The ‘deceptive practices’ of resale platform Viagogo have drawn the ire of a Government minister and scrutiny from consumer protection body National Trading Standards (NTS).
In a message to people considering using the Switzerland-based company’s resale site, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James MP warned them to avoid it.
“There are four big choices when you can’t get a ticket for an event from the primary seller and you have to go to a secondary site,” said James in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live. “Just don’t choose Viagogo. They are the worst.”
Within hours of the comments NTS had also launched an investigation into Viagogo, after the company continued to flout advertising law, despite warnings from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The platform had been given until 29 May to improve transparency regarding misleading pricing information that includes VAT, additional booking and delivery charges, and claims such as “official site” and “100% Guaranteed”, but failed to do so.
Others of the Big Four resale sites – eBay-owned StubHub and Ticketmaster-owned Get Me In and Seatwave – complied with the ASA ruling, issued in March (see Audience issue 218).
“Viagogo was given clear warning and handed the opportunity to play fair with consumers by removing misleading pricing information from its website. Its failure to do so means it will now face the consequences,” says ASA chief executive Guy Parker.
NTS has a range of statutory sanctions at its disposal, which can include prosecution, fines and even closing a company.
As well as adding Viagogo to its list of non-compliant advertisers, the ASA is working with search engines Google and Bing to remove the resale site from advertising listings, and is placing ads to alert the public about non-compliant advertisers.
“I hope that finally Viagogo will get the comeuppance they deserve after years of breaking the law,” says long-time anti-touting campaigner Sharon Hodgson MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse.
The ASA received 23 complaints about Viagogo, including from campaign group FanFair Alliance and promoters Festival Republic and Kilimanjaro Live.
“Perhaps the most positive result for fans would be if Google and other search engines exhibited corporate responsibility and stopped taking Viagogo’s advertising spend,” says FanFair campaign manager Adam Webb.
Meanwhile football’s governing body FIFA has filed a criminal complaint against Viagogo over the company’s “opaque and deceptive” practices.
Following a series of complaints FIFA warned all tickets bought from the site for the World Cup, which started on 14 June, would be cancelled.