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FEAT enlists first venue members

The Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) has inducted its first venue members, Spain’s Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys and Palau Sant Jordi.

The non-profit organisation, formed in 2019 to promote better ticket resale practices across Europe, has worked on several EU-wide campaigns to develop better laws to protect fans and promoters against predatory ticket resellers.

Today, Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys and Palau Sant Jordi – both based in Barcelona and owned by Barcelona de Serveis Municipals (BSM) – become the first major venues in Europe to join FEAT.

The 55,000-capacity Estadi Olímpic is one of the biggest stadiums in Spain and regularly hosts concerts, with Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay, Rammstein, Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles, Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers gracing its stage in the past few years. The stadium has also been used by FC Barcelona for training and fixtures in the 2023/24 season whilst their home ground undergoes renovation.

“Estadi Olímpic and Palau Sant Jordi are of huge cultural significance in the city”

The 18,500-capacity Palau Sant Jordi is the largest indoor arena in Spain. It also has a 4,500-capacity club at the back of the building. Between the two venues, Palau Sant Jordi provides a space for medium and large-scale concerts for a wide range of genres and artists. In 2023/2024 alone, the venue will have hosted both national and international artists.

In 2023, the venues closed a record year with 2.1 million spectators and more than 160 programmed events.

“Ticket resale directly affects venues such as the Palau Sant Jordi and the Olympic Stadium,” says Anella Olímpica director Carmen Lanuza. “Joining this initiative is part of our commitment to generate unique and safe experiences for all those who visit us. It is essential to join efforts to make it possible to end this practice.”

Neo Sala, CEO of Doctor Music and Founding Director of FEAT, said “I am extremely excited to welcome BSM, and the venues that they represent, to FEAT. Estadi Olímpic and Palau Sant Jordi are of huge cultural significance in the city bringing the world’s greatest artists to Barcelona. It is great news that they believe in FEAT’s mission of face-value ticket resale and we look forward to working with them to protect fans from predatory resellers.”

FEAT recently celebrated the implementation of the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which brings with it major implications for the online secondary ticketing market.

The organisation’s members include Ben Mitha (Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion, DE), Christof Huber (Gadget, CH), Ewald Tartar (Barracuda, AT), Kim Worsøe (All Things Live, DK) and Peter Aiken (Aiken Promotions, IE) among others.

 


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Viagogo settles with Swiss watchdog

Secondary ticketing platform Viagogo has reached a settlement with Switzerland’s largest consumer protection organisation following a six-year legal battle.

The resale firm, whose European headquarters are in Geneva, has allocated 100,000 Swiss francs (€105,000) as compensation for the 807 individuals who lodged complaints against it with the Fédération Romande des Consommateurs (FRC) prior to 5 February 2024.

Viagogo has also agreed to make changes to its Swiss website, indicating its status as a resale marketplace in Switzerland’s three national languages and English, so that consumers are not led to believe they are buying from an official seller.

It must also provide greater transparency over ticket prices and seating information, feature a reduced number of “pop-up” windows to limit pressure on prospective buyers, and clearly identify professional resellers or traders.

In return for these changes, the FRC has withdrawn its lawsuit. However, should Viagogo fail to meet any of the above commitments, the FRC will be free to make another legal complaint.

“In our view, this agreement was the best option faced to a procedure that was getting bogged down and would certainly have taken many more years before a final decision was reached,” says Jean Tschopp, head of the FRC’s legal department. “Our association preferred concrete improvements for internet users in the form of changes brought to Viagogo’s Swiss website instead of waiting several more years for a final decision.

“What’s more, pursuing the legal route wouldn’t have guaranteed a favourable outcome for aggrieved consumers. Even if the courts had found against Viagogo, the victims wouldn’t necessarily have received compensation. In this case, the 807 people concerned will be.”

“We hope and expect the new Digital Services Act, which requires online marketplaces to improve transparency and desist from pressure buying tactics, will be robustly enforced”

The FRC first lodged a criminal complaint against Viagogo with the Geneva public prosecutor’s office in 2017 after receiving more than 100 complaints against the site, relating to lack of transparency over pricing, pressure-selling tactics, and leading consumers to believe they were buying from an official ticket seller.

“While great news, the settlement – made after six years of legal work – highlights the difficulty of hauling uncapped ticket resale sites through the courts,” says Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) director Sam Shemtob. “For consumers in the EU, we hope and expect the new Digital Services Act, which requires online marketplaces to improve transparency and desist from pressure buying tactics, will be robustly enforced.”

A Viagogo spokesperson says: “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Fédération Romande des Consommateurs. As part of this, we have made changes to our Swiss platform to enhance the fan experience for our Swiss customers. Viagogo is a safe, secure and regulated marketplace that is fully compliant in the markets in which we operate.”

The European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which was implemented on Saturday (17 February), brought major implications for the online secondary ticketing market, requiring platforms to identify and verify professional sellers, and prohibiting them from using manipulative sales tactics.

The legislation has also introduced annual reports on content take-downs that should help reveal the scale of illegal activity – data on which enforcement agencies and search engines will be compelled to take action.

There have been over 40 legal cases against ticket traders and resale platforms in the EU since 2016.

 


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Transformative ticketing resale act makes its bow

Campaigners are celebrating tomorrow’s implementation of the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which brings with it major implications for the online secondary ticketing market.

From 17 February, the DSA will apply to all platforms, including Viagogo and Stubhub, which will be required to identify and verify professional sellers, and will be prohibited from using manipulative sales tactics.

The legislation will also introduce annual reports on content take-downs that should help reveal the scale of illegal activity – data on which enforcement agencies and search engines will be compelled to take action.

The new regulations, designed to create a safer digital environment, include key provisions lobbied for over two years by the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) on behalf of Europe’s live entertainment sector. As a result of FEAT’s efforts, online resale marketplaces will now be subject to stricter due diligence and reporting requirements, improving transparency for buyers.

Ticket resale sites will be banned from using design tricks that manipulate consumers into decisions

Measures affecting ticket resale marketplaces include:

Identifying and verifying professional sellers: online marketplaces will be required to obtain essential information about third party professional sellers, such as name, contact details and ID, before traders can list tickets on the platform. They will also be required to ensure that the seller’s name, contact and trading details appear on the listing.

Prohibition of dark patterns: ticket resale sites will be banned from using design tricks that manipulate consumers into decisions, such as “pop-ups” or giving prominence to specific choices.

Annual reporting: ticket resale sites will be required to produce easily comprehensible and publicly-available annual reports on takedowns of ticket listings.This will give an indication of the scale of harmful activity taking place.

Increased accountability for marketplaces: Resale platforms will be required to make it clear throughout the buying process that the tickets listed are provided by a third party. If a platform fails to do this and fans are led to believe that the tickets are provided by the platform itself, the platform can be held responsible for any tickets listed in contravention of national laws.

Increased oversight: Every Member State is in the process of appointing a Digital Services Coordinator (DSC) to enforce the rules laid out in the DSA, with far-reaching powers of investigation. DSCs will have the ability to sanction platforms that do not comply with these new regulations, and consumers will be able to notify DSCs of any illegal listings through a simple flagging procedure.

“Our priority now is to ensure that the new rules are enforced, with a clear process for removing illegal ticket listings”

FEAT is now engaged in working with European member states’ newly-appointed Digital Services Coordinators (DSCs) to ensure effective enforcement of the new legislation. This includes establishing a clear process for reporting and taking down ticket listings that contradict member state or EU law.

FEAT Director Sam Shemtob says, “This is a landmark moment for Europe’s live events sector. Our priority now is to ensure that the new rules are enforced, with a clear process for removing illegal ticket listings as and when they appear. FEAT is looking forward to working with DSCs across the Member States to make this happen and lay the groundwork for a fairer, more transparent ticket-buying experience for consumers on the secondary market.”

 


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FC Barcelona join FEAT European ticketing alliance

FC Barcelona have become the first sports club to join the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) in its mission for a Europe-wide ban on event ticket resale above face value.

The agreement was signed at the office of the La Liga giants’ president Joan Laporta, who was joined by VP of marketing area Juli Guiu and FEAT founding director Neo Sala, founder and CEO of Barcelona-based concert promoter Doctor Music.

The club have already started implementing a series of measures to combat unauthorised ticket resale – including personalised tickets and a tracking system to prevent misuse – as part of their ‘Visiting Supporter Security and Control Protocol’ for high-risk fixtures.

“We’re delighted to bring FC Barcelona, our first non-music member, on board to continue our fight against unethical ticket resale,” says Sala. “This strengthens our voice, building a united front on the issue across entertainment and live events. In this way, FC Barcelona becoming FEAT’s first sports member, Barcelona will now become FEAT’s official home city, and will host its Annual General Meeting there every year.”

“Tackling unauthorised ticket resale has been a priority of the club’s for some time so this partnership makes perfect sense”

In becoming FEAT’s latest member, FC Barcelona have joined with live events professionals across Europe to make three key promises as part of their pledge: to fight for face-value ticket resale, to only support resale marketplaces that are legally compliant and embrace transparency, and to stand up to search engines and social media platforms accepting advertising from irregular resale platforms.

“Tackling unauthorised ticket resale has been a priority of the club’s for some time so this partnership makes perfect sense,” adds Guiu. “This alliance is also aligned with the different actions that FC Barcelona has been undertaking to protect its members and season ticket holders against any situation and for purchasers of tickets for all sectors to feel safe in the knowledge that the tickets they buy are legitimate and fairly priced.”

Since its 2019 launch, FEAT boasts achievements including helping to secure key provisions in EU law to regulate resale platforms such in as the Digital Services Act and its publication of two guides on best practice to avoid unauthorised ticket resale.

It also unveiled its Make Tickets Fair! campaign in 2023 to help music fans avoid being ripped off on the secondary ticketing market.

 


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FEAT hopes DSA will clamp down on ticket touts

The Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) is looking to the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) to clamp down on illegal ticket resale after once again taking aim at Google’s influence on the secondary ticketing market.

The DSA introduced new measures from August requiring large search engines to clamp down on illegal product listing, including working with risk-affected parties to carry out assessments of ‘systemic risks’ relating to illegal content.

FEAT, which is dedicated to the promotion of face-value ticket resale across the continent, says it is estimated that Google is responsible for driving two-thirds of traffic to Viagogo. Viagogo was banned from advertising on Google globally in July 2019 after the latter came under fire from lawmakers for allegedly accepting advertising money from sites listing tickets fraudulently. The ban was quietly lifted four months later.

At FEAT’s AGM in Barcelona last week, members agreed that by failing to properly consider the continued prevalence of illegal ticket resale advertising, large search engines may already be in breach of their new responsibilities. FEAT is also looking to adjust ticket T&Cs to enable event organisers to de-list resale ticket listings more aggressively via the DSA’s notice and action mechanisms once the regulation comes into force more widely.

“With new Europe-wide regulations coming into effect for predatory resale platforms in the New Year, we united at a critical moment”

“With new Europe-wide regulations coming into effect for predatory resale platforms in the New Year, we united at a critical moment,” says FEAT founding director and Doctor Music founder and CEO Neo Sala.

The organisation is also planning the next phase of its Make Tickets Fair! campaign,which  was launched earlier this year by a coalition of live industry organisations and professionals from across Europe launched with the intention of helping music fans avoid being ripped off on the secondary ticketing market.

“During the meeting we agreed exciting plans to use the DSA to get illegal ticket resale listings taken down, as well as ramp up the ‘Make Tickets Fair!’ campaign to help educate music fans on safe ticketing,” adds Sala.

Launched in 2019, FEAT has welcomed new member Kiki Ressler, MD of German booking and touring company KKT, which represents 64 artists including Die Toten Hosen and Die Ärzte.

 


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Execs point finger at Google over ticket resale

Live music professionals have raised further questions about Google’s influence on the secondary ticketing market.

In a session at Primavera Pro in Barcelona yesterday (1 June), Neo Sala (Doctor Music), ticket resale specialist Nicole Jacobsen (previously tickets.de), Sam Shemtob (FEAT) and Scumeck Sabottka (MCT-Agentur) discussed how search engines host advertisements from unauthorised ticket resale platforms such as Viagogo, which appear at the top of the search page, above organic listings for official ticket sellers.

The panel noted how the advertising policies of search engines do not permit advertising that deceives users – either by excluding relevant information or providing misleading information – but suggested Google did not appear to be adequately enforcing this policy.

“We see a close parallel between the situation now with the live events industry, to that in the noughties with the record business,” said FEAT director Neo Sala, founder & CEO of Spain’s Doctor Music. “I think we all remember when you’d Google a song name and ‘mp3’ and you’d be met with piracy links as the first, second, third results. Today, try Googling ‘Harry Styles tickets’ and you’ll see a link to unauthorised, overpriced tickets right at the top. The live industry needs to ask Google to take the same sensible steps as they did with the record industry and start guiding fans to trusted, official sources.”

Viagogo was banned from advertising on Google globally in July 2019 after the latter came under fire from lawmakers for allegedly accepting advertising money from sites listing tickets fraudulently. The ban was quietly lifted four months later.

“In this environment of strengthening legislation, search engines ought to start asking what kind of companies they are”

The panel said that, during Google’s brief ban on advertising from Viagogo in 2019, global traffic to the site fell by two thirds, which it claimed highlighted the extent of its influence.

A coalition of live industry organisations and professionals from across Europe launched the Make Tickets Fair! campaign earlier this year with the intention of helping music fans avoid being ripped off on the secondary ticketing market. The panel also touched on the development of the initiative.

“Across Europe, countries including Belgium, France, Ireland and others have outlawed unauthorised ticket resale,” added FEAT (Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing) director Sam Shemtob. “The European Court of Justice meanwhile has ruled that event tickets are a contract for services, subject to terms and conditions of the event promoter; and the incoming Digital Services Act promises to tighten consumer protections in e-commerce further.

“In this environment of strengthening legislation, search engines ought to start asking what kind of companies they are. Do they want to enable the activities of ticket scalpers, and support the anti-consumer and anti-artist practices of unauthorised resale platforms? Or, do they want to stand up for their users and guide them toward legitimate tickets for the events they want to attend? We hope companies like Google will choose the latter option.”

 


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Live orgs unite for Make Tickets Fair! campaign

A coalition of live industry organisations and professionals from across Europe is launching the Make Tickets Fair! campaign to help music fans avoid being ripped off on the secondary ticketing market.

The group comprises agents including UTA’s Jules de Lattre and One Fiinix Live’s Jon Ollier, as well as organisations including German live entertainment association BDKV, the European Music Managers Alliance, European Arenas Association, FanFair Alliance, Swiss consumer association FRC, Pearle – Live Performance Europe, PRODISS, the Sports Rights Owners Coalition and Victim of Viagogo.

Further details of the initiative will be revealed tomorrow at Eurosonic, at a panel hosted by pressure group FEAT and Dutch venues association VNPF. Speakers include De Lattre, Henk Schuit (Eventim Nederland), Sam Shemtob (FEAT) and Silke Lalvani (Pearle – Live Performance Europe).

“It’s vital that this campaign is successful, and that means becoming front-of-mind with agents, managers and promoters when they are planning shows – so safe resale information goes out with all communications, including on ticket pages,” says De Lattre.

“The current ticket resale market is, frankly, broken and the time for the industry to come together and act is long overdue”

“We are delighted to be part of the campaign Make Tickets Fair! to bring awareness to all audiences about how and where to safely buy their event tickets,” says Silke Lalvani, head of public affairs at Pearle. “It is crucial that the live performance sector as a whole collaborates on stopping illegal ticket resale to make sure that fans have a great experience at live shows and other events.”

A new industry-facing website has launched, providing free resources and advice for event organisers, with the goal of getting more agents, promoters, venues and indeed artists, involved ahead of consumer launch. It also offers a clear overview of ticket resale laws country by country.

“The current ticket resale market is, frankly, broken and the time for the industry to come together and act is long overdue,” adds Neo Sala, FEAT director and founder & CEO of Spain’s Doctor Music. “As the first Europe-wide campaign of its kind, Make Tickets Fair! has huge potential to help fans and rebuild trust in live music. To achieve this, cross-industry collaboration is essential, and we look forward to getting as many members of the live business on board as possible.”

 


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FEAT sets out objectives and welcomes new members

The Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) has pledged to continue campaigning for a Europe-wide ban on ticket resale above face-value.

At its first in-person general meeting since the pandemic, FEAT also unveiled plans for an international consumer awareness initiative geared at educating fans on the risks of buying tickets from uncapped secondary ticketing sites. The messaging and strategy is currently in development, with FEAT facilitating a working group made up of organisations across Europe, including BDKV, the European Music Managers Alliance, the European Arenas Association, FanFair Alliance, FRC, Pearle – Live Performance Europe.

In addition, the organisation welcomed new members Chris Ortiz, director of Cordova-based Riff Producciones, and Iñigo Argomaniz, CEO of Get In, based in San Sebastián.

“There’s a renewed energy to tackle touting, and we have been invigorated by positive changes in national and EU legislation over the last year”

“It’s great to finally meet again in person and welcome more new faces among us,” says FEAT director Neo Sala, founder and CEO of Doctor Music, who hosted the meeting. “There’s a renewed energy to tackle touting, and we have been invigorated by positive changes in national and EU legislation over the last year – demonstrated not least in MCT-Agentur and Rammstein’s recent injunction against Viagogo in Germany.”

Held in Barcelona, the meeting saw the board refocus its priorities after the past year’s successful campaign for tougher regulation of online marketplaces in the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA). The landmark DSA includes measures to ensure professional sellers are identifiable, prevent certain manipulative sales tactics, and require regular reporting to improve transparency for consumers.

 


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Campaigners back landmark ticket resale ruling

Campaigners against ticket touting have backed the European Parliament’s decision to approve new laws strengthening regulation around online marketplaces, including ticket resale sites.

The landmark Digital Services Act (DSA), which was passed by 539 votes to 54, includes measures to ensure professional sellers are identifiable, prevent certain manipulative sales tactics, and require regular reporting to improve transparency for consumers.

Crucially, online marketplaces will now be required to obtain essential information about third party professional sellers before traders are allowed to list tickets on the platform.

Resale platforms must also make it clear throughout the buying process that the tickets listed are provided by a third party, while dark patterns – user interfaces designed in such a way as to trick users into making certain decisions, such as “pop-ups” or giving prominence to specific choices – will be banned.

“The introduction of the Digital Services Act is a key moment for the live events sector in the UK, as well as across Europe”

The development follows two years of lobbying by the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT), which culminated in arranging an open letter signed by more than 130 representatives from across Europe’s live sector, calling for the EU to introduce tougher laws to combat online ticket touting. However, FEAT argues the text could have gone further and will continue to campaign for tougher rules.

“The introduction of the Digital Services Act is a key moment for the live events sector in the UK, as well as across Europe,” says FEAT director Sam Shemtob. “The new legislation regulating online marketplaces will see EU countries catch up with the UK in terms of stricter rules for verifying professional sellers and making sure fans know who they’re buying from. This will directly impact all UK artists who tour Europe, as well as make it harder for UK touts to operate under the guise of anonymity on European ticket resale sites.”

“This is an important step towards increasing accountability and to prevent scams, which will contribute towards a healthier European touring industry”

The DSA will now go through the formal adoption procedures by the European Council before it is published in the EU Official Journal. It will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union, and its provisions will mainly apply 15 months after entry into force or from 1 January 2024, whichever comes later.

Per Kviman, CEO of Versity Music and chair of the European Music Managers Alliance (EMMA), which represents 1,800 music managers in 10 European countries, adds: “EMMA is very pleased to see new rules which protect both artists and the ticket-buying public have been approved by the European Parliament. This is an important step towards increasing accountability and to prevent scams, which will contribute towards a healthier European touring industry.”

 


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Viagogo fined €23.5m in Italy for resale breach

Italy’s Communications Regulatory Authority AGCOM has fined Viagogo €23.5 million for breaking the country’s rules on secondary ticketing.

The decision, taken at an AGCOM Council meeting last week, followed an investigation by Italy’s financial crime enforcement agency the Guardia di Finanza, which found the secondary ticketing platform had listed tickets for 131 events at prices up to six or seven times above their face-value.

Events included concerts for artists such as Maneskin, Vasco Rossi, Sting, Green Day, Dua Lipa, Pearl Jam, Placebo, Cesare Cremonini, Paolo Conte and Andrea Bocelli.

An amendment to Italian legislation, introduced to Italy’s 2017 budget law to criminalise ticket touting, prevents tickets being sold for commercial purposes or for above face value.

“The authority highlights that the practice of secondary ticketing has the effect of inflating the prices of tickets, increasing the barriers for the access of consumers and Italian citizens to cultural events, also to the detriment of the community of artists, event organisers and primary retailers,” concludes AGCOM. “This is of particular relevance at an important time for the events sector to recover live, after the forced interruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Legislation across Europe – at both a national and EU basis – is catching up with ticket scalping”

AGCOM has given Viagogo seven days to remove the illegal listings from its site, and the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) has spoken out in support of the authority’s ruling.

“This is a substantial fine for Viagogo, and a clear requirement to remove illegal listings within seven days,” says FEAT director Sam Shemtob.

“What is especially encouraging is the extensive investigation carried out by Italy’s financial crime enforcement agency working closely with the Italian regulator AGCOM. Legislation across Europe – at both a national and EU basis – is catching up with ticket scalping. If other enforcement authorities follow Italy’s example, the hope of a functional ticket resale market, with scalping largely relegated to the history books, could become a reality.”

A spokesperson for Viagogo responds: “We respect the decision of the AGCOM, however we are surprised by this fine because the Council of State has already raised ‘serious doubts’ that the law in question on secondary ticketing – and the related fines of AGCOM, including to Viagogo – are compatible with fundamental principles of EU Law on competition, free circulation of services and limitation of liability of pure intermediary platforms for illegal activity of its users.

“Indeed, Viagogo has already been held a ‘passive’ intermediary platform by the same Council of State in a previous final judgment, confirming that it does not sell the tickets and is not liable for the illegal sales of tickets carried out by the platform’s users. As a result, the Council of State has referred the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union to decide whether the law at issue and the AGCOM fines are valid and enforceable according to such EU principles.

“Viagogo trusts that these pending proceedings will confirm it is not responsible for the allegations raised by the AGCOM and all fines will be annulled.”

The course of action comes just over a month after Australia’s full federal court dismissed an appeal by Viagogo against a ruling that the platform had made misleading claims on its website relating to the reselling of concert and sports tickets.

 


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