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Viagogo faces court for failing to protect UK consumers

Rupert Jones
Top-selling events on the Viagogo website at the moment include Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and the Rolling Stones. Photograph: Frank Micelotta/Rex/Shutterstock

The secondary ticketing firm Viagogo looks set to be taken to court for breaching consumer protection laws after the UK competition regulator said the website had ignored its demands to make changes.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was determined to ensure Viagogo complied with the law, and was prepared to use the full range of its powers to protect music fans.

Viagogo claims to be the world’s largest secondary marketplace for tickets to live events, and while it is a major player in the UK, it gives its address as a street in Geneva, Switzerland.

The announcement comes five months after the CMA reported that its year-long investigation into the secondary ticketing market had uncovered widespread concerns about breaches of consumer law.

The CMA launched its investigation in late 2016 amid mounting pressure from the music industry and fans’ groups to address concerns about the ticket resale industry, which is dominated by Viagogo, StubHub, Get Me In! and Seatwave, the last two of which are owned by Ticketmaster.

Last November, the regulator said it would take enforcement action against a number of secondary ticketing sites suspected of breaking the law, and on Wednesday said StubHub, Get Me In! and Seatwave had formally committed to ensuring better information would be given about tickets being resold through their platforms. The three sites will make clear which seat in the venue the customer will get; whether there is a risk a customer might be turned away at the door; and who is selling the ticket, so customers can benefit from enhanced legal rights when buying from a business.

The CMA raised the same concerns with Viagogo, along with other issues, including its failure to comply with a commitment given in 2015 to make customers aware of the face value of tickets. However, the regulator said: “This platform has not currently agreed to make changes the CMA considers necessary. Therefore, the CMA has notified them it will take action through the courts, unless they promptly commit to satisfactorily addressing its concerns.”

On Wednesday, Viagogo’s website said its top-selling events included forthcoming UK shows by the Rolling Stones, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and the Dutch violinist and conductor André Rieu.

Michael Grenfell, the CMA’s executive director for enforcement, said: “All secondary ticketing websites must play by the rules and treat their customers fairly if anything goes wrong. We take failure to comply with consumer protection law very seriously. So far, Viagogo has failed to address our concerns, and we are determined to ensure they comply with the law.”

It is not clear whether Viagogo views itself as a Swiss company that is bound only by Swiss law. Its website’s small print states: “This agreement shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the Swiss laws. You consent to the exclusive personal jurisdiction and venue of Swiss courts.”

The campaign group FanFair Alliance said UK audiences “have been taken for a ride for too long” by the biggest secondary platforms and the touts who had fuelled their business.

It added: “It is disappointing, though hardly unexpected, that Viagogo continue to flout the law and mislead the British public. If they fail to follow their competitors and make similar commitments, then we expect to see prosecution for non-compliance at the earliest opportunity.”

Viagogo did not comment.