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Viagogo faces UK investigation as Minister urges boycott

Viagogo faces UK investigation as Minister urges boycott
May 31, 2018

The United Kingdom's National Trading Standards body has opened an investigation into the ticket website Viagogo for persistently misleading consumers, hours after a UK Government Minister urged consumers to boycott the company.

In a rare move by a Government Minister to single out a particular company for its behaviour, the United Kingdom's Minister of State for Digital and Culture Margot James, urged consumers to boycott the company, advising anyone planning to buy tickets on resale websites “don’t choose Viagogo - they are the worst.”

Her warning came as the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) referred the controversial company to National Trading Standards, citing a series of transgressions breaching the UK’s advertising code.

The ASA accused Viagogo of misleading consumers by failing to be transparent about extra fees added to the ticket prices it displays online, despite previous warnings from the regulator.

It also slammed the firm’s use of the phrase “official site”, which it said led consumers to believe Viagogo was an authorised primary ticket agent rather than a resale site.

The ASA also said Viagogo should not promise a “100% guarantee” to consumers, pointing to the fact that some artists, such as Ed Sheeran, turn away buyers at the door if they have bought from Viagogo.

ASA Chief Executive, Guy Parker told The Guardian “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.

“Where an advertiser or business is unwilling or unable to follow the advertising rules we will act.

“In light of Viagogo’s inability to get its house in order, we’re referring it to National Trading Standards to consider appropriate action.”

Immediate sanctions imposed by the ASA include a request to the search engines Google and Bing to remove some of the Switzerland-based company’s listings.

It has also added Viagogo to a list of non-compliant companies and launched an advertising campaign highlighting its behaviour.

With the National Trading Standards having the power to impose fines and imprison staff, and NTS spokesperson said it would “look at all legal options to bring them into compliance with the law”.

Viagogo has also been threatened with court action by the UJ Competition and Markets Authority, which is looking into alleged breaches of consumer rights law by the site.

Increased scrutiny of Viagogo follows a series of high-profile controversies involving the website run by the US multimillionaire Eric Baker, the co-founder of the company’s biggest rival StubHub.

The singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran recently cancelled 10,000 tickets for his tour that had been bought through Viagogo.

Sheeran’s promotion company Kilimanjaro Live, among those to file complaints about the company with the ASA, said Viagogo was the only resale firm not to comply with its request not to resell tickets for the artist’s shows.

The website has also been criticised for withholding refunds from overcharged fans, profiteering from charity events, refusing to attend a select committee hearing and breaching consumer rights laws.

It is believed efforts by artists such as Sheeran to battle Viagogo were already hitting the company in the pocket.

Viagogo’s early investors include former tennis stars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, Bernard Arnault, Chief Executive of the luxury goods group Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, the financier Jacob Rothschild, the German media owner Herbert Kloiber and the London-based investment group Index Ventures.

Lower image shows Viagogo's Australian home page as of 31st May 2018.

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Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

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