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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