Citing the recent decision by the UK Competition and Markets Authority to bring court action against it, Viagogo opted against showing up for a hearing in front of British Parliament regarding the live music and secondary ticketing sector. The move, according to a letter from Prabhat Shah of the Swiss-based resale company, came after “unequivocal” advice from its legal counsel regarding the upcoming legal proceeding.
According to Shah, the company’s stance was that “attendance would jeopardize our position” with regards to the CMA action, adding that it “is particularly disappointing that the CMA appears to have sought a litigation advantage at the expense of the work and efforts of the DCMS Committee.”
The CMA responded by saying it “never objected to Viagogo’s attendance [at the DCMS hearing], nor did we object to Viagogo discussing the contents of its correspondence with us during our investigation,” according to Billboard. “In particular, the CMA did not say that parliamentary privilege could not apply and made clear that Viagogo could seek to claim that privilege if it felt it did apply.”
“However, we have now begun court proceedings and there may be restrictions on whether other information could be shared or discussed, in particular where it relates to third parties. Viagogo asked for certain blanket assurances in relation to disclosing this potentially sensitive information, which the CMA did not consider it appropriate to give.”
Viagogo also opted not to show for a similar hearing in March of 2017, putting it squarely in the crosshairs of many Members of Parliament for what was considered a breach of proper etiquette and respect. The repeat no-show has once again drawn heavy criticism from both government officials, and representatives of the Fan Fair Alliance and companies like Twickets, who are waging a war against the independent resale operation.
Damian Collins MP, chair of the committee and recipient of the letter from Viagogo, blasted their decision as part of a “pattern of evasion, disrespectful to the house and disrespectful to consumers, who have been the victims of Viagogo over so many years.”
“To my mind, this just underlines the real problems that exist around this business and the message that comes from today’s hearing is that if you want to be safe buying tickets online do not buy them from Viagogo – it is not a reputable company.”
Stuart Galbraith of Kilimanjaro Live was similarly condemning, tweeting “Wow. Cowards.” in response to the DCMS tweet announcing Viagogo’s decision. That should also be taken with a grain of salt, given the fact that Viagogo just filed a lawsuit against his company for fraud, alleging that Galbraith and his company mislead consumers and cancelled valid tickets sold through Viagogo’s platform for Ed Sheeran’s recent tours.
Despite Viagogo’s absence, the hearing went on as scheduled, with Galbraith, Ticketmaster U.K. Managing Director Andrew Parsons, FanFair Alliance Campaign Manager Adam Webb, and StubHub U.K. Managing Director Wayne Grierson all speaking at the hearing.
Viagogo’s letter to Collins is included below in its entirety:
Viagogo Letter to Damian Collins MP
Damian Collins MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
5th September 2018
Dear Mr Collins,
Thank you for your letter of this morning. We too are very disappointed not to be able to attend your hearing today. We have not taken this decision lightly and understand how serious it is not to be present this afternoon.
However, we are acting on unequivocal legal advice which makes clear that attendance would jeopardize our position with respect to the ongoing legal proceedings which the CMA has initiated against us. You refer to assurances in your letter with regards to the CMA, however, the advice which we have received, after our lawyers proactively reached out to the CMA, makes clear that the CMA are not prepared to offer us any such assurances as they suggested to you.
This position was confirmed in writing by the CMA to our lawyers (CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang) in the context of them having asked the CMA to assure us that it would not consider any statements made by viagogo in the hearing to constitute a breach of any of its non-disclosure provisions, or a waiver of its without prejudice privilege in the context of the CMA investigation. The CMA categorically rejected this request. Indeed, it went further and asserted a positive entitlement to rely on our client’s evidence at the DCMS hearing in the litigation. This is in direct contradiction to the guidance on parliamentary privilege given in the House of Commons’ “Guide for witnesses giving written or oral evidence to a House of Commons select Committee” dated February 2016, which we assume the CMA must know.
We are sincerely disappointed by the CMA’s stance in this regard. It is particularly disappointing that the CMA appears to have sought a litigation advantage at the expense of the work and efforts of the DCMS Committee.
We wish to maintain a dialogue with you and will be submitting written evidence following the hearing today.