Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa match was set to be played at Eden Park on August 16 but was cancelled two days beforehand after the Government extended alert level 3 in Auckland.
Ayr says he wasn't contacted by Viagogo to alert him that the game was no longer going ahead, instead, the ticket reseller updated its website to claim it had been postponed.
"Quite clearly the event has not been postponed, but rather cancelled altogether, as seen from Super Rugby NZ," Ayr said.
Viagogo's website states a refund will be issued if the event is cancelled but will replace tickets in the event one is postponed.
"Because they maintain that the event is postponed, they are not issuing refunds. I doubt I am the only person suffering from the lack of transparency from Viagogo at this stage," Ayr said.
"At a time like this, during covid, I would have thought there would be more understanding and a heightened need for customer service."
In the two weeks since he has tirelessly attempted to get Viagogo to take action.
"Though the responses have varied slightly, they still neglect to accept that the event is cancelled - meaning they will not issue a refund at this stage."
He has brought the issue up directly with Ticketmaster and Eden Park - both have stated that the game is in fact cancelled and that the refund should take place.
Viagogo, however, maintains the event is postponed and that he will only get a ticket transfer.
- Are you experiencing difficulties with Viagogo? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
He says the experience has been "disheartening" and feels he is being "constantly lied to".
"The lack of transparency is completely unjust. The fact that they blatantly lie about the game and its status is horrendous."
"At this stage I'm at a loss… I am certain there are more Kiwis in the same boat as I am dealing with Viagogo's continual lies and deceit."
As one of the few countries in the world that was able to hold mass gatherings before the recent lockdown restrictions, New Zealand ticketed events were being targeted by Viagogo like never before.
New Zealand ticketing company iTICKET saw a marked increase in tickets being resold at extortionate prices to an unsuspecting public, who click on a link to the Viagogo website rather than to the official ticket seller’s link.
"We have seen an increase in complaints and customers being ripped off to the tune of hundreds of dollars each by Viagogo," iTICKET director Reece Preston said.
The New Zealand Commerce Commission initiated proceedings against Viagogo in August 2018, joining a growing list of international enforcement agencies. Viagogo faces court or enforcement action in Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, the UK and Australia. It has been fined in Italy and sued by FIFA.
In March, the Commerce Commission had received more than 400 complaints since 2017 about Viagogo alone, making it the most complained about trader during that time.
Ayr wants to see the business no longer operational in New Zealand.
"I wasn’t aware prior to purchasing the tickets, but they are a 100 percent reseller and their only interest is taking your money and not returning it at all costs.
"From the countless stories I’ve heard about them in New Zealand, to the High Court Case, I don’t see how they are still allowed to operate, especially with the track record they have."
He hopes increasing public awareness about Viagogo and making sure tickets are only purchased through official NZ ticket sellers will reduce the number of Kiwis mistakenly lining the Swiss-giants pockets with their hard-earned money.
"I hope that this will bring light to this problem, and force Viagogo to refund the money to the people who need it at this time."
In a statement on Friday - two days after the story was published - Viagogo told Newshub customers who paid for tickets to this event will be refunded.
"For the Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa event we can confirm that the customer is entitled to a refund and will be contacted by our customer service team," a spokesperson said.
"These are unprecedented times, we are processing an enormous number of events reschedules around the world and apologise for any delays. Should customers have any queries our customer service team is available to support."
The spokesperson said the recent pandemic has created significant disruption to the live events industry, with thousands of events being postponed, rescheduled and cancelled.
"Viagogo has continued to work hard in conjunction with event organizers and venues to ensure we have all of the correct information about the status of each event.
"Once the status is determined, we are able to act accordingly, inform our customers as quickly as possible and refund buyers for cancellations."