UK Members of Parliament (MPs) have advised the public ‘not to buy or sell tickets’ through secondary ticketing platform Viagogo.
The warning was made as part of a new report on the country’s live music industry published today (March 19) by the House of Commons-appointed Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS).
The wide-ranging live music report saw the likes of Ed Sheeran promoter Stuart Galbraith (Chief Executive, Kilimanjaro Live), Ticketmaster UK Managing Director Andrew Parsons and Mumford & Sons’ member Ben Lovett among the artists and executives who gave evidence.
In addition to the warning for music fans to avoid buying tickets through Viagogo, the DCMS Committee has outlined other recommendations and issues that it would like to see addressed, including a call to review live music sector business rates, more investment to develop new talent and concerns about discrimination hindering success of urban music.
While the report notes significant progress by enforcement agencies in bringing a number of secondary resale platforms in line with consumer law following action by the Competition and Markets Authority and Advertising Standards Agency, the British MPs have singled out secondary ticketing platform Viagogo for having “caused distress for too many music fans for too long”.
In September 2018 the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) initiated legal proceedings against Viagogo in the High Court following an investigation into the secondary ticketing sector, which resulted in action against four major secondary ticketing websites in November 2017.
In November the CMA obtained a High Court judgement ordering Viagogo “to overhaul the way it does business” and then put out a statement on March 5 saying that it was preparing to take further legal action to ask a court to find the company in contempt for failing to comply with the previous court order.
In the new report, the Committee said it believes 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”.
Added the Committee: “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.”
The recommendations in the report regarding Viagogo have been welcomed by UK-based organizations such as the Association of Independent Festivals and FanFair Alliance, which is a prominent opponent of Viagogo’s business practices.
“We are pleased that the DCMS Select Committee has headed warnings from AIF and recognised dangerous conflicts of interest and stifling market dominance as a result of the vertical integration of giant corporate conglomerates in the live industry.”
Paul Reed, Association of Independent Festivals
Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals said: “We are pleased that the DCMS Select Committee has headed warnings from AIF and recognised dangerous conflicts of interest and stifling market dominance as a result of the vertical integration of giant corporate conglomerates in the live industry, and the effect this has on competitors and consumers alike.
“We hope to see the recommendation of a full market study from the Competition and Markets Authority acted upon swiftly.”
Adam Webb, FanFair Alliance
Adam Webb, Campaign Manager, FanFair Alliance said: “FanFair Alliance welcomes all aspects of the Committee’s wide-reaching report, and especially their condemnation of Viagogo.
“What we now need is action. If a restaurant poses a risk to public health, we expect inspectors to close it immediately on grounds of consumer protection.
“Unfortunately, such powers of enforcement are seemingly absent when it comes to online ticket touting. So despite the huge consumer harm caused by Viagogo’s practices, and despite the best efforts of the Competition & Markets Authority and other regulators, the site has continued to operate in clear disregard of the law.
“This needs to change. Viagogo is already facing legal proceedings for contempt of court. While that case is pending, there is surely a compelling argument for the website to be temporarily blocked and for platforms like Google to cut off its advertising.”
“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.”
Damian Collins MP
Chair of the DCMS Committee Damian Collins MP, said: “The UK is witnessing a boom in live music with increasing numbers attending concerts and festivals, giving a boost for the economy, with home-grown talent like Ed Sheeran taking that success across the world.
“Yet for all its vibrancy, away from the headline acts the music industry is also facing stark challenges. Bad experiences with ticket resale platforms are damaging trust in the industry, smaller music venues are closing at an unprecedented rate, and the future of the talent pipeline is at risk.
“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.
Added Collins: “When it comes to live performance, it’s shocking to hear that grime artists are continuing to face prejudice, which risks hampering the success of one of our most successful musical exports.
“Urgent action is needed if the live music industry is to continue to make a significant contribution to both the economy and cultural life of the country. We also look to the music industry to make sure that enough of the big money generated at the top finds its way down to grassroots level to support emerging talent. It happens with sport, why not music?”Music Business Worldwide