'Don't Choose Viagogo' -- Boycott Urged as U.K. Watchdog Finds Ticketing Site Missed Deadline to Remove 'Misleading' Pricing
Viagogo is once again in the crosshairs with Britain's Digital and Creative Industries Minister urging consumers not to use the controversial secondary ticket site. Speaking on BBC Radio 5, Margot James said that if music fans did want to use a secondary site to buy tickets, "don't choose Viagogo - they are the worst."
Today (May 30) also saw British advertising watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) refer the Switzerland-based company to U.K. government agency National Trading Standards for misleading consumers about ticket prices.
The referral follows a formal investigation into the U.K.'s four leading secondary sites – Viagogo, eBay-owned StubHub, Ticketmaster-operated platforms GetMeIn! and Seatwave – that resulted in them being banned from using misleading pricing to sell tickets.
Among the prohibited practices are "not making clear the total ticket price at the beginning of the customer journey," "not including the booking fee upfront" and "not making clear the applicable delivery fee." Viagogo was additionally banned from describing itself as an 'official site' and from advertising a '100% Guarantee' when selling tickets in the U.K.
Despite telling ASA that it would make the required changes, Viagogo failed to meet the May 29 deadline, leading to the regulator escalating its complaint to National Trading Standards, which has the power to impose prosecutions and fines. ASA says it has received 23 complaints against the vendor from parties including promoters Festival Republic, Kilimanjaro Live and ticketing campaign group Fanfair Alliance.
"Viagogo was given clear warning and handed the opportunity to play fair with consumers by removing misleading pricing information from its website; its failure to do so means it will now face the consequences," said ASA chief executive Guy Parker in a statement.
Last week, over 10,000 tickets sold through the site for Ed Sheeran's U.K. stadium tour were cancelled by joint promoters Kilimanjaro Live, DHP Family and AEG Presents as part of the star's hard line stance against the secondary market.
Ahead of the tour, which began in Manchester on May 25, promoters advised anyone who had bought tickets through a secondary site to seek a refund and buy a new ticket at its face value. Speaking to the BBC, Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith said they had dealt with hundreds of people who had bought "fraudulently traded tickets" and refunded more than £240,000 ($320,000) to fans affected. He also said as part of the ticket selling process, the promoters hadnegotiated with GetMeIn, Seatwave and StubHub to ensure they would not resell tickets for the tour.
"The only agency which listed against our wishes and ignored all our correspondence was Viagogo," said Galbraith. At the time of writing, Viagogo has tickets on sale for all remaining dates of Sheeran's U.K. tour.
The Geneva-head quartered company -- which provoked condemnation when it failed to turn up at a Parliamentary hearing into secondary ticketing last year -- did not respond to requests to comment.
FanFair Alliance campaign manager Adam Webb praised the ASAs actions in a statement, but added that Google and other search engines could be doing more to help consumers. "This is yet another step towards forcing the biggest ticket resale sites to follow UK consumer law and stop their misleading marketing practices. We'll need some time to assess the full impact of today's ASA announcement - but perhaps the most positive result for fans would be if Google and other search engines exhibited corporate responsibility and stopped taking Viagogo's advertising spend. Cutting them off from search would dramatically transform this market, and help audiences locate face value tickets from authorised sellers."