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Ruling in RFU v Viagogo could open ticket touts to litigation

By | Published on Friday 23 November 2012


A UK Supreme Court ruling in a legal tussle between ticket-resale website Viagogo and the Rugby Football Union could have a wider impact on the secondary ticketing market, though Viagogo bosses insist the ramifications are not as wide as they first appear.

The RFU sued Viagogo in a bid to secure the names and addresses of people who resold tickets to its games via the secondary ticketing website. Although, with the exception of tickets to football games, it is not illegal to tout tickets in the UK, many sport and entertainment promoters include clauses in their terms and conditions that say that tickets cannot be resold, usually adding that the ticket becomes void if it changes hands via a profit-generating commercial transaction. Therefore anyone who buys a ticket and resells it for profit could be sued for breach of contract.

It’s a clause that is rarely enforced, but as promoters become ever more pissed off with the reselling of their tickets for profit via touting websites, some lawyers have started to wonder if those terms and conditions could be used to [a] force resellers to hand over any profit to the promoter through the courts and [b] to create a deterrent putting off others from reselling tickets for profit at all.

But to sue, the promoter would need to know the identity of a ticket reseller, which is hard when the secondary ticketing sites mask who is actually selling a ticket. Which is why RFU sued Viagogo to get access to the names of sellers, and they won. The rugby authority has told The Guardian that once Viagogo has revealed the identity of the individuals who resold the specific tickets listed in its lawsuit, “appropriate sanctions will be handed down”.

After Viagogo’s legal efforts to avoid revealing the identities of its users failed, the RFU told reporters: “Today’s dismissal of Viagogo’s final appeal sets an important precedent for the sporting industry that rights holders should retain the ability to control their ticketing policy and pricing. If a seller is found to be listing these tickets on secondary websites they face tough sanctions, including possible court action”.

But Viagogo said that while the RFU would now likely get access to the names of a handful of individuals who sold tickets via the firm’s platform in the past, moving forward legal claims to identify resellers would not work, because new data protection methods would provide technical barriers to providing any such information.

Viagogo Director Ed Parkinson is quoted by The Guardian thus: “While the RFU may have run off with a handful of names from sales that took place several years ago, I can assure you this will not happen again … Our data protection is now better, so fans may therefore now buy and sell rugby tickets on Viagogo with absolute confidence that their information will be protected in future”.