The Competition and Markets Authority has formally begun court proceedings against Viagogo in the United Kingdom, accusing the resale marketplace of anti-consumer practices. The industry watchdog is seeking an interim enforcement order that would put a stop to some aspects of the company’s business until the full trial takes place.
The action stems from an investigation that led the authority to require changes in the way secondary marketplace businesses run in the UK last year. The other major players in the space – StubHub, Seatwave and Get Me In – signed on to make the suggested changes. Viagogo has yet to comply with the requirements, which include disclosure of the specific seats being offered to the consumer, as well as a disclosure of any risk they will be denied entry.
“This applies to Viagogo as much as it does to any other secondary ticketing website,” CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said. “Unfortunately, while other businesses have agreed to overhaul their sites to ensure they respect the law, Viagogo has not. We will now be pursuing action through the courts to ensure that they comply with the law.”
Actions by the management of Ed Sheeran this summer put on stark display the likely reasons that Viagogo has stalled in its implementation of such regulatory action. Throughout his tour, representatives invited ticketholders who had purchased through Viagogo (or any other resale platform besides the Twickets system owned by industry insiders) to volunteer that information, only to see their tickets promptly cancelled. They were given the right to purchase replacement tickets and seek refund from Viagogo, in spite of the fact that the tickets were perfectly valid the entire time, and only cancelled as a punitive measure that ensured the fees charged at both primary and resale transaction points were funneled to the same insiders.
Predictably, the FanFair Alliance, whose founders Ian McAndrew and Harry Magee are Twickets investors and have sat on the company’s board along with a panoply of venue and promoter interests, cheered the governmental intervention against Viagogo. “Hopefully [this CMA action] spells the endgame to this site’s misleading and abhorrent practices,” says Adam Webb, a public relations executive with deep music industry ties speaking on behalf of the Fan Fair Alliance.
Webb also noted for the BBC that the CMA action could be used to shut the company’s operations in the UK down completely, due to its having an office in London. Recently, reports surfaced that the company was relocating much (if not all) of its UK workforce to New York.