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Pressure mounts on Google to reject Viagogo ads

By | Published on Wednesday 4 April 2018

Viagogo

Pressure is mounting on Google to stop accepting search advertising from the always controversial secondary ticketing website Viagogo which, campaigners argue, is now flouting the web giant’s own rules, in addition to allegedly breaching UK consumer rights law.

Google last year unveiled new rules and a new certification system for ticket resellers wanting to buy advertising on the firm’s search engine. Viagogo in particular has been a prolific user of Google ads, so that when people search for tickets for upcoming shows, tickets being resold by unofficial sellers on the secondary ticketing platform appear at the top of the search results list. This makes many consumers – unaware that top spots on a Google search are bought – assume Viagogo is the official seller of tickets.

Aiming to overcome this consumer confusion, while still accepting the Viagogo pound, Google said that secondary ticketing sites looking to advertise on its platform must prominently disclose that they are a resale site and that tickets may therefore be sold at above face value. Sites must also “prominently provide the face value of the tickets being sold in the same currency”.

Most of the new regulations came into effect in February, with the latter rule becoming Google law last month. Back in February, Google’s Head Of Advertising Communications, Jennifer Kaiser, told the BBC: “We felt like we needed to do more to make sure the advertising of secondary ticketing is clear on our platform. To carry on advertising on Google, secondary sites can’t use words like ‘official’, they can’t use the artist or venue name in the website URL, and they’ll need to clearly say they are a reseller at the top of their page”.

Campaigners argue that Viagogo is not yet compliant with the new Google rules, which apply globally, let alone UK consumer rights regulations and the recent demands made by the Advertising Standards Authority. Face value prices are not being presented prominently and – while it may have stopped the particularly controversial practice of using the phrase “official site” in its advertising – it still doesn’t clearly state that it is a resale site in those ads.

When asked by the Daily Mail whether those failings meant Google would now stop accepting advertising from Viagogo, the web giant said it didn’t know when it would start enforcing its own rules for ticket resale websites.

Anti-ticket touting campaign group FanFair has long argued that, while it is great that regulators like the ASA and companies like Google are ordering secondary ticketing sites to make their unofficial status and the extra cost of buying touted tickets really clear, those rules are only any use if they are enforced.

With non-compliant Viagogo still appearing at the top of Google searches for many artists’ shows, Adam Webb of FanFair told CMU this morning: “The positive impacts of Google’s certification system are being undermined by their ongoing acceptance of Viagogo’s advertising payments”.

He adds: “It’s not the only barrier to cleaning up the ticket resale market, but it is enabling Viagogo to continue dominating search results and masquerade as a legitimate seller – despite their apparent ongoing breaches of UK consumer law, their disregard for ASA rulings, and their misleading marketing practices”.

“On top of that, and true to form, Viagogo already appear to be flouting Google’s own guidelines” he continued. “Surely this is the trigger for action? Rather than profit from Viagogo, it’s time for Google to remove this discredited and disreputable company from their ad networks”.



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