Legal proceedings against secondary ticketing site Viagogo have been ramped up, with the Competition and Markets Authority seeking to have it found in contempt of court.
Viagogo has repeatedly failed to comply with UK consumer protection law in several areas, the CMA said, such as displaying misleading information about ticket availability and insufficient warnings about the knock-on effects of resold tickets.
Last year, the CMA secured a court order obliging Viagogo to overhaul its UK websites to come into line with laws by mid-January, however the regulator continues to argue that not enough has been done since then to fully comply. It said it had notified Viagogo that it will be asking for it to be found in contempt of court as a result.
The secondary ticketing site has responded to the CMA’s move by denying the allegations that it is in breach of compliance, and claims it has recently completed a third-party review which said it is meeting requirements.
If the Switzerland-based site is found in contempt, it could be subject to substantial fines, with its directors facing prison.
Viagogo’s business model allows tickets for entertainment and sporting events to be resold on its site at a price dictated by the seller, often meaning seat prices are subject to high levels of inflation.
Its practices have long been criticised alongside other secondary ticketing sites for allowing online touts to profiteer from reselling in-demand tickets, however the CMA has also been warning Viagogo about its failure to overhaul the information it displays for ticket buyers.
The CMA said it still believes the notice Viagogo gives to people that buying resold tickets may result in them not being allowed entry to the event does not meet legal requirements, and that it is still displaying inaccurate claims about the number of tickets available.
Some seat numbers are not being displayed as required, and in some cases the business addresses for sellers are not complete, the CMA added.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “It is simply not good enough that Viagogo is continuing to drag its heels by not complying in full with this important court order.
“We secured the order on behalf of people who use these resale websites and deserve to know the facts before parting with their hard-earned money.
After the CMA repeatedly raised concerns with Viagogo and also took the time needed to give proper consideration to the findings of an independent review of Viagogo’s compliance, we are very concerned that it still hasn’t done what it was ordered to do. We are now taking the next step in legal action to ask a court to find Viagogo in contempt.”
Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, who is chair of the all-party parliamentary group on ticket abuse, said: “Viagogo have had four years to comply with Consumer Rights’ legislation but have always failed to do so. In the process they have ripped off thousands of genuine fans who have been left disappointed, frustrated and out of pocket.
“It is therefore welcome news that the CMA are now taking Viagogo to court for contempt. I hope that this action will show Viagogo that their parasitical business model will be tolerated no longer. Once again, I urge consumers to do their research before they buy from the secondary ticket market and above all: do not buy from Viagogo.”
Last month, Viagogo’s chief executive Cris Miller, gave his first interview in more than two years, in which he defended the company’s business model and said he believed highly inflated prices were justified if the market is there to buy them.
A spokesman for Viagogo said in response to the CMA: “We were surprised at the announcement from the CMA today, which we learnt of through their press release, and we deny the allegations that we are in breach of compliance with their regulations. We have recently completed a third-party review which has given us approval that we are reaching compliance with the requirements.
“It is important to note that no contempt of court has actually been filed against us at this time, and per the protocol of the order we have until the 18th July to respond to the CMA’s concerns. We will continue to work closely with the CMA, as we have been for the past year, to ensure we are offering the best possible consumer experience and protections in the UK.”