MPs take ‘unusual step’ in warning public not to use ticket resale site Viagogo

MPs have issued a warning to the public against using secondary ticketing website Viagogo until it “fully complies with consumer law”, a report has said.

The caution comes from a report into live music, published by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, in which its chairman Damian Collins said the “highly unusual step” in advising consumers to avoid the platform is imperative until it fully complies with consumer law.

The report further claims that Viagogo has “caused distress for too many music fans for too long”.

The online ticketing company has been singled out by MPs in the report, saying that until the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) can bring the site in line with consumer law, “we advise the public not to buy or sell tickets via Viagogo”.

The DCMS Committee’s warning comes two weeks after the CMA said there are “still issues of concern” regarding Viagogo, as it was not complying with a court order requiring that it improve information displayed about the tickets listed on the site.

The watchdog said it was preparing to take further legal action against Viagogo to find the platform “in contempt”.

At the time, Viagogo said they “strongly believe” they are not in breach of the court order, and that they have made several successful improvements to the platform “to meet the compliance requirements of the order”.

The DCMS Committee report says that Viagogo, more so than other secondary ticketing sites, has caused distress to music fans for too long due to its “business practices”.

MPs say that the company has shown an “unwillingness to appear before the Committee and provide oral evidence” and that it has demonstrated “disdain for not only the legislative process, but its customers”.

The report – based on an inquiry into the economic, cultural and social benefits of live music in the UK and which included more than 80 submissions of written evidence, almost two-thirds of which related to ticket abuse – includes an example where one customer paid £225 for two tickets which they later learned had a face value of £45 each.

The customer said they were not informed of the total cost of the tickets until after they had confirmed the purchase, and that there were no options to cancel the purchase.

Viagogo’s customer service team was also criticised in the report, which cited an example from one person from their inquiry who said they struggled to obtain a refund due to an “automated response” every time they sought help.

As well as issues regarding the cost of resold tickets, another criticism was that sellers on Viagogo do not always share significant information, such as the venue having banned ticket resale by customers, the ticket seat details and whether or not the seller is in possession of the tickets, the report said.

The DCMS Committee said it notes the significant progress by enforcement agencies in “bringing a number of secondary resale platforms into line with consumer law following actions by the CMA and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), as well as changes within the industry itself to limit the resale of tickets for profit”.

But it has called on further intervention from the Government over the issue, saying that the problem cannot be resolved by volunteer campaign groups alone.

In a statement alongside the publication of the report, MPs said: “We believe that Viagogo has yet to prove itself a trustworthy operator given its history of resisting compliance, court orders and parliamentary scrutiny, and flouting consumer law…

“We are concerned that while that work takes place, consumers remain vulnerable to the site’s misleading sales practices. It is imperative that the CMA acts promptly and decisively to bring Viagogo into line with consumer law and, until it does so, we advise the public not to buy or sell tickets via Viagogo.”

Mr Collins said that, despite a “boom in live music” in the UK, it is also facing “stark challenges”, with “bad experiences with ticket resale platforms damaging trust in the industry”.

He said: “We’re calling on the Government to review the effectiveness of the law intended to prevent consumers being ripped off when buying tickets for live concerts.

“The Government shouldn’t rely on the work of voluntary groups to take on the giants in the ticket resale market but make sure there is effective action to end exploitation, and greater transparency and redress for ticket-buyers when things go wrong.

“The DCMS Committee has taken today the highly unusual step of issuing a warning to the public against using a major secondary ticketing site until it complies fully with consumer law.”

Sharon Hodgson MP, chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, said in a statement: “I am pleased that ticket abuse has played a large role in this review, and that once again the Committee has been clear that the public must not buy or sell tickets through Viagogo.

“I hope that the Government will respond positively to the report, particularly to the recommendations about reviewing the effectiveness of current regulations, and act appropriately if they are found to be ineffective.

“Ticket abuse is a widescale problem, and requires action from the ticketing industry, promoters, artists, search engines, consumers and Government.

“I have been committed to tackling this problem for almost a decade, and will not stop until fans are put first.”

A spokesman for Viagogo said they were disappointed to be singled out and added that they provided an “invaluable service”.

“We are disappointed that the DCMS have singled us out particularly, when hundreds of thousands of British citizens use our service to buy and sell tickets to their favourite live events every day and never experience any problems.

“We provide an invaluable service to UK consumers by giving them access to events in the UK and all over the world.

“For those transactions that fall into the 1% annually where customers do have an issue, the overwhelming majority of cases are due to the unfair and potentially illegal restrictions the event organisers pose simply because customers have chosen to purchase tickets from a competitor of theirs.

“We have been complying and will absolutely continue to work constructively with the CMA to make further amends where necessary, all the while putting all of the buyers and sellers who use the platform first.”