Google urged to ‘protect consumers’ from Viagogo

Live music - gig

Music industry leaders and MPs have sent an open letter to Google’s top brass in the UK, asking them to stop supporting secondary ticketing platform Viagogo via the company’s paid-for search function.

In the letter to Matt Britten (president of EMEA business operations) and Ronan Harris (managing director), they say Viagogo systematically tops Google searches for tickets, even when primary inventory is still available or, when the tickets listed are invalid for entry into the event.

‘This is an untenable situation. In effect, one of the world’s most trusted brands – Google – is being paid to actively promote one of the least trusted,’ they said.

‘Viagogo’s search advertising is also, we believe, breaking Google’s own AdWords guidelines. These state clearly that advertisers are expected “to comply with the local laws for any area that their ads target” and that Google will “generally err on the side of caution in applying this policy because we don’t want to allow content of questionable legality.”

‘We understand that Viagogo is a valuable client to Google, spending considerable sums each year on paid search advertising. However, we urge you to protect consumers who daily put their trust in Google, and act now to restrict Viagogo’s ability to pay for prominence.’

Sharon Hodgson MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, signed the letter, alongside Adam Webb, campaign manager at FanFair Alliance, and Jonathan Brown from the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR).

Counter-signatories include Nigel Adams MP, Pete Wishart MP, Lord Tim Clement-Jones and executives from Music Managers Forum, Featured Artist Coalition, UK Music, Association of Independent Festivals and more.

On 31 August, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued court proceedings against Viagogo for potential breaches of consumer protection law.

Then, on 5 September, Viagogo failed for the second time to appear before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in an evidence session on secondary ticketing.

The committee’s chair, Damian Collins MP, described this as a ‘pattern of evasion, disrespectful to the House and disrespectful to consumers.

‘If you’ve got nothing to hide, the truth will do you no harm. ‘If you want to be safe, do not buy tickets from Viagogo,’ he added.

UPDATE

Viagogo’s press team offered the following statement after this story was published:
‘It is legal to resell a ticket and all tickets on?viagogo?are genuine.? viagogo? is pleased?to have reached resolution with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and welcomes the opportunity to do so with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) through the legal process. We respect the courts and the legal process and look forward to resolving this with the CMA in the interests?of consumers – not the commercial interests of music promoters and other competitors.’