CONTRACT / CONSUMER / COMPETITION
Hardly a day passes without Viagogo hitting the headlines, with news breaking that the Geneva based secondary ticketing had finally complied with the Advertising Standards Authority’s demands on how it presented pricing information, that Viagogo had pulled out of a planned Culture Select Committee Parliamentary debate on secondary ticketing, that it was moving the firm’s London based business to New York, and that it was itself tacking legal action in Germany against promoter Kilimanjaro Live and its boss Stuart Gailbraith over the promoters decision to cancel thousands of re-sold and touted tickets on a 2017 Ed Sheerhan tour.
Viagogo’s usually silent PR department set up a Twitter account to comment on the German litigation, alleging that Kilimanjaro boss “Stuart Galbraith duped Ed Sheeran fans by confiscating thousands of genuine tickets at the gate, forcing fans to buy new tickets and pocketing millions of pounds in duplicate sales”. As a result, it said, it was now suing the promoter “for defrauding thousands of fans out of several million pounds on Ed Sheeran’s recent tour”.
The resale firm alleges that Kilimanjaro set up Victims Of Viagogo booths at Sheeran’s shows. This meant it was the fans on the night who were revealing that they were in possession of touted tickets, allowing the promoter to then cancel said tickets. Had fans ignored the Victims Of Viagogo signs – the company claims – their tickets would actually have got them into the venue. Viagogo insists that the vast majority of fans in possession of a touted ticket did get into the show without any problems.
A spokesperson for the secondary ticketing company is reported as saying: “All tickets on Viagogo are authentic. Stuart Galbraith set up fake Viagogo booths at venues and conned our customers into believing that their tickets wouldn’t work. He confiscated their legitimate tickets and pocketed millions of pounds by forcing fans to buy new ones”. The secondary platform added “Until recently Stuart Galbraith regularly used Viagogo to sell thousands of tickets to a range of his artists’ events, presumably without their knowledge given his public stance against ticket resale” concluding, the company noted that: “We can’t believe that Ed Sheeran would knowingly permit his promoter to lie and steal and we can only imagine that Galbraith has been acting fraudulent without his artist’s knowledge”.
Kilimanjaro Live in turn responded saying “the claims made today by Viagogo are ludicrous, laughable and most importantly totally false”. It added that “Kilimanjaro will defend against this action vigorously and look forward to doing so in court”. Kilimanjaro’s parent company DEAG is based in Germany although Kilimanjaro Live wasn’t involved in Sheeran’s shows in the country. It did promote shows in the UK where UK consumer and competition law would apply.
Kilimanjaro Live said: “This is a transparent attempt to deflect attention away from their upcoming appearance at the DCMS inquiry and the wide-ranging criticisms, multiple legal prosecutions in many territories (including by the Competitions and Markets Authority in the UK) and condemnation of their business practices. Kilimanjaro will defend against this action vigorously and look forward to doing so in court.”
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently announced that it is now taking Viagogo to court for alleged breaches of consumer protection laws. The watchdog said that the resale website had failed to make sufficient changes, following previous warnings, to bring it in line with UK consumer regulations.
Last year Viagogo failed to attend a session on ticket touting organised by the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media And Sports Select Committee. This time Head Of Business Development Cristopher Miller was due to answer questions, but he pulled out on the Monday night. Viagogo said that it would not be able to attend because of the legal action now being brought by the CMA, and because of it’s own litigation against Kilimanjaro Live. In an email Viagogo explained : “These developments would require Mr Miller to address matters that are awaiting adjudication in a court of law, therefore in our view contravening the sub-judice rules confirmed by the House Of Commons in 2001”.
The chair of the Culture Select Committee, Damian Collins MP, insisted that those rules did not apply in this case. “There are no material obstacles to proceeding with the session, from either the CMA’s or the House’s perspective” adding “The CMA has told us, in writing, that it has no objections to the committee taking evidence, providing that we exercise care over the information shared and discussed in the session about court proceedings”.
Responding to Collins, Viagogo said its legal advice differed to his and blamed the CMA for forcing it to pull from the hearing. “We have not taken this decision lightly and understand how serious it is not to be present this afternoon”, it said. “However, we are acting on unequivocal legal advice which makes clear that attendance would jeopardise our position with respect to the ongoing legal proceedings which the CMA has initiated against us”.
Today (10.09.18) the All-Party Parliamentary Group On Ticket Abuse, the FanFair Alliance and the Society Of Ticket Agents & Retailers sent a joint letter to Google’s UK bosses, saying that “one of the world’s most trusted brands – Google – is being paid to actively promote one of the least trusted” and calls on the internet giant to go beyond its recently introduced regulations for secondary ticketing platforms and remove Viagogo from searches and “act now to restrict Viagogo’s ability to pay for prominence”.