British government agency the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) has scored a "significant" victory in its long-running battle with controversial secondary ticketing site Viagogo.
A court order granted in London today forces the Geneva, Switzerland-based company to make a "comprehensive overhaul" of its U.K. website to ensure that it complies with British consumer law.
Conditions of the order, which Viagogo has agreed to follow, include telling ticket buyers if there is a risk that they will be turned away at the door, where they will be seated inside the concert venue and the identity of the person or business selling the tickets. A trader is defined as someone who sells more than 100 tickets a year.
The vendor has also said it will not use misleading information about the availability and popularity of tickets to pressure music fans into making a purchase.
Other requirements of the order, which follows a two-year investigation into the U.K. secondary market from a number of agencies and British regulators, with a particular focus on Viagogo, are that the company makes it easier for customers to get refunds and preventing speculative selling of tickets that a seller does not own and may not be able to supply. It also addresses historic concerns about Viagogo failing to make customers aware of the face value of tickets.
"This court order is a victory for anyone who decides to buy a ticket through Viagogo," said CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli in a statement. "We have been clear throughout our investigation that people who use these resale websites must know key facts before parting with their hard-earned money, including what seat they will get and whether there is a risk they might not actually get into the event at all."
Under the terms of the court order, which is legally binding, Viagogo is required to make the changes to its business practices by mid-January – the same deadline that had originally been set to the U.K.’s three other main secondary sites, eBay-owned Stubhub and Ticketmaster-owned Seatwave and Get Me In!, all of which complied with CMA’s requirements.
Since then, Ticketmaster has shut down Seatwave and stopped listing new events on Get Me In! ahead of its forthcoming closure. Both will be replaced with a new fan-to-fan ticket exchange, initially launching in U.K. and Ireland before rolling out to Europe early next year.
"As a fan-first marketplace StubHub is delighted that Viagogo has finally been forced to operate in line with industry standards as well as existing legislation," said Wayne Grierson, managing director at StubHub's northern EMEA division. "Consumers benefit if all ticketing operators embrace the same rules and standards. We would therefore also like to see greater transparency in the primary ticketing marketing so that fans have all the information they need on the availability of tickets."
If Viagogo fails to comply with the court order the company could be fined and its bosses sent to prison. In a statement, a spokesperson for the normally press-shy company — which famously twice snubbed a British Parliamentary hearing into the secondary sector – said: "We are pleased that we have been able to work closely with the CMA to come to an agreement that provides even greater transparency to consumers."
Cautiously welcoming the news, FanFair Alliance campaign manager Adam Webb said that while the U.K.’s secondary "undergoes a long-awaited transformation, Viagogo has effectively become a rogue operator. That it’s required a court order to force their compliance with existing legislation is nothing short of extraordinary."
He goes on to say that if Viagogo fails to "overhaul their bad practices" it should "feel the full force of the law."