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Eventim’s TicketOne fined for anti-competitive behaviour

TicketOne, the market-leading primary ticket agency in Italy, has been fined €10 million by the Italian Competition Authority for alleged abuses of its dominant market position.

The latest judgment follows an investigation by the authority into TicketOne’s parent company, CTS Eventim, that first became public in 2019, when a handful of Italian promoters, led by Zed Entertainment’s Valeria Arzenton, alleged unfair competition on the part of Eventim-owned Friends and Partners (F&P).



Arzenton accused CTS Eventim/F&P of trying to strong-arm promoters and artists into ticketing contracts with TicketOne at the expense of non-Eventim operators – a claim strenuously denied by CTS Eventim, TicketOne, F&P and sister companies D’Alessandro e Galli, Vertigo and Vivo Concerti.

Competitors accuse Italian promoters of foul play (updated)

The verdict of the Competition Authority (known as the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato, or AGCM, in Italian), published today (19 January), appear to back up Arzenton’s claims, finding that the ‘CTS Eventim-TicketOne group’ has created a “complex, abusive strategy” which prevents competing ticket sellers from obtaining a “particularly high proportion” (“quota particolarmente elevata”) of tickets for live music events.

In doing so, the group violated EU competition law, in particular Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, according to AGCM.

The authority further found that Eventim particularly sought to exclude TicketOne rival Ticketmaster, a relatively new entrant in Italy (and a non-exclusive ticketing partner of Arzenton’s Zed Entertainment), from the “relevant market”.

By preventing other ticket sellers from obtaining significant ticket inventory for shows organised by F&P, D’Alessandro e Galli, Vertigo and Vivo Concerti, all of which it acquired in a less than eight-month period in 2017–18, Eventim additionally caused harm to consumers, says AGCM, by limiting the choice of tickets available and allowing TicketOne to charge higher prices.

“CTS Eventim … are very confident that this illegal decision will also be overturned by the court”

In addition to the €10m fine, the authority has ordered CTS Eventim to grant TicketOne’s competitors a share of at least 20% of the tickets available for popular music shows organised by owned companies.

Arzenton welcomes the ruling as confirmation that “everything I was complaining about as true, in relation to the pressures and boycotts suffered” by Zed. “But now is the time to look ahead and work all together, as operators in this sector, to face the difficulties caused by this terrible pandemic,” she adds, “and be ready to start again in the name of culture and entertainment.”

In a statement provided to IQ, a CTS Eventim spokesperson refutes the ACGM ruling as being based on flawed data and says the company plans to appeal the verdict.

“TicketOne and CTS Eventim firmly reject AGCM’s claims that the group allegedly abused a dominant position,” they say. “On the basis of incorrect market definitions and in violation of essential procedural rules, the authority made a decision that should never have been made.

“Accordingly, TicketOne and CTS Eventim will appeal to the competent administrative court and are very confident, also with a view to the previous case law on decisions of the AGCM, that this illegal decision will also be overturned by the court.”

AGCM has previously been forced to return money to TicketOne, having refunded the company €1m after a court found it was wrong to claim TicketOne had facilitated unlawful ticket resale.

 


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AGCM ordered to return €1m Viagogo fine

The Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) must return a €1 million fine to Viagogo, after the Council of State rejected claims made against the secondary ticketing site in 2017.

The watchdog levied fines against Viagogo and three other resale sites in April 2017 for failure to supply transparent information to customers. A year later, the regulator raised the fine against Viagogo to €1 million for lack of compliance.

However, following an appeal by Viagogo, the council ruled that the site is a “passive hosting provider”, and therefore not responsible for ensuring sellers provide all the ticket information required by law.

The council also sided with Viagogo over its self-denomination as an ‘official site’, which many deem misleading to fans who believe they are buying from a legitimate, artist-approved seller.

Allegations related to so-called ‘drip pricing’ – advertising a cheaper price to attract customers before disclosing extra fees – and false claims of scarcity of tickets were similarly rejected.

As a result of its rulings, the court also annulled all fines for non-compliance.

“We have always sought an open dialogue with the AGCM to ensure we are compliant with Italian consumer law”

Viagogo managing director Cris Miller “welcomes” the “landmark judgement from Italy’s highest administrative court.”

“We have always sought an open dialogue with the AGCM to ensure we are compliant with Italian consumer law,” states Miller.

“We look forward to continuing discussions about the positive role viagogo plays in Italy and around the world through our platform.”

The AGCM is no stranger to refunding fines. In 2018, the regulator was ordered to return €1m to CTS Eventim-owned TicketOne, after a court rejected allegations that the ticketing site had made insufficient attempts to prevent its tickets ending up on the secondary market.

Last week, TicketOne chief executive Stefano Lionetti criticised the national communications regulator, AGCOM, for its “failure” to tackle secondary ticketing sites in the country.

 


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Competitors accuse Italian promoters of foul play (updated)

Update (20 May): Arzenton and Zed have responded to Friday’s story, telling IQ the company will be only too “pleased to show the Italian public prosecutor” all documents relating to the allegations against F&P and TicketOne. Zed Entertainment’s full statement is below.

Having learnt only from TicketOne, Di and Gi, Friends & Partners, Vertigo and Vivo Concerti’s joint press release issued on May 15 that CTS Eventim and its partners have brought action against Dr Valeria Arzenton, it is fitting to highlight that Dr Valeria Arzenton will be pleased to show the Italian public prosecutor all the documents her statements to the Italian press are based on.

These documents are evidence of the serious and dangerous happenings denounced by Dr. Arzenton and others to the press.

As you can infer from the AGCOM document n. 12/2019, available here since March 25 2019, the prosecuting companies’ behaviour and management are still being looked into by the Italian Competition Authority (Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato) as part of the abuse of dominant position investigation opened by the authority itself against CTS Eventim and its partners.

Dr Valeria Arzenton and Zed will firmly continue to go public and denounce all the behaviours damaging their reputation and companies, free competition and market and the audiences.

 


CTS Eventim-controlled promoters Friends and Partners (F&P), Vivo Concerti, Vertigo and Di and Gi, and ticketing company TicketOne, are taking legal action following claims by competitors that F&P chief executive Fernandino Salzano traded unfairly, made public in a series of reports by TV channel Striscia la Notizia.

The action comes after an investigation by Italian antitrust authority AGCM into alleged abuse of market position by the Eventim companies. The regulator’s precautionary phase resulted in a positive outcome for the companies.

F&P and the other Eventim companies under investigation have refuted all claims made by rivals and have now announced they are taking immediate legal action.

In the first of a series of televised reports, Zed Entertainment co-founder Valeria Arzenton anonymously claimed that Friends & Partners had hijacked a co-promotion of singer Alessandra Amoroso between the two companies. Zed alleges F&P advertised tickets to the show – exclusively through TicketOne – without their consent, and withheld outstanding monies owed as bargaining chips “to negotiate future conditions”.

“There are many Italian colleagues who are in the same situation and who are afraid to speak out

A second report featured concert promoter Roberto Iacobino, who previously worked with Salzano. “Only in Italy is there a company like F&P that does exactly what it wants,” he said, querying why authorities had not investigated market abuses by both F&P and TicketOne.

In a follow up interview with Striscia la Notizia, Arzenton – having revealed her identity – spoke of a “violent” response by Friends & Partners. “We are experiencing a total embargo,” she told reporter Max Laudadio. The day after the initial broadcast, all F&P dates in Zed venues were cancelled.

“I think it’s a violent show of force, but it won’t stop me,” says Arzenton. “There are many Italian colleagues who are in the same situation and who are afraid to speak out.”

F&P, TicketOne, D’Alessandro e Galli, Vertigo and Vivo Concerti say the news reports provide “an incorrect, misleading and defamatory version of the commercial activities carried out by TicketOne and by promoters Friends & Partners, Vivo Concerti, Vertigo, Di & Gi.”

“What is stated in the report provides an incorrect, misleading and defamatory version of commercial activities”

The companies state that the AGCM investigation has been initiated by “two operators in the sector with the aim of obtaining undue competitive advantages to the detriment of TicketOne and the Promoter mentioned above [F&P]”.

The four promoters also stress that, while forming part of the same group, each operates independently of the other.

The companies say that the “harmful, deeply misrepresented and distorted statements” have forced them “to act in penal proceeding against Mrs Arzenton”.

Eventim acquired a 60% stake in Friends and Partners in 2017, and has majority stakes in fellow Italian promoters Vertigo, D’Alessandro e Galli and Vivo Concerti. The German live entertainment giant also controls the market leading ticketing company TicketOne.

This is the second time in as many years that reports by Italian news outlets have resulted in an investigation into major live industry players. A 2017 television interview with Live Nation Italy president Roberto De Luca led to a two-year investigation into promoters conspiring with Viagogo. The executives were later acquitted of all charges.

 


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Competition Authority fines SIAE for “abuse of dominant position”

The Italian Competition Authority has levied a symbolic fine of €1,000 on performance rights organisation (PRO) SIAE for the abuse of its dominant market position to suppress competition in Italy’s rights sector.

SIAE (the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers, or Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori) has been given 60 days to “put an end to its [alleged] distortions of competition”, which relate to a dispute with two newer copyright collection societies, Soundreef and Innovaetica.

SIAE had formerly exercised a (legal) monopoly on Italian royalties collections, although a 2017 provision of Italy’s budget law finally paved the way for the liberalisation of the market and allowed for competition, to comply with EU law.

Some 8,000 rightsholders have left SIAE in recent years, mostly for Soundreef. SIAE was alleged to have spent 400,000 to investigate Soundreef – including by hiring Black Cube, a private intelligence agency founded by ex-Mossad agents – following the high-profile defection of Fabio Rovazzi and Fedez in January.

According to AGCM, SIAE has embarked on a “complex exclusionary strategy” designed to uphold its monopoly

In Fedez’s case, his tour promoter, Show Bees, had paid the artist’s royalties to SIAE – as it was legally obliged to do – but was later ordered to also pay Soundreef too (calling to mind the headache faced by other promoters whose acts are collecting their performance royalties directly).

According to the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM), SIAE has since 2012 embarked on a “complex exclusionary strategy” designed to uphold its monopoly, “impairing the right of authors to choose copyright management services provided by [SIAE’s] competitors”.

As a result, the authority today ordered SIAE to “immediately end the proven distortion of competition and to refrain from behaving [as such] in the future”, as well as imposing the €1,000 fine as a “symbolic pecuniary sanction”.

SIAE’s president, lyricist Mogol (pictured), says the society will “read and evaluate the text [of AGCM’s decision] very carefully”. “SIAE is sure to be able to demonstrate that no violation for abuse took place, and that its work was always respectful of the law on copyright and in general, including in the field of competition,” he comments.

 


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Via-no-no: Ticketer fined in Italy, investigated in Spain

Viagogo has been slapped with another fine – this time to the tune of €1 million – by the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) for alleged unfair commercial practices.

The Italian version of the ever-controversial secondary ticketing platform, Viagogo.it, is accused of hosting ticket listings that fail to display the face value of each ticket, the seat/row number and the total ticket price (after fees and charges) – all in violation of articles 20, 21 and 22 of the Italian consumer code.

The AGCM investigation dates to April 2017, when Swiss-based Viagogo and three other resale sites were fined a collective €700,000 for similarly failing to provide complete ticket information to consumers. At the time, the company was given sixty days to comply with consumer law – and claimed it would do so, according to AGCM – but a year later, many consumers and associations are still complaining of opaque ticket pricing and unclear information on seating location, leading to the €1m fine.

Although a blow for Viagogo, it should be noted that CTS Eventim’s TicketOne recently successfully appealed a €1m fine of its own, for allegedly passing tickets directly to secondary sites, and will be reimbursed by AGCM.

Viagogo is accused of violating the Italian consumer code

Almost concurrently with the AGCM action, Viagogo has also come under fire in Spain, with the Valencian public prosecutor’s office announcing it has opened an investigation into whether price gouging on Viagogo.es for U2’s two shows in Madrid in September constitutes “abusive conduct” under Spanish law.

According to 20 Minutos, the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalía) of Valencia has received several complaints from consumers after U2 tickets sold out “in a few minutes” and were listed on Viagogo for up to €1,500 shortly after.

Concerns over ticket prices for U2’s 2018 Experience + Innocence European tour have similarly spurred authorities in the Netherlands into action, with Dutch culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven announcing last month she is to consult the local live music business on potential regulation of the secondary ticket market.

 


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Italian watchdog ordered to repay €1m to TicketOne

The Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) has been ordered to return €1 million to TicketOne, as well as refund all legal expenses, after an Italian court rejected earlier claims by AGCM the company had not done enough to prevent the resale of its tickets on the secondary market.

TicketOne, owned by Germany’s CTS Eventim, was fined €1m last April for allegedly failing to take adequate measures to prevent tickets getting into the hands of touts. The competition watchdog found that while that while TicketOne is “contractually bound to adopt anti-touting measures, [it] did not take appropriate steps to prevent bulk buying through specialist software, nor has it tried to limit multiple purchases or set up a system of ex-post controls to cancel them”.

Four secondary ticketing sites – Viagogo, MyWayTicket, Live Nation’s Seatwave and eBay/StubHub’s Ticketbis – were additionally hit with a collective €700,000 fine for their failure to provide complete ticket information to customers.

However, in a ruling on Friday (2 March), the regional administrative court of Lazio, sided with TicketOne’s argument that it has “always operated with utmost care and diligence, and that its business conduct did not favour the secondary market”, and ordered AGCM to refund the the €1m, along with its legal costs.

“The ruling underlines that our company has always operated with transparency and professionalism”

“We have always distanced ourselves from unlawful and speculative business practices that occur within the secondary ticketing market,” says Stefano Lionetti, CEO of TicketOne. “Therefore, we are very satisfied that the court confirmed that the allegations made against us were wrongful.

“Over and above, the ruling underlines that our company has always operated with transparency and professionalism.”

While TicketOne says it already has “high security standards in place” to prevent automated software, or bots, from bulk-buying its tickets, it has announce plans to “expand on its efforts” against speculative ticket resale. The company “asks fans and concertgoers not to purchase tickets from secondary market sites and to only make use of licensed ticket sellers and official dealers.”

TicketOne parent company CTS Eventim has been investing heavily in Italy recently, last month making its third acquisition – of promoter Di and Gi – in five months.

 


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Italian ticketers hit with €1.7m in fines

The Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) has levied fines totalling €1.7 million on five ticket agencies.

AGCM’s investigation dates back to October, when consumer group Altroconsumo asked the quango to look into allegations primary seller TicketOne was passing tickets directly to the secondary market.

It found that while TicketOne, owned by Germany’s CTS Eventim, is “contractually bound to adopt anti-touting measures, [it] did not take appropriate steps to prevent bulk buying through specialist software, nor has it tried to limit multiple purchases or set up a system of ex-post controls to cancel them”.

“Traders did not provide adequate information concerning the tickets, including their face value, the row and the seat”

For violating article 20(2) of the Italian Consumer Code, TicketOne has been fined €1m.

Additionally, four secondary ticketing sites – Viagogo, MyWayTicket, Live Nation’s Seatwave and eBay/StubHub’s Ticketbis – have been hit with a collective €700,000 fine for their failure to provide complete ticket information to customers “concerning several essential elements which potential buyers need to make their transactional decisions”.

“In particular, the traders would not provide adequate information concerning the ticket features, including their face value, the row and the seat, as well as consumer rights in case of the event’s cancellation,” reads a statement from AGCM. “Moreover, the websites failed to clarify that these traders were mere intermediaries on the secondary market.”

 


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