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FEAT launch ruffles feathers in Europe

The new Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing has been criticised by StubHub, which argues FEAT should focus its attention on cleaning up the primary market

By Jon Chapple on 24 Jan 2019

Scumeck Sabottka is a founder member of FEAT

Scumeck Sabottka is a founder member of FEAT

image © MCT Agentur

Both major European secondary ticketing sites have responded to the launch of the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT), the continent-wide anti-ticket touting association which broke cover at Eurosonic Noorderslag last week.

San Francisco-headquartered StubHub, a division of eBay, and Switzerland-based Viagogo each issued statements following the launch of FEAT, which is backed by promoters, agents and managers in seven European countries.

While Viagogo’s response doesn’t actually mention FEAT by name, sticking instead to the tried and tested ‘we don’t sell tickets’ spiel – Viagogo “is not the ticket seller”, reads the statement, with the company simply making sure “everything goes smoothly” once “buyer and seller have entered into a transaction” – StubHub’s goes further, saying the company is “concerned by the rhetoric of the newly formed Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) and its potential to harm consumers, especially as we observe the trend of rising average face-value prices”.

“As outlined in the independent Waterson report presented to the UK parliament, the desire to implement price caps is ill-advised and will, among other things, likely drive resale back onto the streets and other parts of the internet, like social media, where enforcement is limited and there are no equivalent consumer protections,” says StubHub’s managing director for its northern EMEA division, Wayne Grierson.

Following on from an IQ comment piece in which he challenged primary ticket sellers to make clear how many tickets go on sale, Grierson says FEAT should instead be advocating for transparency in the primary market. “Fans have the right to understand how many tickets are being made available for sale, and when and at what price, and whether those prices will fluctuate due to demand,” he continues.

“Fans have the right to understand how many tickets are being made available for sale, and when and at what price”

“In the state of New York, it was reported that an average of 54% of tickets never even go on public sale and are instead held back by promoters and primary sellers. When consumers have this information available to them, they can make informed purchasing decisions.”

Referencing recent developments concerning Viagogo – specifically the Consumer and Markets Authority (CMA)’s court order which, among things, compels the controversial platform to end speculative listings and list the face value of tickets – Grierson adds: “[W]e’ve seen the positive effects that regulation can have on the consumer experience across the secondary market. Any further regulation should look comprehensively at the entire industry and focus on protecting consumers, not policies that will have negative consequences.”

This argument would hold more water had StubHub itself not been previously compelled by the CMA to change its business practices, suggests promoter Scumeck Sabottka of Germany’s MCT, one of the founders of FEAT.

“While we agree on the importance of a secure environment for fans to resell tickets when they can no longer attend a gig, we disagree on the need for this to involve price-hiking to the value of €8bn annually,” Sabottka tells IQ, referencing the estimated cost to European consumers for tickets resold above face value. “FEAT advocates for transparency in ticketing, [to which] our website attests.

“However, on that subject, we question why it took a CMA investigation for StubHub to commit to telling UK ticket buyers what they are buying, whether they are buying from a business and whether their ticket might not actually get them into the event.

“Both artists and fans want face value resale”

“Both artists and fans want face value resale. We note the closure of Seatwave and Get Me In! in the UK, the success of face-value resale platforms like Twickets in the UK and Spain, and the fact that countries like Ireland are moving towards a face value resale-only policy. We hope StubHub will catch this wave and work with organisations like ours towards a resale ecosystem that is truly fan-first.”

As for Viagogo, which was given a deadline of last Thursday (17 January) to comply with the court order, the CMA said this morning it has not done so, despite claims to the contrary.

“Following initial checks, the CMA has serious concerns that Viagogo has not complied with important aspects of the court order we secured against them,” reads a statement from the authority. “The CMA has now raised these concerns with Viagogo and expects them to make any necessary changes without delay. If they do not, the CMA will return to court to ensure they do.”

Responding, Adam Webb, campaign manager for anti-touting group FanFair Alliance, says: “Last week, Viagogo passed a strict deadline to comply with a court order and overhaul its business.

“True to form, we have seen little evidence of change. In fact, our concerns with how this website operates have only intensified, and while we welcome today’s update it is now vital that the CMA act quickly and decisively to enforce the law. Viagogo has run out of road.”


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