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UPDATE: NSW Fair Trading Responds After Mardi Gras Leaves Thousands Out Of Paid Event

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has apologised to revellers after thousands of ticket holders were left in the dark, missing headline performances, due to the venue reaching capacity.

Hundreds of attendees complained on Sunday that the organisation over-sold tickets for profit and pledged they would not reattend the event in future years.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) sold tickets to Sydney’s post-parade event at the Hordern Pavilion in the Moore Park Entertainment Quarter for between $200 and $270. But around 10,000 tickets were sold to the venue that could only host a full capacity of 5,500.

Clover Moore taking part in the 42nd annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in Sydney, Saturday, February 29, 2020. (AAP Image/James Gourley)

The SGLMG organisers boasted of securing the ‘holy trinity’ of performers, with international headliners including Sam Smith, Kesha and Dua Lipa, to lure in fans and bolster ticket sales.

But after thousands were left out in the dark, scaling surrounding streets in long queues and took to social media to complain, the organisation has apologised.

‘We’re hearing your feedback about last night’s 2020 Mardi Gras Party, with extended waiting times to get into the Hordern Pavilion when it reached capacity,’ the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras said in a statement.

‘It’s no secret that this year we lost the Royal Hall of Industries as a venue for the annual Mardi Gras Party. We recognise significant changes are required for the smaller party footprint to be successful.

‘We’ve received some valuable feedback this year, which will help us continue to develop and evolve the Party experience.’

Sam Smith taking part in the 42nd annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in Sydney, Saturday, February 29, 2020. (AAP Image/James Gourley)

The statement did not mention if ticket refunds would be available for those who did not gain entry. When asked if the SGLMG would provide full refunds, Matt Fraser, a media spokesperson for the group, did not respond to questions put to him.

Room for more regulation?

It’s raised questions of whether more regulation is needed to stop scrupulous event promoters from putting profits before partygoers by overselling tickets, despite event capacity limits.

According to the NSW Fair Trading, the regulatory body overlooking consumer issues in NSW, all consumers are entitled to the full purpose of purchased tickets as an ‘automatic consumer guarantee.’

‘You are entitled to an appropriate remedy from the business when the product or service you purchased does not meet one or more of the consumer guarantees.

Crowds gather for the 42nd annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in Sydney, Saturday, February 29, 2020. (AAP Image/Paul Braven)

‘This might be a refund, a further service to rectify the problem and in some cases, reimbursement for damages and consequential loss. The type of remedy will depend on whether the problem is minor or major.’

It means the SGLMG is obligated, under Australian Consumer Law, to issue refunds for ticket purchasers who did not gain access to the event. The organisation may have also breached advertising laws.

The NSW Fair Trading also regulates advertising, stating ‘Australian Consumer Law protects consumers from deceptive advertising claims and conduct… Businesses are not allowed to make false or misleading representations about their products or services.’

Given the SGLMG advertised 10,000 tickets for a venue with a capacity of only 5,500 – it’s likely that advertising breaches had been committed by the body, which can further bolster claims from those who did not receive the service they paid for.

Official agencies that govern and enforce consumer law include the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), NSW Fair Trading and other state and territory protection agencies.

The ACCC have been contacted for comment regarding whether the body will intervene and force the SGLMG to issue refunds for impacted consumers. It was also asked if the body would place greater regulation on event promoters to prevent the overselling of tickets again.

Participants take part in the 42nd annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in Sydney, Saturday, February 29, 2020. (AAP Image/Steven Saphore)

Can more be done to protect consumers?

While regulation to protect consumers and prevent false advertising does already exist in NSW and federal levels, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is an example of failed measures to prevent scrupulous event promoters from over-selling tickets for profits, at the expense of consumers.

If the NSW Fair Trading body does not step in and join the voices demanding that consumers receive refunds for paid tickets that never delivered on the premise they were sold on, the ACCC may get involved.

A NSW Fair Trading spokesperson said the body could only act if a complaint has been made.

‘To-date, NSW Fair Trading has not received a complaint about this event… Fair Trading’s advice to customers who were unable to access the event is to contact Ticketek to try and resolve the matter in the first instance,’ the NSW Fair Trading spokesperson told ChannelNews.

‘Customers who are unable to resolve their issues with Ticketek can lodge a complaint with Fair Trading a twww.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.’

The ACCC has been contacted for comment.

(AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

What people are saying.

The event’s capacity reached full level before any performers hit the stage, with many upset revellers taking to social media to complain and demand refunds.

‘The event organisers for the afterparty failed miserably. The line-up to get into the pavilion didn’t move all night, with thousands outside who paid (around $200) for a ticket to watch performances on tv screens,’ Sara Stevens wrote on Facebook.

(Photo: Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Facebook)

‘Either reduce ticket numbers or get a bigger venue … it was crap and poorly managed.

Michael Boland also took to the SGLMG Facebook page to criticise the body’s handling of the event.

‘… you knew the restriction with lower volumes. You completely ignored this and focussed on selling tickets. Own your mistakes, you failed to deliver an experience to enjoy a Globally Iconic Event,’ Boland wrote.

‘You’re lack of empathy to recognise your own faults in this response is disgraceful. You knew you didn’t have the space. You couldn’t even get the right vibe outside on a screen.’

‘Mari Gras has lost its soul to money,’ Kenneth Bryan also posted on the organisation’s Facebook page.

The SGLMG warned attendees there would be challenges accommodating revellers because the Royal Industries Hall, also in the Entertainment Quarter, was not available to use this year.

(Photo: Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Facebook)

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