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Competition & Markets Authority begins legal action against Viagogo

By | Published on Monday 3 September 2018


The UK’s Competition & Markets Authority confirmed on Friday that it has begun legal proceedings against the always controversial secondary ticketing website Viagogo. The British regulator joins its counterparts in Australia and New Zealand in going legal over the ticket resale site’s infamously anti-consumer practices.

The CMA announced plans last November to crack down on all the major secondary ticketing sites in the UK. In April it said that eBay’s StubHub and Live Nation’s GetMeIn! and Seatwave had subsequently committed to update their policies and practices to bring them in line with UK law. But champion rule-breaker Viagogo – which employs a “fuck you” policy to regulators as well as its customers – had predictably not complied.

CMA bosses indicated then that legal action would follow. And on Friday they confirmed legal proceedings had now been filed with the High Court.

The regulator’s CEO Andrea Coscelli said: “People who buy tickets on websites like Viagogo must be given all the information they are entitled to. It’s imperative they know key facts, including what seat they will get and whether there is a risk they might not actually get into the event, before parting with their hard-earned money”.

“This applies to Viagogo as much as it does to any other secondary ticketing website”, he added. “Unfortunately, while other businesses have agreed to overhaul their sites to ensure they respect the law, Viagogo has not. We will now be pursuing action through the courts to ensure that they comply with the law”.

The CMA also published a list of the ways in which it thinks Viagogo may be in breach of UK consumer right rules.

This includes the lack of information about seat number, seller, the face value of a touted ticket and the risk of that ticket being cancelled by a promoter. Plus misleading information about ticket availability designed to pressure customers into buying with haste, sellers listing tickets they don’t actually have, and the hurdles customers must jump over to benefit from Viagogo’s much promised money-back guarantee.

The regulator then stated: “The CMA is now seeking a court order to bring these practices to an end. Given the importance of ensuring its concerns are addressed promptly, the CMA is also seeking an interim enforcement order from the court that, if successful, will put a stop to some practices in the period up until the full trial”.

News of the legal action against Viagogo comes as Parliament’s culture select committee prepares to put the spotlight back on the secondary ticketing market.

Last time that happened, of course, Viagogo was a no show, it employing a “fuck you” policy to concerned politicians as well as regulators and its customers. Word has it the company will actually send a representative this time. It remains to be seen if he simply answers “fuck you” to every question. Presumably not. Although he’ll probably find plenty of waffley ways to imply “fuck you” instead.

The CMA’s lawsuit also comes amid reports that Viagogo is moving many of its London-based staff to New York. Which might mean the company recognises that its time is slowly running out in Europe where increased regulation and regular bad press is making it harder to profit from a ticket resale business that in no small part relies on customer ignorance.

Needless to say, those who have been campaigning for better regulation of the ticket resale market welcomed the news of the CMA lawsuit. Adam Webb of the FanFair Alliance told reporters: “FanFair Alliance warmly welcomes today’s announcement by the Competition & Markets Authority, as will the countless consumer victims of Viagogo. Hopefully it spells the endgame to this site’s misleading and abhorrent practices”.

Meanwhile Sharon Hodgson MP, a long-time critic of secondary ticketing, and especially of the tactics employed by Viagogo, said: “The news that the CMA have launched legal action against Viagogo is extremely welcome. This has been long overdue, and I know that both campaigners and fans, as well as the music, sport and entertainment industries, will join me in applauding this announcement”.

She added: “For too long fans have been exposed to the risk of ending up with a ticket that did not get them into an event when buying through Viagogo. Perhaps Viagogo will now realise that consumer protection legislation passed by Parliament is not a minor inconvenience to be ignored and that they can be held accountable through the courts”.