UK: Viagogo taken to Court by Competition Regulator

By Jonathan Copping, Lawyer, Stone King, London, UK

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a legal action against ticket reseller Viagogo in respect of alleged breaches of consumer protection law.

Viagogo resells tickets to consumers for an array of events, including sports events. The tickets are often sold for prices in excess of the original price.

This legal action follows a long running investigation into the secondary ticketing sector.

The CMA commenced enforcement action against Viagogo and three other websites (StubHub, GETMEIN! and Seatwave) in November 2017. All of the websites, except Viagogo, complied with the CMA’s requirements. The failure by Viagogo to comply with the requirements has now led to the CMA commencing legal action in the UK High Court of Justice.

The CMA is concerned that Viagogo is breaking consumer law, because customers are:

  • not being told if there is a risk that they will be turned away at the door;
  • not being informed which seat in the venue they will get;
  • not being told who is selling the ticket, so that they can benefit from enhanced legal rights when buying from a business;
  • given misleading information about the availability and popularity of tickets, which has the potential to lead to them being rushed into making a buying decision or making the wrong choice;
  • experiencing difficulties in getting their money back under Viagogo’s guarantee, when things go wrong; and
  • being offered tickets that a seller does not own and may not be able to supply.

As part of its claim against Viagogo, the CMA is seeking an interim injunction to put a stop to some of Viagogo’s practices, pending a full trial of the issues.

If the CMA legal action is successful, it will mean Viagogo has to comply with the order of the court setting out the practices it must change.

Viagogo has long been a target for the authorities and has been involved in a spate of controversies, including reselling football tickets that undermined strict laws on segregation; withholding refunds from overcharged fans; and profiting from charity events, such as reselling tickets to an Ed Sheeran concert in aid of teenage cancer patients for vastly inflated prices.

It is likely that the CMA proceedings against Viagogo will take over a year to proceed to trial and, therefore, unless Viagogo settles the case or the CMA interim injunction is successful, it is likely that Viagogo will be able to continue with its current practices for a considerable time longer.

Ticketing for sports events continues to be a controversial matter and needs careful handling from a competition law point of view.

Jonathan Copping may be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@stoneking.co.uk’