LONDON — Concertgoers, artists and music fans stand to suffer as a result of Viagogo’s $4.05 billion purchase of StubHub, according to representatives of the U.K. and European live industry.
Viagogo has been the subject of numerous investigations and complaints across Europe and until recently was being doggedly pursued through the British courts by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) regulatory watchdog.
That long-running court action was dropped in September after Viagogo made a number of changes to comply with U.K. consumer law, although the CMA continues to monitor the secondary ticketing company’s operations.
Reviews of Viagogo’s controversial business practices have also been conducted by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and National Trading Standards, while Google suspended the company from its paid-for search results in July for breaching its advertising policy.
Viagogo has also been subject to legal actions and consumer group investigations in Australia, France, Switzerland and New Zealand, following a wave of consumer complaints.
News of its $4 billion purchase of StubHub was announced Nov. 25 with Viagogo CEO Eric Baker saying the deal will give buyers “a wider choice of tickets, and sellers will have a wider network of buyers.” Baker called the merger “a win-win for fans” resulting in more choice and better pricing.”
Adam Webb, campaign manager at U.K.-based FanFair Alliance, dismissed Baker’s claims and called the acquisition a “desperate move from both parties.”
“News of this acquisition should be a major concern for both audiences and music businesses, especially if Viagogo, a company that recently had a court order hanging over its head and is still the subject of a CMA investigation, use this process as an attempt to detoxify its brand,” said Webb.
He said the FairFair Alliance would be writing to U.K. regulators and politicians outlining its concerns and would continue to advise music fans not to use Viagogo and StubHub.
Music Managers Forum chief executive Annabella Coldrick said the consolidation of Viagogo and StubHub “could put a brake” on reforms to the secondary ticketing market “and cause untold harm for audiences and artists alike.”
Those views were echoed by a number of music executives Billboard contacted. Richard Davies, founder of face-value ticket resale platform Twickets, called the merger “terrible news for the industry as two deceitful operators combine forces in order to further turn the screw on the consumer.”
Reg Walker from U.K. consultancy Iridium said the deal was “a disaster for fans globally and StubHub should rethink it.”
“Quite why a trusted brand such as eBay is selling StubHub to a company that allowed the sale of tens of thousands of invalid tickets through its website beggars belief,” Walker said.
“Viagogo claim this will create a ‘win-win for fans’, but further consolidation in the secondary ticketing market would most likely restrict competition, and further negatively impact fans,” said Katie O’Leary of campaign group Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) in a statement.
O’Leary went on to say, “We hope that regulators will have consumers’ best interests at heart when considering this deal and consider not only the question of Viagogo’s increased dominance, but also whether they can be considered a fit and proper owner.”