Viagogo Launches Legal Action Against Ed Sheeran Promoter Over Alleged Fraud

Dave J Hogan/Getty Images
Ed Sheeran performs on day 2 of Latitude Festival at Henham Park Estate on July 17, 2015 in Southwold, England. 

Controversial secondary ticketing company Viagogo says it has filed court proceedings against Ed Sheeran's live promoter Stuart Galbraith over what it alleges amounts to "multi-million pound fraud." 

The Switzerland-registered company claims that Galbraith's company Kilimanjaro Live defrauded Sheeran's "fans out of several million pounds" by confiscating thousands of genuine tickets to the singer's 2017 tour and then forcing them to re-buy new tickets at face value. 

Kilimanjaro Live promoted the U.K. run of Sheeran's record-breaking ÷ (Divide) stadium trek alongside DHP Family. It's not clear whether Viagogo's law suit relates to specific dates or the entire U.K. tour, but Billboard understands that it is not restricted to just the U.K. Court papers were filed by Viagogo today (Sept. 4) in Germany.

At the heart of the dispute is the strong stance that Galbraith, working in conjunction with Sheeran's manager Stuart Camp, took against scalpers and secondary ticketing sites such as Viagogo for Sheeran's world tour. Ticket restrictions for U.K. dates included a maximum of four tickets per customer and the immediate cancellation of any tickets listed for resale on secondary platforms, or bought by a known seller or trader.

Ahead of the on-sale date, Galbraith also approached all four of the U.K.'s leading secondary sites -- Ticketmaster-owned Seatwave and Get Me In, eBay-owned StubHub and Viagogo -- and instructed them not to list tickets to the tour citing consumer protection law. Viagogo was the only site to ignore the demand.

In response, Sheeran's team cancelled more than 10,000 tickets either purchased by known touts or listed on Viagogo. Large numbers of fans were also turned away from venues on show days and told to buy new face-value tickets to gain entry, before seeking a refund from Viagogo.

Such entry restrictions, Viagogo claims on the FAQ section of its website, are "highly unfair and in our view, unenforceable and illegal."

A key part of the company's claim against Galbraith is that he is alleged to have installed "fake" Viagogo customer enquiry booths at venues, "luring fans into declaring that they were Viagogo customers" and then confiscating authentic tickets and forcing fans to buy new ones.

"Stuart Galbraith was therefore paid twice by each of these customers, fraudulently pocketing millions of pounds in double revenue for the same seat," claims a statement from Viagogo's normally uncontactable press department. It goes on to say that around 95 percent of Viagogo ticket holders "avoided this scam" and gained entry with "unlucky victims of Galbraith's actions" refunded by Viagogo at the company's own cost.

A spokesperson for Viagogo said: "All tickets on Viagogo are authentic. Stuart Galbraith set up fake Viagogo booths at venues and conned our customers into believing that their tickets wouldn't work. He confiscated their legitimate tickets and pocketed millions of pounds by forcing fans to buy new ones."

Viagogo also claims that until recently Galbraith regularly used Viagogo "to sell thousands of tickets to a range of his artists' events, presumably without their knowledge given his public stance against ticket resale." 

More sensationally, it suggests that Galbraith's vocal opposition to the company came after a "dispute over his request for preferred terms." Viagogo says that following the fallout, the promoter threatened to "use his artists, such as Ed Sheeran and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to put pressure on Viagogo even if it meant causing huge inconvenience to his artist's fans."

"We have Stuart on record saying that his artists would "do whatever he told them to do" and that he would go to any lengths to cause chaos for Viagogo customers. We can't believe that Ed Sheeran would knowingly permit his promoter to lie and steal and we can only imagine that Galbraith has been acting fraudulently without his artist's knowledge," alleges a Viagogo spokesperson.

The company says that it will be submitting a "comprehensive file of incontrovertible photographic and filmed evidence" as part of its legal action.

Responding to the surprise court filing, a spokesperson for Kilimanjaro Live called Viagogo's claims "ludicrous, laughable and most importantly totally false." The spokesperson goes on to say that the lawsuit is "a transparent attempt" to deflect attention away from Viagogo's appearance at tomorrow's Parliamentary inquiry into the U.K. live music industry and "the wide-ranging criticisms, multiple legal prosecutions in many territories and condemnation of their business practices."

It concludes by saying that Kilimanjaro "will defend against this action vigorously and look forward to doing so in court."

Before that happens, Viagogo and Galbraith are due to come face to face at tomorrow's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee hearing in London. At an earlier inquiry hearing in 2017, the secondary ticketing company was accused of showing a "huge lack of respect" for failing to send a representative. This time around, Viagogo's head of business development, Christopher Miller, is listed among the witnesses scheduled to appear before MPs.

If he does show, Miller is likely to face strong questioning about Viagogo's highly criticized and aggressive selling practices. Only last week, British government agency the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) issued legal proceedings against Viagogo over concerns it is breaking consumer protection law.

Listed among the CMA's complaints is Viagogo failing to notify ticket buyers if there is a risk they will be turned away at the door, a failure to disclose seating information and the speculative selling of tickets that "a seller does not own and may not be able to supply," as well much-publicized difficulties consumers have had trying to get a refund. 

The company has, however, had a reprieve from watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which has said it is satisfied with the "significant changes" Viagogo has recently made to its website. As a result ASA has withdrawn its referral to National Trading Standards.

This article has been updated.


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