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Wednesday, April 12, 2000
SOCOG ticket sale proposal scuttled by consumer watchdog


  SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Ticketing problems continue to plague the organizing committee of the Sydney 2000 Olympics as preparation for the Summer Games enter the final stages.

  Responding to public condemnation, an Australian consumer and competition regulator today scuttled SOCOG's plans to use Visa credit cards as the only form of payment for Olympics tickets in the next release.

  Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman, professor Allan Fels, issued SOCOG with the notice to revoke the plan, which was expected to be debated at a board meeting Thursday, saying it was not consumer friendly.

  The SOCOG proposal to give exclusive rights to Visa, an Olympic sponsor, was designed to streamline the distribution of the remaining 3.1 million tickets.

  But the plan met with opposition from consumer groups, who claimed it discriminated against Australians who didn't possess a Visa card.

  "(The ACCC) does not believe the convenience of the organization (SOCOG) should override the ability of all Australians to take part," Fels said. "The ACCC is seeking from SOCOG a system which will be a more consumer-friendly outcome."

  Fels said under the SOCOG proposal, the next round of tickets would go on sale in mid-April via the Internet or the Olympic Call Center, with the only form of payment being a Visa card. Alternative methods of payment would be accepted at the following ticket release in June.

  ACCC spokesman Dan Coyne said he was amazed the Visa-only option was ever considered.

  "Here we have a preeminent event that is supposed to be open to everyone, and there's this proposal to blatantly restrict how you can buy tickets," he said. "It's totally outrageous.

  "There's already so much ill-will and cynicism, and something like this will only reinforce that."

  The ACCC was drawn into the Olympic ticketing distribution planning last year when it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of tickets to popular events were secretly allocated to a premium ticket scheme.

  SOCOG was forced to scrap the scheme, devised to raise revenue by offering top tickets at inflated prices to corporate organizations.

  At that stage, the general public could only acquire seats by entering an oversubscribed Olympic ticket ballot.

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