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Viagogo-StubHub merger blocked by watchdog

4 February 2021

THE COMPETITION and Markets Authority (CMA) has ruled that controversial ticket resale website Viagogo must sell off its StubHub business outside North America, concluding a 14-month enquiry.

The investigation took evidence from live music promoters and venue operators, fans, competitors and artiste managers.

The merger, which has been on hold, would lead to higher fees and poorer service for its UK customers, the CMA decided, after the company bought its main rival from former owner eBay for $4.05 billion (£2.96bn) in December 2019.

In an earlier action that year, the CMA started court proceedings against Viagogo for failure to comply with consumer protection laws, but dropped them when the company complied at the last minute.

The new ruling represents a partial victory for campaigners who worried about the potential the merged company would have had to exploit its power over the secondary ticketing market.

Longstanding campaigner against industrial-scale ticket touting Sharon Hodgson MP, who is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, says “Together, Viagogo and StubHub have a market share of more than 90 per cent of the secondary ticket industry. It is therefore welcome news that their merger cannot go ahead.

“However, this will give no relief to the tens of thousands of fans who have already been ripped-off by these websites, or those who may fall victim to their parasitical business models in the future.

“We now need to see the secondary ticket market properly regulated so consumers can once again trust the platforms they use.”

Likewise, Adam Webb of campaigning group FanFair Alliance, which represents managers of artistes including Mumford & Sons, Arctic Monkeys and Nick Cave, feels more regulation of secondary platforms is required.

“The most pertinent question will be the identity of potential [StubHub] buyers,” he says. “Aside from the acquisition costs, anyone wishing to operate a successful uncapped ticket resale business in the UK would require significant relationships with large-scale ticket touts to supply inventory, and deep enough pockets to outspend Viagogo on Google search advertising.”

Viagogo has yet to comment on the ruling.

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