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CMA confirms that its contempt proceedings against Viagogo continue

By | Published on Friday 19 July 2019


The UK’s Competition & Markets Authority has said that, while Viagogo scored a legal win this week, that doesn’t affect the contempt of court proceedings it launched against the rogue ticket resale platform earlier this month.

Viagogo yesterday welcomed a court ruling that provided clarity on some of the specific obligations that were contained in an injunction secured by the CMA against the secondary ticketing outfit last year. The resale site and the regulator had disagreed on how those specific obligations should be interpreted and therefore returned to court to get a judicial opinion.

Commenting on that ruling, Viagogo’s MD Cris Miller said: “This hearing further demonstrates that there are matters of interpretation of the order on which the CMA should not and cannot be relied upon to make the final determination. We originally disagreed with the CMA on this, and today’s announcement validates our position and demonstrates clearly the necessity of being able to challenge the CMA’s authority”.

He added: “It is clear there remains continued, yet unfounded resistance from the CMA to our role in the market. Regardless, we are hopeful that now we can focus on the platform and the millions of consumers who rely on it”.

One of the specific obligations under dispute related to the legal requirement for secondary ticketing websites to display the original face value of any ticket being resold.

Viagogo does now provide this information on its UK site. Though, at first instance, accessing it requires knowing to hover the mouse over a tiny icon that has the initials “FV”. On the next page the face value price is listed in a much clearer fashion, although it’s stuck on the opposite side of the screen to all the other information about the ticket.

The question for the judge was whether or not Viagogo could provide legally required information in boxes that can only be accessed if the user knows to hover their mouse over a certain icon – what is referred to as ‘hover text’. The judge ruled that hover text could be used in certain circumstances, including for the initial declaration of face value price. However, there are limitations.

Explaining the ruling and the restrictions the judge placed on hover text, the CMA said in a statement yesterday: “Today’s judgement confirms that Viagogo cannot use ‘hover over text’ unless specifically allowed by the order and it needs to stop displaying important information about deadlines under its guarantee in this way”.

“Although the court found that information about face value prices can be displayed with hover over text on one page of the site”, it added, “Viagogo must still display this information on two other separate places on the face of its website”.

Of course, critics of online touting would argue that – by employing hover text or by placing legally-required information separately from all the other information – Viagogo is attempting to comply with the regulations while ensuring that most users don’t see the inconvenient facts and figures consumer rights law obliges it to publish.

Which means that, even if Viagogo is technically compliant with consumer rights law, it is still employing sneaky tactics to ensure that many consumers buy tickets from touts not out of choice but out of confusion.

And anyway, the CMA argues – while Viagogo may, in fact, be allowed employ hover text the first time it displays the face value of a ticket – that doesn’t mean the resale site is fully compliant with consumer rights law. After all, when the regulator began its contempt of court proceedings against Viagogo for failing to comply with all elements of last year’s injunction, the site’s use of hover text was not one of its complaints.

The CMA spokesperson added: “Today’s judgement does not mean that Viagogo is compliant with the court order the CMA secured against it. We still think that Viagogo is breaching parts of the order and so continue to move forward with legal proceedings for contempt of court against the site in relation to those concerns”.