eBay Sues Festival For Battling Touts

Australia Australia | | 07 December 2006

The internet auction site has filed a lawsuit in Australia's Federal Court against the company Big Day Out, which organises six massive festivals in Australia and New Zealand throughout January and February.

Citing the country's Trade Practices Law, eBay claims that the festival firm has no right to cancel tickets it discovers are being sold by touts (or 'scalpers' to the Aussies) because it boils down to 'fair trading'.

The fittingly-named eBay spokesman, Daniel Filer, said: "It does relate to fair trading, and the term and condition in the Big Day Out tickets is, we believe, misleading and deceptive."

Like many other festivals around the world, Big Day Out has been looking at ways to prevent touts from making a living off the back of its events for several years.

With the Sydney, Gold Coast and Melbourne events consistently selling out in record time, organisers have decided to place new conditions on their tickets, promising to cancel those being sold for profit.

But eBay is arguing that the company has no right to do this if tickets are being sold through its website. It follows a successful purge of eBay by Cricket Australia, who hired investigators to track down and cancel tickets being sold for The Ashes at astronomical prices.  

eBay's Mr Filer continued: "Our role in this is to provide people with a marketplace where they've got tools and information that they can shop safely.

"When you go on the site to buy or sell a ticket, we provide the buyer and the seller with the notification that some tickets have terms and conditions, and they should check those with the promoter before making the purchase, or before selling the ticket.

"But really, the issue comes down to the distribution of tickets by promoters in the first case. If promoters take the time and the effort to make sure that genuine fans get tickets in the first case, this becomes a non-issue."

Organisers at Big Day Out have been left bewildered by eBay's bullish stance, and are adamant that the auction site has no grounds for legal action.

The festival's co-producer Viv Lees said: "It is extremely rude of eBay to be standing on principle, potentially injuncting us from selling our own tickets while they continue to sell our tickets on their website.

"What they're saying is that we really should have put "may be cancelled", not "will be cancelled". They're nit picking, and they're saying that we can't guarantee that the ticket will be cancelled in all cases.

"It's just fanciful. We're a tiny little company getting on with our business in a most reasonable way, and I think that that will be recognised in the end of day."

That will be for the courts to decide when eBay and organisers of the Big Day Out face off in court next week.

The outcome will not set a legal precedent in the UK or other countries because of different legal systems, but it could still have far reaching affects around the world. A victory for eBay would undoubtedly encourage the company to take action against other festivals who pursue online touting and cancel tickets being sold for profit. 

The Big Day Out festival tour, featuring Muse, Tool, My Chemical Romance, Jet and more, is not under threat and will be rolling throughout across Australia and New Zealand in the New Year. Click here for more info and lineup.

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