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CMA drops legal action against Viagogo, says site is now compliant with UK law

By | Published on Friday 6 September 2019


The UK’s Competition And Markets Authority has dropped its legal action against Viagogo, saying that the company has now brought its website in line with the law.

The CMA secured a court order against the secondary ticketing website last year, after it failed to voluntarily meet demands the government body had previously made of both it and its competitors. StubHub did meet those demands without legal action, while Live Nation just shut down its two European secondary ticketing sites.

The courts gave Viagogo a deadline of January to fall in line with the CMA’s demands and – by doing so – UK consumer rights law. While the site claimed to be compliant several times before and after that deadline, the CMA disputed this and started contempt of court proceedings in July.

At that point the CMA said that it still had various concerns, in particular regarding misleading or unclear messaging on the Viagogo site around ticket availability, seat numbers, seller identity and the fact that a promoter may be allowed to cancel a touted ticket, depending on the terms and conditions of the original sale via a primary ticketing platform.

Announcing that the CMA was now dropping that ongoing legal action, its chief exec Andrea Coscelli said in a statement: “The Viagogo website UK customers now visit is worlds apart from the one they faced before the CMA took action. Key information needed to make informed decisions before buying a ticket is now much clearer, including on where you’ll sit in a venue and whether you might be turned away at the door”. 

“What is clearly not acceptable is the time it’s taken to get to this stage”, he went on. “Stronger consumer powers are required in the secondary ticketing sector and we will continue to work with the government on the most effective way to achieve this. A key part will be the government’s existing plans to give the CMA stronger consumer protection powers, so that it can rule on whether a company has broken the law and impose fines on those infringing companies”.

He added that the CMA “will keep up the pressure on Viagogo to ensure that it continues to comply with UK consumer protection law”. A further review of the ticket resale site’s compliance with its original court order is set for next month.

“If the results of this review, or any other fresh information, suggests the company is not meeting its obligations then the CMA will not hesitate to take further action – through the courts if necessary”, concluded Coscelli.

In its own statement, Viagogo said it was “pleased it has been able to work with the CMA to find solutions to the final few areas of discussion, as confirmed by today’s statement. We have strived at all times to ensure we are correctly applying the CMA order, this has been a complex and detailed process, and open dialogue with the market authority has been essential”.

It continued: “We are grateful to the CMA for their engagement over the past few months and the ability of both parties to work collaboratively to reach this point. Looking ahead we will continue to work with them to ensure we are delivering the best possible service for our customers and challenging the wider ticketing market to raise its standards in the interests of all in the live event world”.

Still digesting the decision, Adam Webb of anti-tout campaign FanFair Alliance said that the CMA’s decision was “a bolt from the blue, and we need time to assess its ramifications”.

“Clearly, the CMA have led in undertaking some important work in bringing Viagogo to heel”, he went on. “The site is far more transparent than it was in December 2016, when their enforcement investigation began. However, even leaving aside its historic abuses of UK audiences, which are serious, extensive and well documented, we still hold serious concerns that Viagogo remains non-compliant with a range of consumer protection laws. We continue to share these concerns with the CMA on a regular basis”.

“Having gone to the cost and effort of serving Viagogo with a court order, it certainly feels disappointing that our regulator is apparently relinquishing its considerable efforts and not finishing the job”, he concluded.

Also criticising the latest development was Sharon Hodgson MP, who has led the campaign against online touting in Parliament. “The Consumer Rights Act was enacted four years ago to protect consumers”, she said in a statement. “For over four years, Viagogo have failed to comply with legislation and thousands of fans have suffered as a result. After progress and pressure put on Viagogo by the CMA over the last two years, it is surprising that the CMA have now suspended preparations for court action”.

She went on: “Viagogo are not fully compliant with the Consumer Rights Act. Viagogo have made vanity changes which can easily be reversed now that the CMA have taken off the pressure. This is a backwards step and could threaten thousand more consumers going forward. I will be writing to the CMA and the government minister about this issue to put pressure on them to keep this issue under serious review and urge them to step in immediately if further evidence against Viagogo comes to light”.