British government agency the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) has issued legal proceedings against Viagogo over concerns it is breaking consumer protection law.
The court action follows a two-year investigation into the U.K. secondary market from a number of agencies and British regulators and comes amid fresh scrutiny on Viagogo’s controversial business practices.
In November, the CMA launched ‘enforcement action’ against the U.K.’s four main secondary sites — Ticketmaster-owned Get Me In! and Seatwave, eBay-owned StubHub and Switzerland-registered Viagogo — for suspected unlawful practice.
In response, Get Me In!, Seatwave and StubHub all made the required changes, which included notifying buyers of a ticket’s original face value, location inside the concert venue and any restrictions that could result in refused entry.
Since then, Ticketmaster has announced that it is to close both Get Me In! and Seatwave and replace them with a new fan-to-fan ticket exchange, launching in U.K. and Ireland in October before rolling out to Europe early next year.
However, Viagogo has shown no sign of changing how it operates, says the CMA, resulting in it taking legal action in the High Court.
“People who buy tickets on websites like Viagogo must be given all the information they are entitled to,” said CMA chief executive officer Andrea Coscelli in a statement. “It’s imperative they know key facts, including what seat they will get and whether there is a risk they might not actually get into the event, before parting with their hard-earned money.”
“This applies to Viagogo as much as it does to any other secondary ticketing website,” continued Coscelli. “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.”
Of particular concern to the CMA is Viagogo failing to tell ticket buyers if there is a risk they will be turned away at the door, a failure to disclose seating information and the speculative selling of tickets that “a seller does not own and may not be able to supply.” It also highlights the much-publicised difficulties consumers have had when trying to get a refund from Viagogo.
Having launched legal action, the CMA said it would now be seeking an interim enforcement action from the court that will “put a stop to some practices in the period up until the full trial.”
Welcoming the announcement, a spokesperson for campaign group the FanFair Alliance hoped “it spells the endgame to this site’s misleading and abhorrent practices.”
The CMA’s actions come just a few days before Viagogo is scheduled to appear before a Parliamentary inquiry into the U.K. live music industry and secondary ticketing.
At a previous Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) hearing the company was accused of showing a “huge lack of respect” for failing to send a representative.
When the inquiry panel meets again on Sept. 5, Viagogo’s head of business development, Christopher Miller, is listed among the witnesses scheduled to attend.
He’ll be joined by Kilimanjaro Live chief executive Stuart Galbraith, Ticketmaster U.K. managing director Andrew Parsons, StubHub U.K. managing director Wayne Grierson and FanFair Alliance campaign manager Adam Webb.
If Miller does appear, he’s likely to face tough questioning from MPs. As well as the ongoing CMA investigation, Viagogo is currently being investigated by National Trading Standards and British advertising watchdog The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for suspected breaches of consumer law.
In response, the company is said to be looking to focus on its U.S. operations — where ticket resale is generally more accepted — and is preparing to relocate much of its London-based team to New York, reports The Guardian.
Meanwhile, Viagogo’s heavily-criticized practice of profiting from charity events has also drawn fresh scorn for listing tickets for a benefit concert by British comedian Russell Howard.
Tickets for the show, which takes place at Manchester Academy 1 on September 26 in aid of the Manchester-based cancer hospital Christie, are currently listed on Viagogo for £64.00 — more than double their £27.50 face value — while The Guardian reports that touts have been advertising tickets for up £132.00.
“It is indefensible that tickets are being touted for several times their face value. We strongly condemn anyone attempting to profiteer from what is a charitable event,” said Linda Wyatt, founder of arts and music therapy charity Future Perfect, which is staging the event.
Last February, Viagogo was accused of “moral repugnance” for re-selling tickets to an Ed Sheeran gig at London’s Royal Albert Hall in aid of the Teenager Cancer Trust. Originally priced between £40 ($50) and £110 ($140), tickets for the show were listed for up to £5,000 ($6,200) on the site within hours of the concert going on sale.
One year prior to that, Viagogo was condemned for selling hugely inflated tickets for a cancer charity event hosted by comedian Peter Kay.
Viagogo did not respond to requests to comment.