Secondary Ticketing Alliance Launches Code Of Practice Prohibiting Resellers From Using Viagogo

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Two months after launching, the U.K.-based Fair Ticketing Alliance (FTA) has published what it calls a "tough" code of practice for members and ticket resellers to abide by.   

Developed by FTA's board members and London-based law firm Farrers & Co LLP, the code states that members will not list tickets on secondary sites that do not comply with U.K. regulations, specifically terms set out by the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA). 

In practice, that effectively means that members will no longer use Viagogo, which is currently subject to a number of government and regulatory investigations in the U.K. and has repeatedly been criticised for failing to abide by British laws around the selling of tickets.   

In April, the CMA announced it would take legal action against Viagogo, which is headquartered in Switzerland, unless it promptly addressed their concerns. The agency's warning followed an 18-month investigation into the secondary sector that also saw CMA officials raid Viagogo's London offices (as well as those of StubHub) after they refused to hand over documents about how they operate.

Last month, British advertising watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ramped up the pressure on Viagogo by referring the company to U.K. government agency National Trading Standards for misleading consumers about ticket prices, while a senior government minister urged music fans not to use Viagogo.

The U.K.'s three other leading secondary sites, eBay-owned StubHub and Ticketmaster-operated platforms GetMeIn! and Seatwave, have all complied with CMA's recommendations, which include notifying buyers if there is a risk that they will be turned away at the door, making clear the name and identity of the person selling the ticket and information on a ticket's seat number and location inside a concert venue.  

The FTA code of practice dictates that resellers must abide by those rules. FTA members are also forbidden from buying or selling tickets for charity events. In February 2017, Viagogo was accused of "moral repugnance" for selling tickets to an Ed Sheeran charity show in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust at hugely inflated prices.

The code additionally states that resellers must not purchase tickets for events where resale on the secondary market is prohibited by the promoter, artist or venue.  

Earlier this month, FTA founder member Scot Tobias told Billboard that his U.S.-based company, Worldwide Tickets, no longer used Viagogo to sell tickets in the U.K. due its persistent flouting of British laws. 

"I would love to do business with them again in the future, as would a lot of sellers in our alliance, because they move a lot of tickets. We just want to figure out how we can do it safely and without being in violation of U.K. law," said Tobias, who also stated that "the public loves the secondary market."

Tobias has since stepped down from the FTA board although remains involved as an advisor. Billboard understands that the organization has around 20 members at present, including six that sit on its board.

In a statement announcing the launch of its code of practice, FTA chairman Stephen Lee said: "The secondary market is thriving as consumers value the choice, convenience and guarantees that it offers which are simply not available in the primary market. But we know we have to behave responsibly to build consumer trust in our businesses, weed out any bad apples and generate repeat custom from fans."

He went on to say that all of FTA's members had signed up to the code and encouraged "everyone else in the sector to follow suit." Outlining the FTA's aims going forward, Lee said that it wanted to "work with government, regulators and others to create a vibrant, but safe, marketplace" that would include the introduction of a licensing system for commercial re-sellers.

"This is the first step of our journey," said Lee. "We look forward to working with more and more people who share our objective so we can turn it into reality."