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“A landmark moment”: Viagogo banned from Google advertising

Effective today, Google has barred Viagogo from advertising through its platform, in a major blow for the controversial secondary ticketer

By IQ on 17 Jul 2019

Google bans Viagogo from advertising

Google UK's headquarters in Kings Cross, London

image © Acabashi

Google has suspended secondary ticketing site Viagogo as an advertiser indefinitely, following pressure from industry organisations, anti-tout groups and politicians.

The suspension means Viagogo will no longer be able to pay in order to appear at the top of Google’s global search rankings.

The ban, a Google spokesperson tells IQ, will apply globally with immediate effect. A statement from Viagogo’s PR firm says the Switzerland-based company is “extremely surprised to learn of Google’s concerns” and “look[s] forward to working with them to resolve this as quickly as possible”.

The decision is the most significant step taken by the tech giant to prevent non-compliant secondary sites using its platform. In 2017, Google updated its AdWords policy to place closer scrutiny on secondary sites and prevent them from posing as official sellers, following pressure from UK politicians.

A 2017 IQ report found secondary ticketing sites such as Viagogo, StubHub and the defunct Seatwave were paying as much as 15 times more than promoters to appear at the top of Google’s sponsored search listings.

Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith said the most his company could afford to pay to boost their Google ranking was around £1 per click. Resale sites, on the other hand, can afford to “pay £10 [per click] if they’re making £500” on a ticket.

Trade body UK Music, the Football Association and MPs last year addressed the issue collectively,  penning an open letter to the tech giant, urging it to stop allowing Viagogo to pay its way to the top of search rankings for tickets.

“This is a landmark moment, and a major step forward to preventing exploitation of audiences”

UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher reiterated the demand earlier this month, saying it was “high time Google stopped putting Viagogo at the top of their search engine” instead of directing them to “legitimate primary ticket sales.”

Commenting on today’s decision, Galbraith says he and Kilimanjaro are “very pleased to hear of Google’s decision to suspend Viagogo as an advertiser”.

“Literally thousands of customers have inadvertently come across Viagogo via Google advertising, and then suffer terrible experiences that result in them either significantly overpaying for tickets or not gaining access to shows,” he tells IQ. “We welcome the announcement and support Google’s decision.”

IQ understands Google removed around 2.3 billion ads that were in breach of its policies or the law last year alone.

“When people use our platform for help in purchasing tickets, we want to make sure that they have an experience they can trust,” reads a Google statement.

Google removed around 2.3 billion ads that were in breach of its policies or the law last year alone

“This is why we have strict policies and take necessary action when we find an advertiser in breach.”

“This is a landmark moment, and a major step forward to preventing exploitation of audiences in the secondary ticketing market,” comments Adam Webb, campaign manager for anti-touting group FanFair Alliance.

“After publishing extensive research highlighting the impacts of Viagogo’s misleading search advertising, FanFair Alliance has been in constructive conversations with Google for over two years in an attempt to address this issue.

“We are delighted they have finally acted and suspended Viagogo’s advertising. We now hope other platforms, particularly Facebook, can follow Google’s example.”

The announcement comes following the decision by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to pursue legal action against the secondary site for repeated non-compliance with consumer law.

The watchdog maintains that, despite several warnings, Viagogo continues to mislead fans by providing incomplete information, in particular relating to the number of tickets available for events.

“We are delighted that Google is finally bowing to public pressure and taking action”

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher comments: “UK Music has long urged everyone to say no to Viagogo. We are delighted that Google is finally bowing to public pressure and taking action. 

“Google is the first port of call when most music fans search for tickets and they have a responsibility to ensure [their] customers are not misled into paying over the odds for gigs and festivals.

“This is an important victory for campaigners including UK Music, FanFair Alliance, culture minister Margot James and cross-party MPs like Nigel Adams and Sharon Hodgson. This development and further legal proceedings against Viagogo marks a huge turning point in the battle to tackle exploitative touts.”

Sam Shemtob, director of the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT), says Google’s decision is “a hugely significant step”.

In addition to the work by the CMA and the UK parliament’s digital, culture, media and sport committee, Shemtob highlights the efforts of FanFair Alliance, Spain’s Association of Music Promoters (APM) and French live music industry association Prodiss, “who have been engaged in multiple conversations on the issue with Google, some of which date back to 2016.

“We hope other search engines and social media platforms will follow suit.”


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