Following its lengthy investigation into the $4.05 (£3.2bn) deal involving the UK’s two biggest secondary ticketing operators, Viagogo and StubHub, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has approved the acquisition of eBay-owned StubHub by Pugnacious Endeavors (Viagogo).

The move means that the long delayed merger of Viagogo and StubHub North America is now cleared to proceed, while the two international arms of the companies will operate separately.

As previously reported, the CMA said Viagogo must sell all of StubHub’s business outside North America due to competition concerns. It said the merging of Viagogo and StubHub, which collectively represent 90% of the UK’s ticket re-sale market, would potentially result in higher prices and reduced choice for consumers.

The decision meant the StubHub international business – including in the UK – had to be independently owned and run by a separate company, with no input from Viagogo.

The CMA said it had agreed the purchase of the StubHub International Business by Digital Fuel Capital, a Massachusetts-based private equity firm focused on e-commerce. The deal was completed on 3 September.

Viagogo Business Development VP Cris Miller said, “We appreciate the CMA’s role in bringing the merger to this conclusion, and we look forward to sharing more details about the integration of the two businesses with our loyal customers and partners very soon. Viagogo and StubHub will always remain committed to working with regulators.”

Adam Webb of anti-ticket touting campaigner FanFair Alliance said, “Good luck to Digital Fuel Capital. For their sake, I hope they didn’t pay very much.

“As well as reviving a distressed brand, what appears to be a team of US investment bankers will be required to operate StubHub International as a direct competitor to Viagogo – a website with a long and storied history of breaking the law and that’s dominated by large-scale touts and non-existent tickets.”

The CMA is currently investigating suspected breaches of consumer protection law in the online secondary tickets market and has called on the Government for stronger laws to tackle illegal ticket resale.

It has suggested that secondary ticketing operators such as Viagogo and StubHub should be licensed, and if they are found to break consumer protection regulations they would be fined or forced to close.

The CMA’s recommendations include:

  • A ban on platforms allowing resellers to sell more tickets for an event than they can legally buy from the primary market.
  • Ensuring platforms are fully responsible for incorrect information about tickets that are listed for sale on their websites.
  • A new system of licensing for platforms that sell secondary tickets that would enable an authority to act quickly and issue sanctions such as taking down websites, withdrawing a business’s right to operate in the sector, and the imposition of substantial fines.