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UK Music calls out Google following CMA’s latest Viagogo announcement

By | Published on Tuesday 9 July 2019

UK Music

After the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority announced it was about to instigate contempt of court proceedings against Viagogo last week, cross-sector trade group UK Music has again called on Google to do its bit by stopping the often controversial secondary ticketing site from buying its way to the top of ticket search lists.

The CMA confirmed last week that it would begin contempt proceedings against Viagogo because the ticket resale site still hasn’t complied with a court order that the regulator secured last year. That injunction ordered Viagogo to meet various CMA demands designed to ensure the company was complying with British consumer rights law.

In addition to campaigning for new regulation of the secondary ticketing market – and the better enforcement of existing rules – those who oppose ticket touting have also, at various points, called on Google to take action.

A key marketing tactic of the secondary ticketing sites is to buy the ad spots that appear at the top of the list when people search for things like “Ariana Grande tickets”. Although those paid-for listings are accompanied by a small “ad” icon, many people are not aware of the commercial side to Google search and therefore assume that whoever comes top in a search result list must be the official seller of tickets to a show.

Coupled with the deliberately misleading language traditionally used by some resale sites, and especially Viagogo, consumers have often bought touted tickets at hiked-up prices while assuming they were in fact transacting with a primary ticket seller.

Google did introduce its own rules for secondary sites that advertise on its search engine at the start of last year which aimed to provide some clarity for ticket buyers. But some feel that the web giant hasn’t gone far enough to enforce either its own rules or consumer rights law in general, both in the UK and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in the UK specifically, critics also argue that, once Viagogo was on the receiving end of an injunction for failing to comply with British law – and especially now it is facing proceedings for allegedly ignoring elements of that injunction – Google should have stopped taking the controversial company’s advertising pound.

Responding to last week’s CMA announcement, UK Music boss Michael Dugher said: “News that the CMA is proceeding with legal action against Viagogo is welcome and a timely reminder that music fans should avoid getting tickets from this website which continues to rip off music fans. Equally, it’s high time Google stopped putting Viagogo at the top of their search engine when customers are looking for tickets, when they could instead be directed towards legitimate, lower [priced] primary ticket sales”.

On the CMA’s legal case against Viagogo in general, Dugher added – while namechecking anti-touting campaign FanFair and those in Parliament who have called for a crackdown on the online touts – “UK Music, the FanFair Alliance and cross-party MPs have long campaigned for action against exploitative secondary ticketing providers. We urge the courts to join us and say no to Viagogo”.