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Government minister tells people to ‘avoid Viagogo’

1 June 2018
Sharon Hodgson MP

THE GOVERNMENT’S digital minister Margot James MP has advised consumers to steer clear of controversial resale platform Viagogo.

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, James cautioned music fans to give the Switzerland-based company a wide berth.

“There are four big choices when you can’t get a ticket for an event from the primary seller and you have to go to a secondary site,” said James. “Just don’t choose Viagogo. They are the worst.”

James’ comments came on the same day National Trading Standards (NTS) launched an investigation into Viagogo, after the company continued to flout advertising law, despite warnings from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The platform had been given until 29 May to clean-up its act regarding deceptive pricing information that includes VAT, additional booking and delivery charges, and claims such as “official site” and “100% Guaranteed”, but has failed to do so.

Others of the Big Four resale sites – eBay-owned StubHub and Ticketmaster-owned Get Me In and Seatwave –complied with the ASA ruling, issued in March (see LIVE UK issue 219).

“Viagogo was given clear warning and handed the opportunity to play fair with consumers by removing misleading pricing information from its website. Its failure to do so means it will now face the consequences,” says ASA chief executive Guy Parker.

“Where an advertiser or business is unwilling or unable to follow the advertising rules, we will act. In light of Viagogo’s inability to get its house in order, we’re referring it to National Trading Standards to consider appropriate action.”

“I hope that finally Viagogo will get the comeuppance they deserve after years of breaking the law”

Sharon Hodgson MP

NTS has a range of statutory sanctions at its disposal, which can include prosecution and fines.

“We have now launched an investigation into Viagogo, which will look at all legal options to bring them into compliance with the law,” says an NTS spokeswoman.

As well as adding Viagogo to its list of non-compliant advertisers, the ASA is working with search engines Google and Bing to remove the resale site from advertising listings, and is placing ads to alert the public about non-complaint advertisers.

“I hope that finally Viagogo will get the comeuppance they deserve after years of breaking the law,” says long-time anti-touting campaigner Sharon Hodgson MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse.

“I will continue to put pressure on the government to ensure this parasitical market plays totally by the rules.”

The ASA received 23 complaints about Viagogo, including from campaign group FanFair Alliance and promoters Festival Republic and Kilimanjaro Live.

“Perhaps the most positive result for fans would be if Google and other search engines exhibited corporate responsibility and stopped taking Viagogo’s advertising spend,” says FanFair campaign manager Adam Webb.

“Cutting them off from searches would dramatically transform this market, and help audiences locate face-value tickets from authorised sellers.”

CEO of industry umbrella body UK Music Michael Dugher adds, “Google needs to stop shirking its responsibilities and kick secondary sites that break new rules on transparency into touch.”

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