MEMO ACCC: CAN SOMEONE STOP THIS MONOPOLIST’S MISLEADING ADVERTISING??

Tried to book some tickets for the Australian Open today, now that the details have been finalised and it finally seems that the tournament will go ahead with all the players available.  Had to book through Ticketmaster – the monopolist ticket seller.  After my shocking experience of their misleading advertising and customer service, I wonder how this behaviour can be allowed.  ACCC:  here’s a case for you to tackle.

So here’s what happened.  I was attracted firstly by the offer of AO tickets to Margaret Court Arena for $56, both in the press and on the website.  Went on to the AO website that links you into Ticketmaster automatically for ticket purchase.  I chose my day and even section of the stadium – all good so far.  Then:

  1. Tickets advertised for $56 turn out to be $145!

I went back to check.  Still advertised for $56 on earlier screens, but I see that is also the price for children (separately shown).  So I try another section of the ground, higher up, also showing $56 tickets.

2. Tickets showing ‘available’ are not available (‘Sorry’) when you try to pay for them.

I found some tickets at the very top of the section.  They were $56.  Great!  I clicked on them.  Got the message that they were not available for booking.  I tried another set of apparently available tickets in the same section.  Same message – not available.

I tried a different section where the seats were advertised (when I got to the section) for $44, probably due to being partially in the sun, but I was getting desperate.  This time I got a new message!  But still a ‘No’ – ‘you haven’t left two seats clear.  Please choose again’.  Actually, there were only 4 seats available – next to each other – and so this was not even possible.

‘Yarra Valley Classic’ Ticket Booking Experience

Disappointed, I tried to book tickets for one of the 6 warm-up tournaments being held this week.  At least I’d get to see some of the players.  Tickets were advertised on the website for $20 for adults and $5 for kids.  I chose the Yarra Valley Classic, as Ash Barty was to play in this one.

3.  ‘No search results for this event’

Searching on the Ticketmaster site initially revealed the message ‘no search results for this event’.  Rather odd, since it starts today…

I found another way to search by going to ‘Tennis’ within the Ticketmaster site…and all 6 tournaments popped up!  Great!  So I tried to book 2 tickets on a week day… and got the following outcome.

4. Ticket offer of $165!

For this tournament, I could not search for a section and was offered specific seats (front row Section 2!) with no other choice at $165!!.  As this was nothing like what I was looking for, I gave up at this point.

The Ticketmaster Monopoly Needs to be Challenged

I’ve had lots of problems with Ticketmaster over the years, but increasingly they seem to be the monopoly provider of tickets to major events.  Customers have little alternative choice.  As well, Ticketmaster generally charges outrageous commissions on credit cards, when this is almost the only way to book.

Actually, if the monopolist actually delivers the service at the stated price, I don’t mind.  But – and I have found this previously in trying to book tickets with Ticketmaster – you get directed to more expensive tickets, given limited time to make a decision, and feel ‘lucky’ to have survived the experience. 

In today’s experience, Ticketmaster:

  • misled me on the price I would have to pay
  • offered me seats which were not available
  • did not even have a proper link to the tournament beginning today
  • gave me no ticket choice for this tournament
  • offered me an outrageously priced ticket for what is, in effect, a practice event.

ACCC, where are you?  Surely I’m not the only one complaining about Ticketmaster.  Consumers are desperate to see this once-a-year event (as are most of the Ticketmaster events) and Ticketmaster is taking advantage of us.  Time to stop them.  Help!

WHAT IF WE STOPPED TRADING WITH CHINA…?

It’s clear that China has chosen to bully Australia in 2020.  Australia has been outspoken in criticising China over many issues (Uyghurs, Hong Kong, Huawei, espionage, Confucius Institutes, mistreating Australian journalists, claiming international islands in the South China Sea, Belt and Road Initiative) and has also appeared to be a henchman for US foreign policy.  Using the Chinese proverb, ‘Kill one, scare 100’, now China has responded by bans and tariffs on all sorts of exports, using Australia’s treatment also to scare other countries. 

Clearly China is a much stronger economic power than Australia.  But, rather than give in on important ethical and moral issues (though we have so many problems ourselves, we can hardly take the high ground), what might happen if – instead – we tried to live without Chinese exports or imports.  What if we stopped trading with China?

Main Export Casualties:  Iron Ore, Gas, Coal, Agriculture, Education, Tourism, Wine

Minerals exports worth $80bn dominate our exports to China.  Agriculture ($14bn), Education ($12bn), tourism ($11bn) are other major exports, with wine at $3bn.  Exports to China represent 30% of all students at our universities, 25% of agriculture exports, and is also our main tourism and wine export market.

Main Import Losses:  IT and Telecom Goods, Furniture, Homewares, Clothing

By comparison, we import less from China, but the product range is very large, covering mostly elaborately transformed manufactured goods.  IT and telecom products ($21bn) are the main imports, followed by home and office furniture and homewares including electrical goods.  Surprisingly, clothing is not listed as a major item, though clearly much of our clothing does come from China.

What If We Stopped Importing from China?

As a retaliation, at first, this would seem to be catastrophic.  But, as covid has shown us, crises lead to great innovation. There is now a real desire for more local sourcing, as we have become aware of our vulnerability from global suppliers and as unemployment has soared. 

We used to be a major manufacturer.  Covid showed we could quickly manufacture again (plastics, PPE, vaccines).  Yes, it would be more expensive, but we would be employing Australians, re-skilling and becoming less dependent. 

Alternatively, we could find new sources.  Other Asian countries are low cost providers and Europe have always provided quality.  As prices increased, we would buy less, reducing our consumption, improving our environmental performance (less resource use, less waste, less carbon emissions, less transport kms) and our balance of trade simultaneously.

Though it would be painful and take time, there are other suppliers of all the goods we need and we are capable of supplying most products locally, if we are prepared to pay.

What if We Stopped Exporting to China?

Our few major mining companies (BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue) would take a big cut in short-term revenue, but they actually employ relatively few people, so few jobs would be lost.  These products can also be stockpiled, so sales might only be deferred, if new markets could be found.

Agriculture would be more problematic, as products have shorter lives, but even these could be stockpiled for a year or more, while seeking new markets.  (Remember the great wool and wheat stockpiles of late last century?)  New markets could emerge quickly, as China’s favoured suppliers could be replace in their old markets, albeit perhaps at lower margins. 

Much of the wine going to China has been lower quality lower margin wine (the pictures of Grange Hermitage are nice, but this is not the main market).  Wine can also be stored, so short term lost sales may return in later periods, especially if new markets (India?  Asia? New wealth segments?) can be developed.

Our education industry would have huge revenue losses too, but more local students could be enrolled and diversified marketing might attract a more diversified student mix than currently exists, with Chinese students dominating.  Reduced international student numbers might also lead to improved quality, as many short cuts have been taken to enrol marginal high fee paying students.  Teaching jobs would be lost, but many of these would be part-time or casual tutors.  The 2020 covid experience showed the system could survive a huge operational upheaval.  Online teaching might also increase new international opportunities.

Tourism from China has grown rapidly, but much has been run by Chinese-based operators on Chinese-only group tours arriving on Chinese airlines, providing little economic value to Australia.  In the short term, covid restrictions on international travel mean Australians will replace internationals travelling Australia so our ‘import’ costs (Australians travelling overseas) are reduced and replaced by similar spending within Australia, boosting local tourism, counteracting the fall of international travel.  The loss of Chinese travellers (or any other specific nationality) is not catastrophic overall.

The Outcomes?  Bad for China!

Clearly a complete ‘sanction’ on trading with China would be extremely disruptive.  Equally clearly, we have the means to replace imported products and diversification of exports is also possible, albeit with some time lags. 

A more likely long-term outcome is that China is creating the seeds of its own power demise.  Bullying one country leads others to be more wary.  Future Chinese exports will be jeopardised through perceived increased political risks.  China will be viewed as an untrustworthy trading partner, reducing its future economic and political power. 

China seems too smart to continue down this track for long.  Standing up to China will be perceived well and, after robust negotiations, China will back down on most demands.  Worse for China, never will we trust it again, as we have over recent years.  And our economy and society will be the better for it in the long run (this applies to being dependent on any other country, not just China).

ATTENDING ARTS FESTIVALS/’IDEAS EXCHANGES’ DURING COVID: IT’S ACTUALLY VERY REWARDING…

I’ve been ‘attending’ the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Melbourne International Film Festival over the last 10 days.  Though I haven’t moved from my home, they have been surprisingly rewarding experiences.  Is this the way of festivals – and other mass idea exchange forums – in the future?Read More »

‘New Normal’? Melbourne, This is It. What Now?

About a week ago, as we Melburnians began Lockdown 2, I realised that many other cities and areas are in the same position. I realised that ‘this’  may well be our medium-term future – permanent physical distancing, local cluster lockdowns, no international (and minimum domestic) travel, no large scale events (sports, entertainment, pubs, clubs, restaurants).  And I realised that no one seems to be planning for this as our ‘future’.  Everyone is assuming we will return to old normal.  With no vaccine on the near-term horizon, the number of global cases continuing to hit daily records, this no longer seems likely.  I wondered:  What might our medium-term future really look like?Read More »

Why Traditional Arts Are Being Ignored During Covi

I’m a financial supporter of various art forms.  I love the theatre, cinema, live music, art exhibitions, drawing.  So I’ve been surprised that, during this chaotic covi period, what we have heard from traditional Arts organisations and people  is pleas for financial assistance.  Arts are very vulnerable and deserve support, because they nurture and challenge society.   They appear not to have received their ‘fair’ share of support.  Here’s why.Read More »

CORONAVIRUS IN AUSTRALIA: DO THE FACTS JUSTIFY THE ACTIONS?

We are all very concerned about the spread of CV, the overall risk to us and the chance of personally dying.   Information from the Department of Health’s reporting (health.gov.au – coronavirus current statistics), as opposed to the media and pictures you get, show that the real story is significantly different from people’s fears.  Do the facts justify the current set of actions?  What should be/should have been done?Read More »

The BENEFITS of Coronavirus!

While we’re all bemoaning the impact of coronavirus on our personal worlds, crises like these often change some aspects of our behaviour positively, permanently. Since the Esso Longford Bass Strait gas explosion in 1998 stopped our gas supply for several months and we had no hot water or stove, we switched to washing clothes in cold water…and never changed back. Unpredicted stock market crashes in 1987 and 2001 (repeated in 2008 and now 2020) led me to use professional investment advice, despite my own financial background. I proved to myself that someone else made better decisions than I had…and I became more conservative as well.

So what unexpected positive changes will the coronavirus epidemic bring, as it bears down so rapidly upon us?Read More »

WHERE DO ALL THE HORSES GO?

In the middle of the current Australian horseracing season, an ABC current affairs program showed disturbing footage of some racehorses being treated badly before being killed at an abbatoirs. Australians were shocked. Various investigations and enquiries were started. One state racing organisation immediately announced a $25m program for better ‘career options’ and treatment for horses at the end of their racing life. But where do all the horses go after they have raced? Read More »

LORD HOWE ISLAND: THE FUTURE OF TOURISM?

Imagine a holiday to a destination with:

– a pleasant sub-tropical climate
– spectacular landscapes
– great walks
– great marine life, world-class coral and unique bird life
– a World Heritage Area
– no rubbish, with world class waste management systems
– very few other tourists (400 maximum by law)
– very few residents
– very few shops
– no advertising boards
– no internet, mobile phone coverage or TV
– very few cars, a 25kph speed limit, no seat belts
– cycling and walking predominate
– warm and friendly people
– no locks on homes and where possessions (bikes, kayaks, boats) can be left in public places
– no unemployment
– a functioning, transparent council
– 2 hrs from Sydney and Brisbane

Too good to be true? That’s Lord Howe Island!Read More »