Britain’s competition watchdog takes ticket reseller Viagogo to court


(Reuters) – Britain’s competition watchdog said on Friday it would take ticket reseller Viagogo to court after the company failed to make changes to business practices that broke consumer law.

The secondary ticketing market, which resells tickets for events ranging from pop concerts to tennis and soccer matches, has come under fire from politicians and regulators for sometimes sky-high prices and misleading customers.

Following an investigation, Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) began enforcement action against four ticketing websites in November and three of them – StubHub, GETMEIN! and Seatwave – offered formal commitments in April to overhaul their practices.

Privately-owned Viagogo has not, and the CMA said it was now seeking a court order to ensure the company “does not repeat historic failures to make its customers aware of the face value of tickets on sale through its site”.

The CMA also said it was seeking an interim enforcement order from the court that could put a stop to some of Viagogo’s practices pending a full trial.

The CMA said Viagogo was breaking consumer law, with the result that customers could be turned away at the door at venues, not have assigned seats and be offered tickets that a seller did not own and might not be able to supply.

“Viagogo has not offered to make the changes the CMA considers necessary to bring it in line with the law. Legal proceedings have therefore been brought in the High Court,” the watchdog said in a statement here

Viagogo, which was founded in London in 2005 by Harvard and Stanford alumni Eric Baker and is headquartered in Geneva, said it was disappointed with the announcement of formal action.

“However, we respect the CMA’s intentions and remain committed to reaching resolution through the legal process,” Viagogo said in an emailed statement.

Baker also co-founded U.S. sports and concert ticket reseller StubHub, which agreed to be acquired by eBay in 2007.

Media on Thursday that Viagogo had also been called to appear before a parliamentary inquiry, a year after it refused to turn up to a previous evidence session that heard from witnesses including the manager of pop star Ed Sheeran and the campaign leader of “Victim of Viagogo #VofV”.

In June soccer’s ruling body FIFA filed a criminal complaint against Viagogo, saying it wanted to prevent unauthorised ticket reselling at the World Cup in Russia.

Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and additional reporting by Sangameswaran S; Editing by Mark Potter and David Goodman