Viagogo no show at MPs’ touts debate
By Chris Cooke | Published on Wednesday 22 March 2017
Viagogo grabbed the headlines at yesterday’s select committee hearing on secondary ticketing by not showing up, which was quite an achievement. An unnamed representative for the ticket resale platform had been billed as being among those due to answer MPs’ questions as Parliament’s Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee again put the spotlight on ticket touting, but in the end the company declined to attend.
It’s rare for companies with a UK base to refuse to attend select committee hearings. Viagogo apparently told MPs on the culture committee on Monday evening that it would not be attending yesterday’s session. Committee chair Damian Collins MP said that he felt “considerable disappointment that Viagogo have decided not to send a representative despite the fact that they have a substantial office on Cannon Street”. Meanwhile committee member Nigel Huddleston MP said Viagogo had shown “if not contempt for Parliament, a lack of respect to Parliament and by extension the British public”.
In the early days of secondary ticketing Viagogo was always on hand with a quote from its founder Eric Baker, but in more recent years – and especially since opposition to touting in the UK artist and political communities has risen once again – it has tended to employ a wall of silence strategy. Which possibly makes yesterday’s no-show unsurprising.
Maybe next time MPs could invite a rep from one Viagogo’s key financial backers, Index Ventures, which – somewhat ironically – is also an investor in passionately anti-touting ticketing business Songkick. Danny Rimer looks after the Viagogo investment at Index and he has an OBE, so surely wouldn’t decline a parliamentary invite.
He could explain what it’s like being in business with a bunch of shits like Team Viagogo, who were recently in the news for helping touts profit off Ed Sheeran’s Royal Albert Hall show in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Meanwhile, MPs at yesterday’s select committee heard from Claire Turnham, who set up the Victims Of Viagogo group on Facebook after struggling to get a refund from the company following a particularly confusing experience on its website that left her £1421 out of pocket – £1,150 more than she believed she was being charged for some Ed Sheeran tickets. She said that she had now been contacted by 425 people from 26 countries who had had similar experiences using the Viagogo service.
Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp also took part in yesterday’s select committee hearing, saying that he was motivated to speak out because of that touting of vastly over-priced tickets to the Teenage Cancer Trust show. Speaking to the BBC, he said: “That’s a charity show, we put that show on to raise funds and people are just taking advantage, and it’s something that needs to be controlled. We’re looking for the enforcement of laws that already exist but we need to have greater transparency. At the moment [the touts] can hide behind certain things and it’s not great and that’s why there’s some confusion and anger”.
As previously reported, earlier this month the UK government said that it accepted the findings of last year’s Waterson Review of the secondary ticketing market. It will now seek to enable National Trading Standards to enforce existing regulations contained within the Consumer Rights Act, while putting pressure on Viagogo and its rivals StubHub, Seatwave and Get Me In to do more to identify industrial-level resellers on their platforms, who are likely subject to extra consumer rights rules.
Meanwhile, the anti-tout campaign FanFair has published a guide to help consumers navigate the slightly confusing ticketing market – primary and secondary – so that they can better identify official sources of tickets.