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Is it Time for Viagogo to go?

Is it Time for Viagogo to go?

Over the summer Ed Sheeran’s decision to restrict individuals with tickets purchased from re-sale sites from attending his tour, dominated coverage of the tour. The conflict between artists and these sites, most notably Viagogo, has been ongoing since Sheeran’s stand, and if last week’s events are an indicator of anything, the conflict is not going anywhere any time soon.

Ed Sheeran Cuts Ties with Ticket Re-sellers

Upon announcing his stadium store, Sheeran identified tickets purchased from re-sale sites such as Viagogo and revoked them, meaning fans with tickets from these sites could no longer gain entry to the gig. Sheeran’s promotion company negotiated with ticket re-sale sites to ensure tickets were not sold on their sites with his company highlighting the only agency which listed the tickets ‘and ignored all our correspondence was Viagogo’.

Whilst Sheeran is not the first to take action against Viagogo, he is the first to attempt to ban tickets from the site on such a large scale as a stadium tour, only intensifying the pressure ticket re-sale sites are currently under. Concerns have been raised about the conduct of the four main ticket re-sale sites, specifically the concern they are breaking consumer protection law in recent years.

Under these laws, it is a requirement of sites to inform consumers what seat they have purchased, and whether they risk being denied entry. As a result, if these sites fail to comply they can be held accountable through the courts.

The Competition and Markets Authority took action in November last year with all but Viagogo making the necessary changes. This failure has resulted in the authority taking High Court action against the company in an attempt to ensure they make the necessary changes. Whilst the proceedings are put in place for the High Court challenge, the CMA are also seeking an enforcement order to halt Viagogo’s practices until the trail.

Viagogo Strike Back

The conflict only appeared to intensify last week when Viagogo filed a suit against Sheeran’s promoter (Kilimanjaro live). It was claimed by Viagogo that the defendant set up fake Viagogo stalls outside venues where Sheeran was performing, voided genuine tickets from the site and informed fans they would have to purchase new tickets in order to gain entry. It was therefore claimed by Viagogo that Kilimanjaro live defrauded these fans as they were forced to unnecessarily purchase tickets from the promoter.

These claims were described as ‘ludicrous’ by Mr Galbraith who owns Kilimanjaro live. Whilst the lawsuit is yet to progress, the timing of it does seem somewhat tactical by Viagogo. On Wednesday last week (5/9/18) Viagogo were due to appear in front of the Department for Media, Culture and Sport Select Committee to answer questions regarding the firms conduct.

However, they failed to attend (the second time they have missed an appointment with the select committee), citing assurances which were not made and the lawsuit it had just filed.  Given the firms previous interactions with such organisations, it does appear the decision was somewhat well timed. This attitude is shared by Mr Galbraith who described the law suit as ‘a smoke screen to divert attention’ from their failure to attend the commons select committee.

So with pressure from artists increasing, the select committee becoming increasingly frustrated with the ‘disrespectful’ behaviour of the company, and a high court lawsuit waiting on the horizon, it is not clear what the future of the company will be. All that seems clear is their refusal to co-operate with any of the other parties involved suggests the conflict will be ongoing for some time.

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