The Fanfair Alliance, a campaign against online ticket touting, has published an open letter to Matt Brittin, EMEA chief of Google, on behalf of the APPG, FFA and STAR, demanding action is taken against ‘misleading’ search advertising from ticketing platform Viagogo.

Sharon Hodgson MP, chair of the APPG on Ticket Abuse, commented: “I have heard too many times from distressed customers of Viagogo that they were led to the website because it was at the top of their Google search. It is totally wrong that a trusted website like Google would direct consumers to such an untrustworthy website. Google need to take action in order to protect consumers, and I look forward to working with them on this in the very near future.”

This comes just days after the company failed for the second consecutive year to attend a hearing on secondary ticketing in the UK Parliament, which was described by committee chair Damian Collins MP as a “gross discourtesy”.

The ticketing company justified its decision to not attend by citing legal action it has initiated against Ed Sheeran promoter Kilimanjaro Live.

Sheeran and the promoter, in a stand against secondary ticketing, cancelled tickets which were being resold for a higher price on Viagogo. The promoter claims fans were refunded in the wake of the cancellation, while the ticketing company alleges the promoter was “pocketing millions of pounds in duplicate sales”.

In a statement on Twitter, Kilimanjaro Live said that: “The claims made today by Viagogo are ludicrous, laughable and most importantly totally false.

The full text of the open letter from the APPG, FFA and STAR is below, along with the list of co-signatories:

 

Matt Brittin, President of EMEA Business & Operations,
Ronan Harris, Managing Director UK and Ireland,
Google,
1-13 St Giles High St,
London,
WC2H 8AG

Friday 7th September 2018

Dear Matt and Ronan,

This year has seen major progress in tackling online ticket touting.

Google has played an important part in this change. In February 2018, Google launched a new certification system for ticket resellers, with the aim of providing clearer information for consumers. However, Viagogo’s use of Google paid-for search to achieve prominence to consumers continues to concern all signatories to this letter, now more than ever.

On Friday August 31st, the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) issued court proceedings against Viagogo for potential breaches of consumer protection law.

Last Wednesday (September 5th), Viagogo failed for the second time to appear before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in an evidence session on secondary ticketing. The Committee’s Chair, Damian Collins MP, described this as a “pattern of evasion, disrespectful to the House and disrespectful to consumers.”

“If you’ve got nothing to hide, the truth will do you no harm,” he added. “If you want to be safe, do not buy tickets from Viagogo.”

Repeated research by FanFair Alliance has highlighted how Viagogo systematically tops Google results for tickets, even when primary inventory is still widely available or, most worryingly, when the tickets listed will be invalid for entry at the event.

This results in confusion, and risks your users clicking through to Viagogo unaware they are being transferred to a ticket reseller.

Working with the campaign group Victim of Viagogo, FanFair has helped many individuals who believe they were mis-sold tickets to claim back hundreds of thousands of pounds. The vast majority of these customers tell us they were led to Viagogo through Google search and unaware they were buying a resold ticket.

It is an untenable situation.

In effect, one of the world’s most trusted brands – Google – is being paid to actively promote one of the least trusted.

Viagogo’s search advertising is also, we believe, breaking Google’s own AdWords guidelines. These state clearly that advertisers are expected “to comply with the local laws for any area that their ads target” and that Google will “generally err on the side of caution in applying this policy because we don’t want to allow content of questionable legality.”

We understand that Viagogo is a valuable client to Google, spending considerable sums each year on paid search advertising.

However, we urge you to protect consumers who daily put their trust in Google, and act now to restrict Viagogo’s ability to pay for prominence.

We look forward to working with you to achieve these goals,

Sharon Hodgson MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse
Adam Webb, campaign manager, FanFair Alliance
Jonathan Brown, chief executive, Society of Ticket Agents & Retailers (STAR)

Countersigned by:

Nigel Adams MP
Pete Wishart MP
Lord Tim Clement-Jones CBE
Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive, Music Managers Forum
Claire Turnham, Founder, Victim of Viagogo
Lucie Caswell, Chief Executive, Featured Artists Coalition
Martin Ingham, Chair, National Arenas Association
Michael Dugher, Chief Executive, UK Music
Neil Tomlinson, President, The Entertainment Agents’ Association
Paul Reed, Association of Independent Festivals
Phil Bowdery, Chair, Concert Promoters Association
STAR – Full member list at www.star.org.uk/all-members/
Julian Bird, CEO, Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre
David Allfrey, Chief Executive & Producer, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Edward Snape, Chair, League of Independent Producers
England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)
Sport and Recreation Alliance (SRA)
Lawn Tennis Association (LTA)
All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC)
Rugby Football Union (RFU)
The Football Association (FA)

Additionally, on 31 August, the Competition and Markets Authority announced it had issued court proceedings against Viagogo over concerns that the provider was breaking consumer protection law.

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