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Viagogo boss says company will be compliant with law “as soon as possible”

By | Published on Monday 10 June 2019

Viagogo

The MD of Viagogo has said that his company will comply with UK consumer rights law “as soon as possible”. The company is already five months past a court ordered deadline.

Cris Miller insists that Viagogo has already made over 1000 changes to its website in response to the court order secured by the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority last year. He seems to think this demonstrates the firm’s commitment to becoming more consumer friendly, although really it seems to illustrate just how anti-consumer the ticket resale service was before.

In early 2018, the CMA made a number of demands of the big four secondary ticketing sites then operating in the UK – they being Viagogo, StubHub, Seatwave and Get Me In! – so that said sites would comply with British consumer rights law.

The latter two sites, both owned by Live Nation, ultimately shut down in response to rising opposition to online ticket touting in the music community. StubHub agreed to comply with the demands, whereas Viagogo resisted until a court order had been secured by the regulator.

The deadline for complying was January this year. As the deadline approached Viagogo insisted on Twitter that it was now compliant. The CMA did not agree. And given the “as soon as possible” commitment made by Miller on Sky News last week, presumably the controversial resale site itself now excepts its boasts of compliance were somewhat premature.

Although Viagogo and its founder Eric Baker were very chatty in the company’s early years, the firm put up a wall of silence as online touting became more controversial within the music and wider live events industry. Then last year Viagogo starting publicly hitting back at its critics again, mainly via anonymous postings to a corporate Twitter account.

Last week Miller started giving interviews in the midst of media coverage around issues with touted tickets bought by football fans attending the recent Champions League final in Madrid. First he told ITV news that the company had been wrong to bail on two parliamentary select committee hearings on the ticketing market. He then subsequently talked about last year’s CMA court order with Sky.

“We’ve actually been working very closely with [the CMA]”, he told the broadcaster. “There has been a lot of engagement back and forth. We’ve made a considerable number of changes – nearly over 1000 – to the website based off the interpretations of how the order looks, so we feel very confident we’re making very good direction”.

After confirming that the company hoped to be compliant with the CMA’s demands “as soon as possible”, Miller then argued that his company was taking a “leadership position” on ensuring a transparent consumer-friendly ticket resale market because Viagogo was “actually asked to do more than our competitors”.

That is true, the CMA did make extra demands of Viagogo compared to StubHub et al. Although only because it has employed more deliberately misleading tactics to confuse customers into thinking they were buying from official sellers.

Since becoming all chatty again, Viagogo has generally put forward the classic three defences for online touting: that people should be allowed to resell tickets they can no longer use; the real bad guys are the promoters who cancel touted tickets; and if sites like Viagogo didn’t exist people would end up buying tickets off dodgy websites run by the Russian mafia.

However, in his recent interviews Miller has also employed a new argument. That being that Viagogo is a plucky upstart and needs more time to work things out. “The reality is that we’re a new business, it’s a new industry, it’s a disruptive market”, he told Sky News.

It’s certainly an interesting angle. It must have been an entirely different Viagogo that launched thirteen whole years ago and which has faced and mainly ignored more than a decade of criticism from the music community, consumer rights groups and Parliament. It’ll be very exciting to see just how consumer-friendly and consumer-rights-law compliant this start-up Viagogo will be.



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