Google under pressure to stop putting Viagogo top of search results for event tickets

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

Ben Chapman
Monday 10 September 2018 12:35 BST
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Often, Viagogo’s adverts are placed above the venue selling the tickets first hand, causing confusion, a letter to Google states
Often, Viagogo’s adverts are placed above the venue selling the tickets first hand, causing confusion, a letter to Google states (Alamy)

Google has come under renewed pressure from music fans and MPs to stop promoting paid listings by ticket reseller Viagogo, which is facing legal action for misleading consumers.

A letter sent to Google from the FanFair Alliance and signed by a two MPs, as well as sport and music industry representatives, expresses concern that the search engine continues to place Viagogo’s adverts at the top of its listings.

Often, Viagogo’s adverts are placed above the venue selling the tickets first hand. The result is that many customers are not aware they are purchasing a resold ticket at an inflated price, the letter says, adding that this situation is “untenable”.

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

Google’s own guidelines state that online advertisers must comply with local laws in areas 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”.

A spokesperson for Viagogo said: “All tickets listed on Viagogo are valid. It is perfectly legal to resell a ticket if you want to. Any promoter trying to cancel a genuine ticket is not acting in the interests of fans.”

Last month the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued court proceedings against Viagogo for potential breaches of consumer protection law.

The CMA began enforcement action against four major secondary ticketing websites last November. Three of those sites – StubHub, GetMeIn! and Seatwave – offered formal commitments in April to overhaul the way they do business.

However, despite being warned a failure to do likewise would result in court action, Viagogo has not offered to make the changes the CMA considers necessary to bring it in line with the law.

Last week, 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, 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.”

A Google spokesperson said: “The CMA has been looking at the business practices of ticket resellers. We await the conclusion of these inquiries and we hope that they will clarify the rules in the interests of consumers. We will abide by the rulings of these inquiries and local law.”

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