COMPETITION / CONSUMER
Live events sector
Spain and Italy are taking the lead on clamping down on ticket touting and some of the less savoury activities of some players in the secondary ticketing market, and now some of the biggest ticketing companies and concert promoters in Spain and Italy are facing prosecution.
In Milan, state prosecutor Adriano Scudieri has accused promoters Di and Gi, Live Nation and Vivo of misleading consumers the actual reality of a ‘sell out’ for some shows – panicking fans into hasty purchases at over inflated tickets prices for shows they were told were about to sell-out. Scudueri also claims that a number of companies signed “hidden agreements” with secondary ticketing site Viagogo to supply tickets to Viagogo from the primary market for sale at “unreasonably” high prices, netting €1.4 million in the process.
The State Prosecutor has announced that there will be two charges brought against the secondary ticketing companies. The first will be for defrauding the State of 1.4 Million Euros, as a result of artificial price-rigging. The companies have further been accused of conspiring against the Italian music collection society, SIAE, and will be charged with defrauding the State of 150,000 Euros, which is related to unpaid royalty payments. However the companies have not been found guilty of defrauding consumers.
In Spain, Madrid’s City Council has called on the region’s Department of Consumer Affairs to take action against Live Nation owned Ticketmaster, accusing it of “misleading advertising”. It alleges the firm fraudulently told customers that concert tickets were sold-out, then directed them to its resale site Seatwave, where the same tickets were on offer at inflated prices.
In April, the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) levied fines totalling €1.7 million on five ticket agencies: TicketOne, owned by Germany’s CTS Eventim, was fined €1m for failing to take adequate measures to prevent tickets getting into the hands of touts. Four secondary ticketing sites, Viagogo, MyWayTicket, Live Nation’s Seatwave and eBay/StubHub’s Ticketbis, were hit with a collective €700,000 fine for failing to provide complete ticket information to customers “concerning several essential elements which potential buyers need to make their transactional decisions”.
A court of first instance has found against CTS Eventim Austria, ruling that the practice of charging delivery fees on tickets printed at home is illegal. The case, brought by the Consumer Information Association (VKI), related to tickets sold via CTS’s oeticket website, which charges €2.50 for ‘print @ home’ and mobile tickets and €1.90 for those picked up from branches of Libro or oeticket’s own box offices. The Handelsgericht (commercial court) of Vienna, such charges are “unusual and disadvantageous” for consumers and inadmissible under Austrian law. CTS faced a similar decision in Bremen, Germany, which was upheld on appeal.
A recent YouGov poll which received widespread coverage in the UK revealed that half of Britons feel that the Government should intervene to do something about secondary ticketing sites, whilst 48% of Britons want secondary ticketing sites banned outright.
The UK Culture Minister, Matt Hancock, has signed the Commencement Order for the Digital Economy Bill, which will include measures to combat ticket-touting. “We are criminalising misuse of bots by ticket touts to stop sale of tickets at inflated prices,” Hancock tweeted on 17th July. A recent investigation by Which? discovered “first-class confusion” over the state of the secondary ticketing market – as many as one in four tickets to popular music, theatre and sporting events are for sale on secondary ticketing websites, often at a huge mark-up over the original face-value price.
Viagogo has been placed under investigation by the Irish Advertising Standards Authority for potentially overstepping advertising rules through its ticket promotions on Google. They’ve been accused by Fanfair of ‘confusing’ fans who may not grasp the difference between listings on Google because Viagogo use the word ‘official’ in adverts for the re-sale of tickets. The site justifies the term by stating that the link goes through to the ’official’ Viagogo website.