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The likes of Viagogo are actually weak and damaged

How must the smart people at Bessemer Venture Partners and Madrone Capital Partners, the two VC funds that bankrolled Viagogo’s US$4.05bn acquisition of StubHub, be feeling right now?

For Madrone, in particular, it’s been a tough couple of years. As well as losing $150m in the crash and burn of Theranos, they were also the lead investor in Quibi, backing the ill-fated short-form video service to the tune of $200m during the upwards part of its firework-like trajectory.

And then they met Eric Baker.

Much has been written about how the Viagogo/StubHub merger, completed one month before the world shut down, was, in the words of Forbes magazine, “The Worst Deal Ever”.

I’ve written about it myself, on this website – highlighting how the deal appeared wildly overpriced, even before we all became self-professed experts in vaccines and lateral flow testing, and how a combination of regulation and innovation were, in the longer-term, likely to fundamentally disrupt a secondary ticketing “business model” wholly dependent on search advertising and large-scale touts.

Added to that was the spectre of an investigation by the UK’s business regulator, the Competition & Markets Authority, who duly put the merger on hold, concluded that the acquisition created a “significant lessening of competition” in the UK, and subsequently ordered Viagogo to sell-off StubHub’s international operations before integration can complete.

There’s evidence to suggest much of the inventory on Viagogo doesn’t actually exist

Would-be suitors for the international (ie loss-making) parts of StubHub, as well as being approved by the CMA, will be required to run the platform as an uncapped resale service and in direct competition with Viagogo. In the current environment, that sounds a fairly unalluring prospect. Although, as Madrone has repeatedly highlighted, fools and other people’s money can be easily parted.

Meanwhile, and perhaps more alarming for those beleaguered investors, the credit rating of Viagogo’s parent company PUG LLC started to nosedive. They took on an additional $330m in loans, and then, earlier this year, informed regulators in Australia – who’d hauled them over the coals for making false or misleading representations when reselling tickets – that they couldn’t pay a AUD$7m fine due to the catastrophic impacts of the pandemic.

Oh, and Eric Baker reportedly embarked on a property spree in Beverly Hills, completing the purchase of his third mansion in September 2020 for $39m. Presumably, the pandemic not being quite so financially catastrophic for him personally.

And now, as detailed in a Guardian yesterday, there’s evidence to suggest much of the inventory on Viagogo doesn’t actually exist, and that speculative selling – some of it by businesses likely connected to Viagogo itself – is rife.

This could now be the opportunity to step up, to standardise the changes outlined in the FanFair guide

I certainly hope Bessemer and Madrone have digested the implications of Rob Davies’ latest investigation into the bizarre and artificial constructs of this market – and that they’ve studied the February 2021 Phase 2 Final Report from the CMA, which concluded that the value of tickets resold through the UK’s online ticketing platforms in 2019 was around £350m. Somewhat less than the £1.5-2.5bn estimated by Viagogo and StubHub.

As we all wait optimistically for gigs and festivals to return, and for normal life to resume, I hope that promoters, agents, artist managers, venues and primary ticket companies are also taking note, and recognising that, rather than all-powerful platforms, the likes of Viagogo are actually weak and damaged enterprises – and that the UK industry has been greatly empowered over recent years to prevent the exploitation of customers in the secondary market and offer them a better and fairer alternative when it comes to resale.

The wider industry can, of course, choose to do nothing. Shrug shoulders. Say how terrible ticket touting is while failing to enact the fairly simple measures that can help prevent it.

Alternatively, this could now be the opportunity to step up, to standardise the changes outlined in the guide FanFair published back in September 2019, and ensure there’s a wider push to properly communicate how resale works, and that those services are the best they can be.

 


Viagogo disputes the claims made in the Guardian article. A spokesperson says: “Viagogo rejects the unsubstantiated allegations in the Guardian article referenced in this piece. No evidence was outlined in the article nor was any provided to the company despite repeated requests.

There is a mechanism in place to raise issues formally either with Viagogo or the regulator. The Guardian chose instead to write a misinformed article.

 “Viagogo has strict measures in place to ensure the accuracy and compliance of listings and to prevent fraudulent selling, which are audited annually by a third party.

“In all transactions there is an onus on the seller to agree to certain terms and conditions, which includes the right to sell a ticket.

“Where we are provided with proof from a relevant authority of an abuse of these rules we will investigate and, if confirmed, action will be taken.”

 


Adam Webb is campaign manager for FanFair Alliance.

IQ Focus highlights live music’s Lost Causes

The Lost Causes: Campaigners & Advocacy, the 11th IQ Focus virtual panel and the first following last week’s break, caught up with industry pros whose work advocating for mental health, accessibility and diversity has been put on hold by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chaired by FanFair Alliance’s Adam Webb, yesterday’s discussion – the first in a series of ‘Lost Causes’ panels – welcomed Francine Gorman, outreach coordinator at Keychange; Jacob Sylvester Bilabel of Green Music Initiative; Natalie Wade, founder of Small Green Shoots; Attitude is Everything’s head of volunteering and skills development, Paul Hawkins; and Musica Therapy’s Sital Panesar to find out what they’d been doing during live music’s shutdown – and how their work continues when it returns.

Wade expressed a typical view when she said Small Green Shoots – a charity which aims to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds engage with music and the arts – went from being “on the crest of the wave” at the start of 2020 to  “everything being cancelled this summer”, meaning “no one could finish their projects”.

Similarly, said Hawkins, “the aim for 2020 was to be one big 20th-anniversary celebration” for accessibility charity Attitude is Everything. “The one positive we’ve got is that a 21st birthday still sounds like something worth celebrating!” he joked.

Panesar said the worldwide lockdowns in March weighed heavily on the industry’s mental health, as “people lost their coping mechanisms”. “Alongside the additional pressures of being in lockdown, that really compounds difficulties,” she said.

For disabled people, Hawkins added, the pandemic has had a “huge impact on people who don’t like to think of themselves as vulnerable”.

Bilabel said March “felt like a car crash in slow motion”, but the live music industry – and everyone working in it – will ultimately come through the other side

Gorman spoke of the importance of “building back better” when touring and festivals do resume. “Representation is a massive part of that conversation,” she explained. “There are all kinds of voices and they deserved to be sustained in the industry, at every kind of level.”

“We want to make sure that when live music does start again, disabled people have the same opportunities as any other talented people,” Hawkins added.

Bilabel said March “felt like a car crash in slow motion”, but emphasised that the live music industry – and everyone working in it – will ultimately come through the other side.

“Some companies will die, but the people behind them won’t,” he explained. “And the demand for culture – for festivals, for music, for cinema – will be even bigger than it is today.”

The return of live, added Wade, is a chance for “people to say yes” to new opportunities. “It’s so easy to say no, because there’s less work. But I want people to take a chance, to say, ‘Yes, maybe we can help you – let’s get behind it.’”

For more discussion and debate, watch the session back on YouTube or Facebook now.

 


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Lost no more: Campaigners take centre stage as IQ Focus returns

After taking a week off last week, IQ’s popular virtual panel series, IQ Focus, returns this Thursday, inviting six new panellists to shine a light on worthy causes which have taken a back seat during the Covid-19 crisis.

Before Covid-19, a wide range of advocacy work was centred around live music, from campaigns to improve gender diversity in line-ups and accessibility for disabled customers to environmental projects and drives around recruitment, inclusion and mental health.

But what have experts and practitioners in these areas been doing since live music shut down? And when music events do return, against an uncertain economic backdrop is there a risk that their important work will be diminished?

The Lost Causes: Campaigners & Advocacy counts the broader cost of the business interruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic

The first in a new series of ‘Lost Causes’ discussions invites Francine Gorman, outreach coordinator at Keychange; Jacob Sylvester Bilabel of Green Music Initiative; Natalie Wade, founder of Small Green Shoots; Attitude is Everything’s head of volunteering and skills development, Paul Hawkins; Musica Therapy’s Sital Panesar; and chair Adam Webb (FanFair Alliance) to counts the broader cost of the business interruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As with previous sessions, The Lost Causes: Campaigners & Advocacy will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube. To set a reminder for Thursday 13 August’s session, head to IQ’s Facebook or YouTube pages now.


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CMA refers Viagogo/Stubhub merger for further investigation

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has referred the merger of secondary ticketing giants Viagogo and StubHub for an in-depth investigation, warning that the deal could result in “a substantial lessening of competition”.

The watchdog began its investigation into Viagogo’s US$4 billion all-cash acquisition of StubHub in December, following pressure from anti-ticket touting groups.

Earlier this month, the CMA stated that the deal, which would see both companies brought back under the control of founder Eric Baker, “could lead to customers losing out through higher prices, less innovation and a lack of real choice.”

The organisation is now advising that the merger be investigated further, after giving Viagogo five days to respond to its initial concerns.

Adam Webb, campaign manager of anti-touting group FanFair Alliance “welcomes” the CMA’s decision.

“We remain committed to our belief that the combination of the two companies is a good move for customers worldwide”

“Over recent years, there have been major steps forward in the UK to eradicate the bad practices of sites like Viagogo and StubHub and those of the large-scale ticket touts who dominate their supply chain,” says Webb.

“Even in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, the thought of such a business monopolising “for profit” secondary ticketing remains highly problematic.

“Viagogo’s predatory marketing practices and business model continue to endanger audiences, and its $4.05bn acquisition of StubHub raises acute competition concerns, particularly in the UK.”

A Viagogo spokesperson says that the company “will continue to work diligently with the CMA” during the second phase of their review.

“We remain committed to our belief that the combination of the two companies is a good move for customers worldwide.”

 


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CMA: Viagogo/StubHub merger to drive up prices

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has stated that the merger of secondary ticketing giants Viagogo and Stubub could result in “higher prices and fewer options” for fans.

The watchdog began its investigation into Viagogo’s US$4 billion all-cash acquisition of StubHub in December, following pressure from anti-ticket touting groups. The deal would see both companies brought back under the control of founder Eric Baker.

Upon investigation, the CMA has found that the merger would drive up prices for fans wishing to resell or buy tickets on the secondary market, given the companies are “close competitors in an already very concentrated market with limited alternatives”. (Together, the ticketers hold 80% of the secondary market in the UK.)

“Viagogo is already the largest secondary ticketing company in the UK by some considerable margin and has purchased an established rival, with no other significant competitors in the market,” comments CME executive director, Andrea Gomes da Silva.

“We are therefore concerned that this transaction could lead to customers losing out through higher prices, less innovation and a lack of real choice.”

“[Viagogo] should not be allowed to monopolise for-profit ‘secondary ticketing'”

The CMA also states that the current impact the coronavirus pandemic is exerting on the live events business is unlikely to adversely affect Viagogo and StubHub’s position in the market in the long term, in comparison to other competitors.

Viagogo has five days to address the CMA’s concerns by offering a solution that would maintain effective competition in the UK market. The deal will be referred for an in-depth phase two investigation, if the secondary ticketer fails to do so.

Adam Webb, campaign manager of anti-touting group FanFair Alliance, says the organisation “welcomes” the announcement.

“Viagogo remains a highly controversial business,” says Webb. “The company has widely flouted consumer protection law in the UK, and remains under investigation in numerous other countries. Even today, amidst this terrible crisis that has decimated live music, Viagogo’s suppliers are attempting to sell tickets to cancelled events.

“Such a company, that has created thousands of consumer victims, should not be allowed to monopolise for-profit ‘secondary ticketing’. That outcome would raise significant competition concerns in the UK and threaten to reverse hard-won reforms to prevent abuses in this market.”

“As we have throughout this process, we will continue to work diligently with the CMA during their review of the transaction,” says a Viagogo spokesperon. “We remain committed to our belief that the combination of the two companies is a good move for customers worldwide.”

StubHub, whose president Sukhinder Singh Cassidy announced she was stepping down last month, is currently facing lawsuits in the US and Canada on account of its Covid-19 refund policy.

 


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Stubagogo: One of the worst-timed acquisitions in history?

“As we sit here today, [coronavirus] has not [affected ticket sales], because most of the live events where we’ve seen cancellations have really been in China, and a few in Taiwan and Singapore. Most important for everyone, we hope that they get it under control, and solve the health crisis – but right now it’s been isolated to Asia specifically, and mostly China.”

(Eric Baker, interview with Squawk Alley, CNBC, 21 February 2020)

Viagogo started last month in typically bullish mood.

In the slipstream of their $4.05bn acquisition of StubHub in mid-February, on March 7th the UK’s Daily Telegraph ran a news story suggesting Covid-19 was proving a boon for the secondary ticketing market. While the rest of the live events sector faced impending crisis, listings on Viagogo had apparently risen 45% in the previous week.

According to the report, this was due to “nervous concertgoers and sports fans frantically trying to resell tickets for major events amid the panic around the spread of coronavirus.”

As someone with an interest in this area, I quickly checked viagogo.co.uk.

Strange.

There was no noticeable surge. As per usual, 80–90% of ticket listings were accompanied by star-shaped icons – denoting that the seller is a ‘trader’ rather than a consumer. I contacted the journalist, asking for the evidence to substantiate these claims. (They are yet to return my emails.)

In the month since, events have moved fast.

Despite closing the StubHub acquisition on 13 February – in his CNBC interview, Baker claimed to have paid $2bn in cash and a further $2bn in debt financing – further integration between the two platforms (dubbed ‘Stubagogo’) is being prevented because of an initial enforcement order from the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, with the possibility of additional investigation.

Viagogo’s ownership of StubHub doesn’t bring much to the party, aside from a highly toxic reputation

Effectively, this has left StubHub in a state of limbo.

Speaking to Billboard, a StubHub spokesperson stated they are “currently operating as an independent company, no longer under the support of eBay but not yet operated by Viagogo.” Albeit if you search eBay for event tickets, the site still defaults to StubHub and describes StubHub as “an eBay company”.

Again, all quite strange.

And then the full impacts of live music shutdown started to unfold.

On March 25th, StubHub announced it was furloughing two thirds of its workforce, swiftly followed by a change in company policy on refunds. Buyers of tickets to cancelled events in North America would now be offered vouchers in lieu of cash.

Predictably, this has already attracted a $5m class-action lawsuit, on the basis that StubHub brought the crisis on itself as a result of their publicly stated policy of paying out their largest suppliers (such as ‘super tout’ Julien Lavallee) in advance of events.

It sounds like rough times ahead.

But if the future looks bleak for StubHub, it’s arguably bleaker for Viagogo.

Moody’s has downgraded Viagogo’s corporate outlook from “stable” to “negative”

Even before Covid-19, the acquisition of StubHub looked wildly overpriced. $4.05bn is reportedly 25 x StubHub’s EBITDA – an astonishing amount for a relatively mature business operating predominantly in the highly congested US market and facing substantial commercial and regulatory challenges.

Viagogo, meanwhile, is a relative minnow in the US. Its ownership of StubHub doesn’t really bring much to the party, aside from a highly toxic reputation. The acquisition has essentially resulted in a change of ownership – no more, no less – whereas a merger between, say, StubHub and Vivid Seats, would have been genuinely transformative and created a much larger market-dominant platform.

Added to this, outside the US, Viagogo’s long-term viability looks far less secure than it did 2–3 years ago. In the UK, the recent sentencing of Peter Hunter and David Smith, who sold substantial volumes of tickets through Viagogo, has imperilled the business model of large-scale resellers on whom the secondary platforms rely. With more trials to come, Viagogo’s supply chain looks to be under threat.

Meanwhile, the company still faces legal actions in several other territories, all of which are likely to probe and cross-examine Viagogo’s less-than-transparent business practices.

An insight into these can be found on the Federal Trade Commission website, in an illuminating exchange of emails between the CMA, Viagogo’s lawyers at CMS, and the FTC – all of which indicate an almost pathological reluctance by Viagogo to disclose information about key staff, key shareholders, its turnover or its byzantine corporate structures including companies such as Basset Capital LLC, Grover Street Holdings, FJ Labs LLC, Andro Capital Management, IFOT Services Ltd and VGL Services.

This could well be one the most poorly timed acquisitions in recent corporate history

Earlier this year, the Moody’s rating agency downgraded the corporate family rating of Pugnacious Endeavors (Viagogo’s parent company) to B2, before changing the company’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” – citing both a “lack of public financial disclosure” and “the absence of board independence” for its changed credit profile.

While we wait for the CMA to make further announcements on the merger, the weeks and months ahead will likely be of some consequence.

Viagogo has already put staff at its customer service centre on 30 days’ “protective notice”. Their purchase of Google advertising appears to have stopped dead.

Listings are dormant, not surging.

But above that is the fact that Eric Baker and his investors appear to have paid out $4.05bn for a crippled business that lies, according to some reports, on the verge of bankruptcy.

In the context of the unprecedented crisis being played out in all our lives, this could well be one the most poorly timed acquisitions in recent corporate history.

 


Adam Webb is campaign manager for FanFair Alliance.

Convicted touts sentenced to 6.5 years in prison

A pair of internet ticket touts have been sentenced to a combined six-and-a-half years in prison, in the first case of its kind in the UK against fraudulent resellers.

Peter Hunter and David Smith, who operated as the company BZZ Limited, received four years and 30 months in jail respectively, following an investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, and trail at Leeds Crown Court.

Earlier this month, jurors found Hunter and Smith guilty of fraudulent trading – for the resale of tickets that were invalid, at risk of being refused or that they did not own, and reducing the number of tickets available to consumers at face value – as well as of possessing an article for use in fraud – for using ticket bots and credit or debit cards under different names.

The pair committed offences between May 2010 and December 2017, making a net profit of £3.5 million in the last two years of fraud alone, buying and reselling tickets to concerts by artists including Ed Sheeran, McBusted, Taylor Swift and Coldplay, as well as to shows including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

According to the National Trading Standards, Hunter and Smith used almost 100 different names, 88 postal addresses and more than 290 emails to evade detection, as well as using specialist software including bots, Insomniac Browser, Omni Checker and Roboform and taking steps to circumvent captchas or IP address detection.

“This is an important milestone in the fight to tackle online ticket touts who fraudulently buy and resell tickets to thousands of victims to line their own pockets,” comments Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards.

“It’s a fantastic result for music lovers across the UK, and should also send shockwaves through the likes of Viagogo and StubHub”

“Today’s sentences send a strong message to similar online ticket touts: these are criminal offences that can lead to prison sentences. I hope this leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.”

Adam Webb, campaign manager for anti-tout group FanFair Alliance, says that the sentences “a major blow to online ticket touts who break the law and rip off the public.

“It’s a fantastic result for National Trading Standards and for music lovers across the UK, and should also send shockwaves through the likes of Viagogo and StubHub whose businesses are dependent upon large-scale resellers.

“By facilitating the activities of online touts, there must be concerns that the platforms themselves are profiting from the sale of tickets unlawfully acquired by their biggest suppliers.

“This should be investigated as a matter of urgency, and lead to action against those platforms if they have benefitted from the proceeds of criminality.”

Viagogo last week announced it had ‘completed’ its US$4 billion all-cash acquisition of StubHub, although the merger still needs approving by regulatory bodies, including the UK’s CMA, before they can operate as one entity.

Photo: Markus Hillgärtner/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)

 


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Ticket touts found guilty of fraud in UK court

Internet ticket touts Peter Hunter and David Smith, who reportedly made almost £11 million from reselling tickets through secondary sites, have been found guilty of fraud today (13 February).

Following a three-month trial at Leeds Crown Court – the first of its kind regarding secondary ticketing in the UK – the pair, who traded as Ticket Wizz and BZZ, were found guilty of fraudulent trading and possessing an article for fraud. Both men had denied all charges.

The touts are believed to have spent over £4m between 2015 and 2017 buying tickets from primary sellers with automated buying software, including 750 Ed Sheeran tickets in 2017 alone. They then sold the tickets on secondary platforms including Viagogo and now-shuttered platforms, GetMeIn and Seatwave, for substantial profit.

According to the National Trading Standards, Hunter and Smith used almost 100 different names, 88 postal addresses and more than 290 emails to evade detection. The touts also engaged in ‘speculative selling’, listing tickets for sale that they did not own.

The pair are also thought to have flogged tickets to shows by artists such as Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Liam Gallagher. Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp, was among those to testify at the trial, taking action against the resellers after spotting £75 tickets for a Teenage Cancer Trust gig being sold on for almost 1,000 times the price.

“I hope this prosecution leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market”

“This is a landmark case for National Trading Standards and should reassure consumers that the fraudulent practices of secondary ticket sellers will no longer be tolerated,” comments Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards.

“I hope this prosecution leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.”

The verdict is the second victory for anti-tout campaigners this week, after UK watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) put the brakes on the Stubhub/Viagogo merger on Monday, leading to a further push for more in depth investigations into secondary ticketing practices.

“Today’s verdict shines further light on the murky world of secondary ticketing, and the dependency of websites such as Viagogo and StubHub upon large-scale commercial ticket resellers,” comments Adam Webb, campaign manager of anti-tout organisation FanFair Alliance.

“We strongly suspect Peter Hunter and David Smith are not exceptional, and that other suppliers to these sites may also acquire tickets by unlawful means – no questions asked.”

“Today’s verdict shines further light on the murky world of secondary ticketing”

Webb adds that the National Trading Standards now must “urgently increase the scope of their investigations”, while calling for the CMA “to apply further scrutiny towards the secondary ticketing market overall.”

“If the likes of Viagogo, StubHub and other secondary sites operate without due diligence, then their directors must be held to account,” says Webb.

When contacted by IQ, a Viagogo spokesperson condemned the use of “software to gain an unfair advantage when buying tickets” and stated the site removed the two sellers “as soon as we became aware of their fraudulent activity”.

The Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (Feat) similarly welcomes the verdict, which campaign lead Katie O’Leary says is “wholly appropriate given the significance and scope” of the pair’s actions.

O’Leary states that the problem is not limited to “a couple of rogue actors”, stressing that the secondary market is “rife with consumer exploitation”.

“This is a clear example of the lengths that people go to in order to harvest tickets and sell them on at extortionate prices”

“This case is a clear example of the great lengths that people go to in order to harvest tickets and sell them on at extortionate prices to satisfy their personal greed,” continues O’Leary.

“We hope today’s ruling sets a precedent for action against scalpers, both in the UK and across Europe, and encourages more consistent policing and sanctioning of both exploitative traders and the marketplaces which profit from their actions.”

According to Jonathan Brown, chief executive of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers, the verdict does set “a hugely significant and useful precedent”.

“Our members worked closely with National Trading Standards to compile the evidence used to secure the conviction and we are pleased they were able to play a role in protecting ticket buyers,” says Brown.

“STAR will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that ticket buying is safe for consumers. Our advice is to buy from STAR members who are authorised to sell tickets for events and comply with a strict code of practice including an approved dispute resolution service in the unlikely event of something going wrong.”

Photo: Raph_PH/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)


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Ethical ticket resales up 50% at See Tickets

See Tickets has sold 50,000 tickets through its ticket resale platform Fan-to-Fan in 2019 so far, 25,000 more than in the same period of last year.

Launched in 2017, Fan-to-Fan was the UK’s first integrated face-value ticket resale platform. The service allows customers to resell unwanted tickets at the price they paid for them or less.

“We were the first ticket agency to bring a truly integrated ethical resale site to the market and figures show the service is more in demand than ever,” comments See Tickets CEO Rob Wilmshurst.

“Buyers and sellers want a fair resale platform they can trust and because we only list tickets originally purchased on our site, we can vouch for everything being resold in terms of its validity.”

“Buyers and sellers want a fair resale platform they can trust and because we only list tickets originally purchased on our site, we can vouch for everything being resold in terms of its validity”

See Tickets launched a secure, non-transferable digital ticketing system earlier this year, issuing tickets with dynamically refreshing barcodes that are uniquely tied to the fan’s user account, mobile device and See Tickets app. The feature has been used on tours for artists including Declan McKenna and Bombay Bicycle Club.

See Tickets also created a paperless ticket for Ed Sheeran’s summer shows in conjunction with promoters DHP and Kilimanjaro.

Adam Webb, campaign manager for anti-tout group FanFair Alliance says: “See Tickets have been vocal about their opposition to exploitative secondary ticketing for many years and FanFair has welcomed the steps they have taken to eliminate touting and provide a better customer experience. It’s really encouraging to see ticket buyers embrace Fan-to-Fan in such numbers.”

 


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Campaigners urge CMA to investigate StubHub takeover

Anti-ticket touting campaign group FanFair Alliance has written to UK regulators to urge an investigation into the takeover of StubHub by Viagogo, warning that the US$4bn acquisition could “leave a single market-dominant platform” with no competition in the secondary ticketing sector.

In a letter to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), FanFair campaign manager Adam Webb writes that the deal “would concentrate market power in ‘for-profit’ secondary ticketing in the hands of a single operator (a combined Viagogo/StubHub would control closer to 100% of the UK market, far above the CMA’s 40% benchmark) and potentially result in anti-competitive behaviour with significant and damaging implications throughout the UK’s live music sector.”

One of the CMA’s criteria for if a company might have a dominant position in the market if is if it has more than a 40% market share in its given sector.

Following the shutdown of Ticketmaster’s Get Me In! and Seatwave sites this time last year, Viagogo and StubHub are the last of the ‘big four’ ticket resale sites operating in the UK.

“A merger of the two would potentially leave a single market-dominant platform”

Differentiating between B2C (business-to-consumer, describing tickets sold by professionalised touts and for-profit ticket resale businesses) and C2C (consumer-to-consumer ticket exchange, such as Ticketmaster Exchange, See Tickets’ Fan-to-Fan and CTS Eventim’s FanSALE) platforms, Webb notes that the combined Viagogo and StubHub would be the only remaining major B2C resale site, effectively eliminating all competition in that market.

“Under a single dominant B2C platform, we would be concerned that such practices would become increasingly prevalent in the UK,” Webb adds, “pushing the market away from consumer-friendly ticket resale and towards the kind of anti-consumer practices currently being investigated in North America.”

Other organisations urging the CMA to look at the merger include the Consumers’ Association (Which?), which said earlier this week that “the regulator should closely examine this deal and the impact it could have on competition in the sector to ensure consumers do not lose out”.

 


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