The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned the Australian Football League (AFL) and a number of AFL clubs about their failure, in the ACCC’s view, to adequately disclose to consumers that attendance at certain high demand games would incur costs in addition to membership fees.

Given the strong public interest in this matter the ACCC has issued a media release about its investigation, which followed complaints relating to the introduction of the AFL’s variable pricing policy earlier this year.

The ACCC was concerned that the AFL and certain clubs used marketing material that was likely to mislead consumers about the price and benefits associated with membership.

In the ACCC’s view, the material was likely to have created the impression that the membership fee entitled a member to attend a specified number of games for no additional cost.  In fact, AFL members and general admission AFL club members were required to pay additional costs in order to attend ‘reserve’ classified games that had originally been promoted as part of their membership entitlements. The additional costs were between $8.50 and $39 for general admission AFL club members and $7.50 for AFL members.

Following public reports and the ACCC’s intervention, the AFL removed all reserve classified games from Round 15 onwards, so that these additional costs were no longer charged. A number of AFL clubs also made changes to their websites in response to the ACCC’s concerns.

“The key issue of concern to the ACCC was the lack of disclosure to consumers by the AFL and some clubs about additional costs to attend some games prior to them purchasing their AFL or club memberships,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“The AFL and clubs are now on notice that the Australian Consumer Law applies to them, and that the ACCC expects disclosure of these types of additional costs to be made in a way which is clear, prominent and immediately proximate to any representations regarding the price and benefits of membership."

“It is important that consumers considering whether to purchase an AFL or club membership are making this decision on the basis of complete information about the cost and benefits of membership,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC will closely monitor this issue in future and will consider whether enforcement action is appropriate if there are further complaints that the AFL or AFL clubs have not fully disclosed conditions or restrictions or additional costs of membership.

Misleading or deceptive conduct and making false or misleading representations about the price or benefits of a product are prohibited by the Australian Consumer Law. False or misleading representations which contravene the Australian Consumer Law attract a maximum penalty of up to $1.1 million per contravention.