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French court upholds ruling against Google over ticket tout ads

By | Published on Thursday 6 April 2023


Anti-touting campaigners have welcomed a recent ruling in the French courts confirming that Google cannot allow unofficial ticket sellers to buy their way to the top of search results for artists and shows.

Secondary ticketing platforms like Viagogo and StubHub have long used Google advertising to promote tickets being sold by touts on their respective sites.

Campaigners argue that, because many consumers don’t realise that the top results in a Google search are often there because the featured website paid for the top ranking, they assume those sites are the official sellers of tickets to a show. But, of course, the opposite is actually true, with the official sellers often appearing lower down the page.

Facing a bit of a backlash as online ticket touting became ever more controversial, Google did start telling secondary ticketing platforms using its ad services that they had to better communicate the unofficial status of their sellers.

However, many campaigners argue that the web giant has not gone far enough in ensuring consumers are not confused into buying touted tickets at a higher price which could be canceled by a show’s promoter.

In France, where the law is particularly strict when it comes to the unofficial sale of tickets to shows, essentially banning the practice, live industry trade group PRODISS went to court a few years ago to confirm that those laws meant Google should not allow secondary ticketing sites to advertise on their search engine in France.

In 2020, a court in Paris confirmed that is indeed the case. However, Google appealed that ruling. But the French appeal courts have now upheld the earlier decision, and also ordered Google to pay €300,000 in damages for failing to comply with the rules.

Welcoming the latest ruling, PRODISS CEO Malika Séguineau says: “This is a landmark decision for us. We are very pleased that the Court Of Appeal has ruled in favour of protecting the rights of the promoters and the rights of the audience. After several previous decisions against illegal platforms over the last years, this is another step in the right direction to ensure a fair, safe, and legal process for ticket sales in France”.

Meanwhile Sam Shemtob, director of the pan-European anti-touting campaign FEAT, adds: “This is a big win for those of us who want to see tickets in the hands of fans and not sold on by price-gouging touts. Rightfully, a lot of fans’ anger gets focussed on the resale platforms themselves, but Google is a major player in steering people away from face value tickets sold by the primary seller, even when there are still tickets available. The clearer Google’s role becomes for all to see, the better”.