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Viagogo boss admits Parliament no-show was a mistake

By | Published on Tuesday 4 June 2019


The boss of fuck-you-all ticket touting platform Viagogo, Cris Miller, has admitted that saying fuck you to the British Parliament was one fuck you too far. But, he says, the decision not to participate in a 2017 discussion on ticketing being run by Parliament’s culture select committee was the result of his company still being “naive” and “immature”. The business was eleven years old at the time.

In a new rare interview with ITV News, Miller has now admitted that his company’s parliamentary no-show in 2017 was “clearly a mistake”, but he insists that it was legal issues that stopped him from participating in another select committee hearing last year.

Viagogo, of course, has long been the most controversial of the websites that facilitate the unofficial resale of tickets. It has been accused in multiple countries of deliberately misleading customers into thinking that they are buying tickets from official sources. And of ignoring those customers when something goes wrong with their unofficial tickets, despite constantly banging on about its money-back guarantee.

In the early days, Viagogo and its founder Eric Baker were always chatting about trends in the ticketing market, but as the backlash against online touting gained pace the company put up a wall of silence, refusing to respond to any of its critics for years. Which is why, when the culture select committee called for a representative of the company to answer its questions in 2017, there was at first lots of interest as to what they might say, and then little surprise when they failed to show up.

By the time the select committee staged another hearing on ticketing last year – and again called on Viagogo to participate – the controversial firm had started responding to its critics once again, usually through brief tweets. Those tweeted statements were usually used to insist that the Viagogo website complied with UK law (despite all the evidence to the contrary), to opine that promoters cancelling touted tickets were breaking the law (even though they weren’t) and, on occasion, to slag off Ed Sheeran.

But would the MD of Viagogo, Cris Miller, show up to Parliament to tell MPs that his website complied with the law, promoters cancelling touted tickets were breaking the law and that Ed Sheehan is a dick? No, of course not. Though the ticket resale outfit did send an apology second time, citing ongoing legal action as a reason for why it could participate in any discussion.

The chair of the select committee, Damian Collins, was not impressed. “Consumers deserve answers to the huge volume of concerns about secondary ticketing abuse”, he said at the time. “It is hard not to view this eleventh hour withdrawal cynically. Viagogo’s non-attendance is a gross discourtesy, the more so given the company’s failure to attend last year”.

On the 2017 hearing, Miller now tells ITV: “At the time, quite frankly, we were simply naive and immature and got that wrong. We didn’t really understand and appreciate the importance of what that [select committee] inquiry was all about. Looking back on it, it was clearly a mistake and we apologise for it”.

“The second time I was here, in London, ready to go”, he adds. “However, there were some legal preclusions for me to be able to attend, unfortunately, and I had to listen to our lawyers”.

Despite regretting his company’s decision regarding the 2017 select committee session, Miller insists he regrets nothing else about the way the secondary ticketing firm operates, despite all the criticism and allegations of illegal conduct. “If someone buys a ticket they have the right to resell it”, he says, before defending the hiked-up prices touting creates with the customary “it is a market place, we run a platform and the market dictates the prices”.

Having run through standard ticket-tout-site-excuses one and two, Miller then throws in number three before the interview ends – the one about companies like Viagogo being needed to stop touts and fans from using dodgy Russian sites to buy and sell unofficial tickets.

Before Viagogo launched in 2006, he argues, fans were going to “fake websites” to buy touted tickets, “sending their money to some crook, based in Russia or wherever it might be, and then ultimately not getting any of the tickets at all. We step in and clean the market up, and do a lot better job than people give us credit for, to make sure that customers actually get the tickets that they purchase”.

Though, of course, the argument that your site is better than some dodgy Russian site because you will protect consumers is a little stronger if you actually comply with consumer protection law. Something I’m sure members of the UK Parliament would point out. If Miller ever showed up to talk to them.