LONDON — Ticketing campaign group the FanFair Alliance has raised a formal complaint with the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over Viagogo’s proposed $4 billion acquisition of StubHub.
Since being formed in 2016, the FanFair Alliance has successfully fought against industrial-scale online ticket touting with Viagogo the subject of much of its ire due to its controversial business practices and a large number of consumer complaints.
The CMA has also had several past run-ins with the Switzerland-based company and only ended a long-running court action in September after Viagogo made a number of changes to meet U.K. consumer law.
However, those changes failed to satisfy FanFair Alliance, which has written to the CMA calling for a ‘phase 1’ enquiry into the proposed StubHub deal on the grounds that it will give Viagogo a monopoly on secondary ticketing in the U.K.
“We would urge the CMA to conduct an investigation into this proposed merger and its potential implications for U.K. consumers and live event industry,” writes FanFair campaign manager Adam Webb in a letter seen by Billboard.
Unlike in North America, Viagogo and StubHub are the only two major ‘for profit’ secondary ticket platforms still operating in the U.K. after Ticketmaster shuttered its two resale sites, GetMeIn and Seatwave, in late 2018 and replaced them with a fan-to-fan ticket exchange. As a result, a merger of the two companies would give Viagogo/StubHub almost complete control of the U.K. ‘for-profit’ secondary market.
“This would, we believe, inevitably lead to even higher fees for consumers, and an even greater dominance of search and social media advertising – increasing the risk of consumers being led needlessly towards inflated tickets in the secondary market, and away from authorised primary ticket agents,” argues Webb.
At the time the Viagogo/StubHub merger was announced on Nov. 25, Viagogo founder and CEO Eric Baker said the deal would give buyers “a wider choice of tickets, and sellers will have a wider network of buyers.”
Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, president of StubHub, added: “Bringing StubHub and Viagogo together will allow us to drive further expansion and innovation, and create a more competitive offering for live event fans globally.”
The CMA declined to comment when contacted by Billboard.
A spokesperson for Viagogo said: “Viagogo expects the market regulator to look at this deal as they would with any deal of this size and we will be working with them collaboratively on that as required.”
Since news of the proposed Viagogo/StubHub deal was announced last week, Google appears to have lifted its ban on Viagogo from its Ad Words platform, although neither party has publicly confirmed the change in policy.