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Proposed new powers for CMA would have allowed it to tackle Viagogo quicker

By | Published on Wednesday 19 June 2019

Competition And Markets Authority

The UK government is considering giving the Competition & Markets Authority more power over consumer rights law. This would allow the regulator to directly intervene against and if necessary fine companies that overcharge or mislead consumers, without having to take the matter to court first.

The government says that if the CMA had these new powers, it could “intervene earlier and more quickly to tackle [consume law] failings” and “directly impose fines on firms for poor business behaviour”. And that would “act as a powerful deterrent to firms that are harming consumers with misleading claims, unfair terms and conditions and hard-to-exit contracts”.

The Department For Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy references various controversial business practices that the CMA would be able to better tackle if it had these new powers, and on that list is secondary ticketing. The CMA is one of two government agencies – the other being National Trading Standards – which took on the task of ensuring ticket resale sites like StubHub and Viagogo were complying with all elements of consumer rights law.

That work involved making a number of demands of both StubHub and Viagogo, and the Live Nation resale sites that were still operating at the time. When Viagogo refused to fall in line, the CMA was forced to take the matter to the courts to secure an injunction ordering the often controversial secondary ticketing firm to meet the regulator’s demands by a January 2019 deadline. When Viagogo failed to meet that deadline, the CMA could only threaten taking further action through the courts.

Had the CMA had the powers that are now being proposed, it would almost certainly have been able to take action against Viagogo much quicker. Which would probably have meant we wouldn’t still be waiting for the firm to deal with all of the regulator’s concerns this late in the day, its boss having recently made the lacklustre commitment to do so “as soon as possible”.

Commenting on the government’s plans for the CMA, Adam Webb of the music industry’s anti-touting campaign FanFair said yesterday: “We would strongly support new enforcement powers for the Competition & Markets Authority to tackle businesses that continually break consumer law. In fact, they can’t come soon enough”.

“The absence of such powers has undoubtedly served to benefit companies like Viagogo that operate with a flagrant disregard for lawmakers, regulators and the public”, he added. “Even against a tide of political and regulatory pressure, we still hold concerns that Viagogo is not yet fully compliant with terms of a court order issued over six months ago”.

The government will now consult various stakeholders on its proposals regarding new powers for the CMA as part of a new white paper on consumer rights.