MPs warn concert-goers to avoid Viagogo
A committee of MPs has today taken the "highly unusual" step of warning consumers not to buy or sell tickets through secondary ticket selling website Viagogo.
The advice comes as part of a report into live music published today by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, which is made up of MPs from different political parties.
The report says that bad experiences with secondary ticketing websites, which provide a platform through which tickets can be resold, are damaging trust in the industry. It claims that Viagogo in particular has "caused distress for too many music fans for too long".
In November, a High Court order instructed Viagogo to comply with the Consumer Rights Act by not giving misleading information about the availability and popularity of tickets. It warned this could lead customers into rushing a purchase or making the wrong choice.
It also said the firm should make it easy for people to get their money back when things go wrong, and prevent someone selling tickets that they don't own and may not be able to supply.
But earlier this month the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which secured the order, warned it's now preparing further legal action due to "concerns" the site isn't complying.
MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis urged customers not to use Viagogo last year, after a flood of consumer complaints.
Viagogo, however, says it has been complying and will work constructively with the CMA.
What does the report say?
The report explores problems in the ticketing market for live music and how they could be solved. It says:
- The CMA must act quickly to bring Viagogo in line with consumer law. The report expresses concerns that consumers are still vulnerable while the CMA prepares further legal action against Viagogo.
It said: "It is imperative that the CMA acts promptly and decisively to bring Viagogo into line with consumer law and, until it does so, we advise the public not to buy or sell tickets via Viagogo."
- Consumers should be offered a better process to solve disputes with secondary ticket sellers. The report notes that some are calling for a ticketing ombudsman or alternative dispute resolution service for secondary ticket sellers – although the Government says it's not currently planning to legislate for an ombudsman.
- The Government should review the effectiveness of the law against ticket touts who drive up prices. The Breaching of Limits on Ticket Sales Regulations 2018 came into force in July last year. They're designed to stop touts buying up large numbers of tickets at once and then selling them on for profit – but the report says the Government should publish a review on them no later than 18 months after they came into force.
- The Government should lay out responsibilities of companies such as Google to make sure adverts are in line with consumer protection laws. The report said it is time for companies such as Google to take more responsibility and act against such advertising.
What if I've already bought tickets?
If you've already bought tickets from Viagogo, don't panic – hopefully most will be able to use them without any issues.
But if you do run into problems using a ticket bought through Viagogo, you do have options:
- Complain to Viagogo and demand a refund. According to the 'Viagogo guarantee' you will be offered replacement tickets or a refund if you receive invalid tickets.
You should contact Viagogo within 10 working days of receiving an invalid ticket, or within five working days of the event if you're turned away at the door.
According to the court order brought against Viagogo by the CMA, the site must not reject claims under the Viagogo guarantee if consumers can prove they were refused entry, or if customers should have been told about a restriction on resale when they bought the ticket, but weren't.
- Unsatisfactory or delayed response? Try social media. If you're not satisfied with the company's response or don't hear back quickly, it's worth trying to contact the firm via social media.
- Escalate to Trading Standards. If you don't get anywhere with the company, contact Trading Standards via Citizens Advice and ask it to investigate.
- You could also try to claim from your card company. This isn't a guaranteed route, but is worth a shot – you may be able to claim from your credit or debit card company.
Unfortunately the Financial Ombudsman Service says Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which protects credit card purchases costing between £100 and £30,000, won't apply here. This is because there must be a direct link between the customer and the supplier, and Viagogo is not the supplier.
Yet if you paid on a Visa or Mastercard debit, credit or prepaid card, or an Amex credit or charge card, you may be able to claim under the chargeback scheme, where your bank gets your cash back from the retailer's bank if something goes wrong. This is not a legal requirement, it's a customer service promise, though worth trying.
See our Chargeback guide for full help – and keep evidence that you didn't get into an event, or received an invalid ticket, to support your claim.
What does the committee say?
DCMS Committee chair Damian Collins said: "We're calling on the Government to review the effectiveness of the law intended to prevent consumers being ripped off when buying tickets for live concerts.
"The Government shouldn't rely on the work of voluntary groups to take on the giants in the ticket resale market, but make sure there is effective action to end exploitation, and greater transparency and redress for ticket-buyers when things go wrong.
"The DCMS Committee has taken today the highly unusual step of issuing a warning to the public against using a major secondary ticketing site until it complies fully with consumer law."
What does Viagogo say?
A Viagogo spokesperson said: "We are disappointed that the DCMS have singled us out particularly, when hundreds of thousands of British citizens use our service to buy and sell tickets to their favourite live events every day and never experience any problems. We provide an invaluable service to UK consumers by giving them access to events in the UK and all over the world."
The spokesperson explained that in only 1% of transactions annually do its customers have an issue, before adding: "We have been complying, and will absolutely continue to work constructively with the CMA to make further amends where necessary, all the while putting all of the buyers and sellers who use the platform first."