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Officials raided StubHub and Viagogo in ticket tout investigation

By | Published on Friday 10 November 2017


Officials from the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority raided the offices of secondary ticketing companies Viagogo and StubHub earlier this year, it has emerged. The regulator forced its way into the two firms’ respective London offices as part of its ongoing investigation into the ticket resale business.

As previously reported, the CMA launched an investigation into the big four ticket resale platforms – so that’s Live Nation’s Seatwave and Get Me In as well as Viagogo and eBay’s StubHub – in June last year. In part, it wanted to assess whether the companies had made good on previous commitments to ensure certain information was always provided to buyers by ticket sellers using their platforms.

The CMA is also seemingly investigating the relationship between the resale sites and industrial-level touts. Although the touting platforms like to talk about individual fans using their websites to sell on occasional tickets to shows they can no longer attend, the resale firms actively court prolific resellers who tout for a living. They then provide these top level touts with extra services and kickbacks.

According to The Guardian, the CMA issued an ‘information notice’ to the four secondary ticketing services demanding they each hand over details of any relationships they have with the most prolific sellers. The newspaper’s sources say that while the two Live Nation-owned services complied with the notice, Viagogo and StubHub did not, hence the raids.

Responding to The Guardian’s report on the CMA raids, StubHub said simply: “We understand the CMA investigation is ongoing and therefore await the outcome of this”.

Viagogo, meanwhile, stated: “La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la, we can’t hear you, you’re not really there!!!!!!” Probably.

For its part, the music community led anti-ticket touting campaign FanFair welcomed the news that the CMA had acted in this way to access more information about how resale platforms work with the prolific touts.

A spokesperson told CMU: “These reported actions by the CMA are a welcome development. It is no secret that the model of so-called ‘secondary ticketing’ promoted by Viagogo, StubHub, Get Me In! and Seatwave has resulted in UK audiences being systematically ripped off on an industrial scale. Contrary to their slick marketing campaigns, these platforms are dominated by professional touts who are seemingly offered incentives to sell ever higher volumes of tickets”.

Noting this raid – and revelations about one Canadian super-tout contained in the so called Paradise Papers (more on which here) – the FanFair spokesperson added: “What we now need is root-and-branch reform. As well as regulatory action, we urge the Culture Media & Sport Select Committee to revisit the issue of ticket abuse and for the government to enforce legislation in a meaningful way. The UK is celebrated for its live music scene, and we should have the best and most transparent system of ticket resale – not a market polluted by these shabby and disgraceful practices”.

The CMA is apparently liaising on all this with National Trading Standards, which is also investigating the touts. And while neither organisation wanted to comment on the raids of Viagogo and StubHub, the latter did caution consumers about buying touted tickets.

It told The Guardian: “With concerts and events increasingly refusing to accept resold tickets we’d strongly advise people take steps to protect themselves by only buying tickets from official sellers, most of which are working with the authorities to help ensure more tickets are made available to genuine fans through official vendors”.