Viagogo Snubs UK Parliamentary Hearing for Second Time in Two Years
"Consumers deserve answers to the huge volume of concerns about secondary ticketing abuse. It's hard not to view this eleventh-hour withdrawal cynically," said the committee chair.
For the second year running, Viagogo has provoked widespread outrage and condemnation by failing to appear before a British Parliamentary hearing into live music and the secondary sector.
Viagogo's Head of Business Development Christopher Miller was scheduled to appear before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee in London on Wednesday (Sept. 5), but announced his withdrawal to members of the parliament (MPs) less than 24 hours before.
In a letter sent to DCMS committee chair Damian Collins MP, the Switzerland-registered company said it didn't attend the hearing on the "unequivocal" advice of its lawyers due to ongoing legal proceedings.
Chief among them is a High Court filing against Viagogo by British government agency the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) over concerns the company is breaking consumer protection law.
On Tuesday also came the surprise news that Viagogo has itself filed court proceedings against Ed Sheeran's live promoter Stuart Galbraith of Kilimanjaro Live for allegedly invalidating and confiscating thousands of Viagogo-purchased tickets to the singer's 2017 U.K. tour.
The Kilimanjaro Live chief executive, who appeared before MPs at the committee hearing, strongly refutes those allegations, with the London-based company dismissing them as "ludicrous, laughable and most importantly totally false."
Viagogo doesn't mention Kilimanjaro Live among the reasons for Miller's no-show in its letter to Collins. "We have not taken this decision lightly and understand how serious it is not to be present this afternoon," writes Viagogo's Prabhat Shah, citing the CMA's refusal not to treat any statements made in the hearing as part of its ongoing investigation into the company.
The CMA subsequently responded by saying it "never objected to Viagogo's attendance at today's session, nor did we object to Viagogo discussing the contents of its correspondence with us during our investigation. In particular, the CMA did not say that parliamentary privilege could not apply and made clear that Viagogo could seek to claim privilege if it felt it did apply."
The statement went on to say, "However, we have now begun court proceedings and there may be restrictions on whether other information could be shared or discussed, in particular where it relates to third parties. Viagogo asked for certain blanket assurances in relation to disclosing this potentially sensitive information, which the CMA did not consider it appropriate to give."
Criticizing Viagogo's no-show, Collins said in a statement issued before the hearing that the committee "do not accept Viagogo's arguments for failing to appear" and Miller "has no valid reason not to attend."
"Consumers deserve answers to the huge volume of concerns about secondary ticketing abuse. It's hard not to view this eleventh-hour withdrawal cynically," the MP went on to say, calling Viagogo's non-attendance "a gross discourtesy, the more so given the company's failure to attend last year."
That first no-show, back in March 2017, saw the company slammed for showing "a lack of respect to Parliament and, by extension, the British public" by a committee member.
This time around, Collins told the inquiry that Viagogo's absence was part of a "pattern of evasion, disrespectful to the house and disrespectful to consumers, who have been the victims of Viagogo over so many years."
"To my mind, this just underlines the real problems that exist around this business and the message that comes from today's hearing is that if you want to be safe buying tickets online do not buy them from Viagogo -- it is not a reputable company," said Collins.
Ed Sheeran's manager, Stuart Camp, simply tweeted, "Wow. Cowards."
Wow. Cowards. https://t.co/zv8rxwZXtG— Stuart Camp (@StuartCamp) September 5, 2018
Although Viagogo wasn't present at the live music inquiry, Ticketmaster U.K. Managing Director Andrew Parsons, FanFair Alliance Campaign Manager Adam Webb, StubHub U.K. Managing Director Wayne Grierson and Kilimanjaro Live's Galbraith did all speak at the hearing and outline some of the significant changes that have happened in the ticketing sector.
Praising Ticketmaster's recent decision to shut down its two secondary ticketing sites in the U.K., Seatwave and Get Me In, Galbraith told the inquiry that the major players in the live and ticketing industry were working together to "clear up the acne that has blighted our industry. I think we're coming to the point where we've just got one major boil left to lance... Viagogo."