"It is a considerable disappointment to us that Viagogo have decided not to send a representative," said committee chair Damian Collins at the start of the two-hour hearing into ticket abuses. "Given that other companies that operate in the primary and secondary ticketing space, like Live Nation and eBay, have given evidence to the committee it's a considerable disappointment that Viagogo don't feel that they have any evidence that they can contribute."
Committee member Nigel Huddleston said the company's action's displayed "if not contempt for parliament, a lack of respect to parliament and, by extension, the British public." Fellow MP Nigel Adams, who also spoke at the hearing, subsequently tweeted that the vendor had shown a "huge lack of respect" by snubbing the inquiry, adding, "no wonder they're getting a kicking."
Despite not being present at the hearing, Viagogo was unsurprisingly at the heart of the discussion, with Keith Kenny, sales and ticketing director for the Broadway conquering musical Hamilton -- which makes its U.K. bow later this year and has struck a deal with Ticketmaster as its exclusive ticketing partner -- highly critical of the company for its practice of selling speculative tickets. He said that he knew of around 50 tickets for Hamilton that don't exist currently listed on Viagogo priced at up to £5,000 ($6,200) each.
"What can we do about it? I would like to see the Consumer Rights Act enforced. They should be made to follow the law," Kenny told the committee, citing existing British legislation that requires secondary ticketing platforms to list information about a ticket's face value and its exact location inside a venue. Secondary vendors' consistent failure to do so – not to mention the reselling of tickets that the promoter has prohibited from being resold – meant that promoters were often powerless to control how much of their inventory ended up on scalping sites.
By way of illustration, Stuart Camp cited Viagogo's heavily criticised reselling of tickets to a forthcoming Sheeran charity show at the Royal Albert Hall in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. Originally priced at between £40 ($50) and £110 ($140), tickets were listed for up to £5,000 ($6,200) on Viagogo within hours of the concert going on sale.
Galbraith stated that while Viagogo was one of the worst offenders, the problem also extended to the U.K.'s three other leading secondary vendors -- eBay-owned StubHub and Ticketmaster-owned GetMeIn! And Seatwave. He said that he had recently written to all four companies requesting that they do not resell tickets for Sheeran's upcoming U.K. tour. His demands were ignored and "all four sites listed tickets at inflated prices, knowing that it's our intention to cancel those tickets and not admit those customers."
"We all identify Viagogo as perhaps the most aggressive secondary site. The problem with GetMeIn! and Seatwave is that by being owned by a primary ticket seller, it's very difficult to keep that black and white. And indeed Ticketmaster do everything they can on occasion to blur that margin," Galbraith told MPs, singling out the Live Nation-owned company for "using their primary database to sell secondary tickets."
"That's their business choice," he conceded. "What I really have an issue with is that they do that when there are still enormous volumes of primary tickets at face value."
"It's not about the money that we're missing out on," Camp later stated. "It's about people not being ripped off and unfortunately whilst there's demand that's the situation we're in."
Asked about Ticketmaster's success in restricting the number of resell tickets for Iron Maiden's upcoming U.K. tour, Galbraith said, "The reality is they can do it when it suits them commercially. In the case of [theatre producer] Cameron Mackintosh and Hamilton, if [Ticketmaster] hadn't agreed that deal they wouldn't have been given any primary tickets. In the case of Iron Maiden, their promotion company [Live Nation] happens to promote that band."
Calling for stronger government support against scalping sites, Galbraith went on to say that "secondary ticketing is nothing to do with us as an art form" and "it needs regulating very, very quickly."
He continued: "The instruction that we were given 10 years ago to go and self-regulate has come back as [then] predicted: 'We will lose control of our own ticketing and some gate keepers will turn poachers.' And that's exactly what's happened."