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Google urged to stop Viagogo ‘buying its way’ to the top of online search results

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Google is being urged to take action against to prevent secondary ticket seller Viagogo from paying to be at the top of the technology giant’s search function.

Campaign group FanFair Alliance, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse and the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers are behind the letter, which has been signed by Society of London Theatre chief executive Julian Bird.

The open letter states: “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.”

It follows research from FanFair Alliance that claims Viagogo systematically pays to be at the top of Google searches, even when shows were not sold out or when the tickets listed were invalid for the event.

The Competition and Markets Authority recently announced that Viagogo is being taken to court for potential breaches of consumer protection law and for not showing up to last week’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee evidence session on secondary ticketing.

MP Sharon Hodgson, chair of the APPG on Ticket Abuse, said: “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 needs to take action in order to protect consumers, and I look forward to working with them on this in the very near future.”

Adam Webb, campaign manager at FanFair Alliance, said Google needed to enforce its own advertising guidelines and stop Viagogo “buying their way to the top of [its] search”.

Other signatories of the letter include producer Edward Snape, who is chair of the League of Independent Producers, as well as politicians from all main political parties.

A spokesman 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.”

Google has also been contacted for comment, but told the Guardian it was awaiting the conclusion of the CMA’s investigation before taking action.

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