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Digital minister says don’t use Viagogo as ticket resale site fails to comply with regulator demands

By | Published on Wednesday 30 May 2018


The UK’s Digital Minister Margot James has advised consumers against buying tickets from Viagogo – the ticketing sector’s undisputed king of misinformation and anti-consumer practices – as the Advertising Standards Authority confirmed that the champion rule breaker had again broken the rules.

The ASA made demands of all four of the big secondary ticketing sites – StubHub, Get Me In, Seatwave and Viagogo – back in March. In particular, it ordered that the four sites start declaring the total cost of tickets upfront, rather than adding delivery charges, VAT and the sizable booking fees charged by the secondary ticketing companies at the end of the transaction. All but Viagogo have now complied.

The deadline for complying with the ASA’s orders was last weekend, which also included some specific demands of Viagogo in relation to its confusing use of terms like “official” and “100% guarantee”. Sellers on the Viagogo platform are in no way official, of course, and with an increasing number of artists now cancelling touted tickets, there is no guarantee that tickets bought on the site will actually get the buyer access to a show.

Needless to say, Viagogo has ignored all of the ASA’s demands, in much the same way it’s ignored the demands of an assortment of other regulators. Hence Digital Minister Margot James telling the BBC that, if consumers felt the need to use resale sites to access tickets to in-demand shows, “don’t choose Viagogo – they are the worst”.

The ASA says that Viagogo had agreed to make all the extra fees it charges consumers “sufficiently clear” by 26 May, but that the company had predictably failed to do so. It remains to be seen what sanctions the ad industry regulator now enforces.

Ad industry sanctions are a problem for the rogue company. Viagogo continues to trick less savvy consumers into buying tickets from the touts on its site – even when tickets are still available from primary sellers – by spending big bucks on Google advertising.

Those ads mean that the Viagogo site often appears at the top of Google searches for tickets to in-demand shows. Google itself has made some demands of secondary ticketing sites that advertise on its platform, which resulted in Viagogo actually declaring that it is a “secondary marketplace for tickets” on its home page.

However, for most consumers, that’s a meaningless statement, and that line is immediately followed by “all tickets are fully protected by our guarantee”. What Viagogo means there is that (very patient) buyers can get a refund if sellers do not provide valid tickets. Although it very much implies guaranteed access to shows, when that is not the case at all.

Anti ticket touting campaigners hope that, with yet more rules now ignored by Viagogo, Google will actually stop taking the dodgy outfit’s money, depriving the ticketing platform of top spot placings on the all important search engine.

In related news, Ed Sheeran’s promoters have been defending his decision to cancel touted tickets to his upcoming run of stadium shows, he being the latest high profile artist to try and keep tickets off the tout markets.

Stuart Galbraith of Kilimanjaro Live confirmed to the Beeb that by pledging to cancel touted tickets he had managed to persuade StubHub, Get Me In and Seatwave to keep tickets to Sheeran’s shows off their platforms. But obviously Viagogo didn’t play ball.

“The only agency which listed against our wishes and ignored all our correspondence was Viagogo”, he confirmed. Meanwhile, of the wider anti-touting strategy, which has been criticised by some fans, Galbraith added: “We’re achieving exactly what Ed wanted, which is ‘we want you to come in and pay this [fixed] price'”.

Anti-tout strategies of this kind do create both logistical and PR challenges for artists and their promoters, of course. The hope, however, is that artist-led initiatives like this will finally get the word out to the masses that – for some tours at least – if you buy your ticket via Viagogo, you won’t get to gogo to any gig.