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Persuading Google is the solution to Viagogo ‘rip-offs’, industry tells APPG

22 November 2018

ALTHOUGH REPRESENTATIVES of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) took a pounding at the latest All Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse (APPG) meeting, Google was identified as the solution to the problem.

Held in the House of Lords on October 31, the packed committee room heard intense criticism of the ASA’s handling of Viagogo and its breaches of regulations.

ASA director of complaints and investigations Miles Lockwood and compliance manager Nick Hudson stressed that the ruling that Viagogo did not mislead concert-goers over a Google advert for Rolling Stones tickets in May, was based on one particular point, and was not an endorsement of the company’s practices.

“Everyone I know has been absolutely invested in this issue – we are determined to deal with this and bring Viagogo into compliance as far as the rules allow us tom,” Lockwood sad.

APPG chair Sharon Hodgson MP shared details of a letter from the ASA’s chief executive Guy Parker, which stressed it works on a case-by-case basis and “one ruling on a single issue doesn’t represent our position as a company”.

But Lockwood and Hudson faced a barrage of criticism for alleged ASA inaction from Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith and The Iridium Consultancy operations manager Reg Water, who gave examples of continued Viagogo breaches of ASA rules.

Campaign groups were also quick to condemn the ASA’s lack of action.

Founder of Facebook group Victim of Viagogo Claire Turnham said she had helped fans recover more than £820,000 of overcharges from the Switzerland-registered company.

“I ask why is it down to us to be helping these people?”, she said, giving the example of a fan who thought they were buying two Pink tickets at £149 each, but had £3,223 taken from their bank account by Viagogo, with no breakdown provided.

“This is commercial rape. You have to stand up to bullies and it needs to be stopped.”

Adam Webb, campaign manager of the artiste manager-backed FanFair Alliance, pointed out that Viagogo is “wholly dependent” on Google search advertising.

“Google is the first stage in the consumer journey, so if we want to stop it then this is where we need to start,” he said.  “The deception starts on the search page and consumers are confused.”

Hodgson confirmed Google would be invited to speak at the next meeting.

Viagogo is also facing legal action from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for alleged failure to comply with regulations.

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