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Australian court dismisses Viagogo appeal

Australia’s full federal court has dismissed an appeal by Viagogo against a ruling that the secondary ticketing platform had made misleading claims on its website relating to the reselling of concert and sports tickets.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) instigated legal proceedings against the company in 2017, alleging it had “made false or misleading representations, and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, regarding the price of tickets on its online platform by failing to disclose substantial fees”.

The federal court ruled in favour of the watchdog’s allegations in 2019, finding Viagogo in breach of consumer law, with Justice Stephen Burley noting its conduct was deliberate and that some of its misleading claims were made “on an industrial scale”.

The full court has now upheld the findings along with the AUS$7 million penalty imposed for the breaches of the Australian Consumer Law.

“This case was about bad behaviour by an international ticket reseller”

“This case was about bad behaviour by an international ticket reseller that deliberately misled thousands of Australian consumers about the price they would have to pay for tickets and falsely represented that those consumers were purchasing tickets from an official site,” says ACCC commissioner Liza Carver.

The full court upheld the finding made in 2019 that Viagogo had falsely represented that it was the ‘official’ seller of tickets to particular events. It also upheld the finding made by the primary judge that from 1 May 2017 to 26 June 2017, Viagogo’s website drew consumers in with a headline price but failed to sufficiently disclose additional fees or specify a single price for tickets, including a 27.6% booking fee which applied to most tickets.

“Businesses must clearly disclose if they charge additional, unavoidable fees on top of the advertised price”

“Viagogo misled music lovers, sporting fans and other consumers who were hoping to get tickets to a special event. Consumers were drawn in by a headline price and were often unaware of the significant fees charged by Viagogo until very late in the booking process when they were already invested in attending the event,” says Carver.

The full federal court stated that “had Viagogo made it clear that it was operating a ticket resale site, then there would have been no misapprehension by consumers”.

“Businesses must clearly disclose if they charge additional, unavoidable fees on top of the advertised price,” adds Carver.

The court also upheld previous orders made against Viagogo in relation to a compliance programme, publication orders and an injunction.

A spokesperson for Viagogo says: “Viagogo is disappointed with the federal court’s ruling, but we remain committed to continuing to provide choice for consumers to access tickets and attend events.

“The ruling concerns language used in some advertisements and the form of the Viagogo website around five years ago. It does not reflect our current ticketing platform and the many changes we have made to provide greater transparency for our customers.”

 


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FEAT welcomes tougher resale legislation

The Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) has given a cautious welcome to the news that the EU has reached a provisional political agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA), designed to ensure secondary ticketing marketplaces act responsibly.

The text was agreed on Saturday (23 April) in Brussels, after a marathon 16 hours of discussions between policy-makers.

The DSA contains is expected to include regulation meaning that ticket touts will only be able to list tickets after providing essential information, which marketplaces must make efforts to verify. Secondary marketplaces will also be obliged to conduct random checks for tickets sold illegally, while measures designed to panic buyers, such as pop-ups claiming several people are viewing the same ticket, will be banned.

Additionally, search engines such as Google are understood to face new responsibilities.

“We hope the new requirements for vetting traders and publishing basic information about the seller will enable fans and event organisers to make informed decisions”

“We cautiously welcome news of measures to be placed on secondary ticketing marketplaces to clean up the Wild West in which they have operated so far,” says FEAT director Sam Shemtob. “The devil will be in the detail, but we hope the new requirements for vetting traders and publishing basic information about the seller will enable fans and event organisers to make informed decisions.”

FEAT has spent two years engaging with the EU over the DSA, culminating 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.

The text of the DSA will need to be finalised at technical level, before both Parliament and Council give their formal approval. It will come into force 20 days after its publication in the EU Official Journal. Big Tech firms will then have four months to prepare for the rules, while companies with fewer than 45 million users will have 15 months or until 1 January 2024.

 


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Music Venue Trust confirms Twickets partnership

The UK’s Music Venue Trust (MVT) has confirmed a partnership with capped ticket resale marketplace Twickets.

Established in 2011, Twickets works with more than 300 live entertainment partners in the UK including venues, artists, promoters, festivals and ticketing companies.

“We are delighted to become a partner of MVT,” says Twickets founder Richard Davies. “This is a key development for us as it further embeds the business as the legitimate face of resale, working to bring fairness and transparency to event-goers everywhere.

“Our goal is always to improve the ticket buying experience”

“Our goal is always to improve the ticket buying experience, and we look forward to collaborating with all members of MVT to prevent blatant profiteering in the secondary ticket market, which not only harms fans but damages the industry as a whole.”

A charitable organisation, the MVT was founded in January 2014 to help protect, secure and improve music venues in the UK.

Mark Davyd, MVT founder and CEO, adds: “We are really pleased to welcome Twickets as one of MVT’s partners. Their mission to enable fans to resell tickets they can no longer use for the price they paid or less aligns well with MVT’s goals to keep tickets out of the hands of touts and in the hands of genuine grassroots gig going fans. Customers can buy from Twickets with the reassurance that they are supporting grassroots music venues across the UK.”

 


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European live sector demands tougher touting laws

More than 130 representatives from across Europe’s live sector have signed an open letter calling for the EU to introduce tougher laws to combat online ticket touting.

Signatories include Ed Sheeran’s agent Jon Ollier of One Fiinix Live and manager Stuart Camp of Grumpy Old Management, Ian McAndrew of Wildlife Entertainment, Alec McKinlay of Ignition, CAA’s Emma Banks, Andy Cook and Jamie Shaughnessy, UTA’s Jules de Lattre, Beth Morton and Jamie Waldman, Pure’s Angus Baskerville and Jodie Harkins, and representatives from Paradigm, Primary Talent International, All Artists Agency and Progressive Artists.

Dozens of trade organisations have signed up alongside promoters such as DEAG, Doctor Music, DreamHaus, FKP Scorpio, Goodlive Artists, Greenhouse Talent, Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion and MCT Agentur, and festivals including Rock en Seine (France), Cruilla (Spain) and Paleo (Switzerland). Venues such as The O2 in London and Brighton Centre have also lent their support.

“We need tougher rules to help us fight back”

The letter, which comes as the EU reaches the final stages in negotiating rules for a Digital Services Act and has been circulated among policy-makers, was penned by the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT), in association with FanFair Alliance, International Federation of Musicians, Pearle – Live Performance Europe and promoters’ associations BDKV and Association of Musical Promoters (APM).

It asks that marketplaces of all sizes be required to collect and maintain up-to-date information on sellers, as well as for marketplaces to verify the seller information obtained, and be required to carry out periodic spot-checks on products, to help detect fraudulent tickets.

“I, like others who have signed this letter, am sick and tired of parasitic secondary ticketing sites ripping off fans and live events businesses,” says Scumeck Sabottka, founding partner of FEAT and CEO of MCT Agentur. “We need tougher rules to help us fight back and I hope that a stronger framework can be established to achieve this.”

Live performance professionals can sign the letter here.

 


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StubHub may go public with $13bn valuation

StubHub Holdings, which operates ticket resale platforms StubHub and Viagogo, is considering going public via a direct listing.

The company has reportedly filed paperwork with the US Securities and Exchanges Commission and could pursue a direct listing as soon as this year, according to Bloomberg.

A transaction may value StubHub at more than US$13 billion, and the firm is said to be working with advisers including JPMorgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc on the potential listing.

The firm is said to be working with advisers including JPMorgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc

In a direct listing, companies don’t issue new shares as in a traditional IPO, and its investors don’t have to wait for a lockup period to sell stock.

In September last year, Switzerland-headquartered Viagogo got the green light from the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to complete its takeover of StubHub.

The deal was approved after it was agreed that StubHub would sell its business outside of North America – including the UK – to investment firm Digital Fuel Capital LLC for an undisclosed sum.

Viagogo originally agreed the purchase of eBay’s ticketing division StubHub for $4.05bn in cash in February 2020.

 


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International Ticketing Report 2021: Secondary ticketing

The International Ticketing Report is a one-off annual health check on the global ticketing business, with emphasis on the sector’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The past two years have been turbulent for the business, but with consumer demand for live events now at an all-time peak, the challenges of fulfilling the most packed event schedule in history will test ticketers to the hilt.

Staffing, vouchers schemes and refunds, demand, consumer behaviour, communication, new products & services, secondary ticketing, pandemic lessons and recovery are among the challengers addressed by industry-leading experts in this extended report.

The report, originally published in IQ105, is in lieu of the International Ticketing Yearbook – a standalone global guide to the live entertainment market that will return in 2022.

IQ will publish sections of the International Ticketing Report over the coming weeks but subscribers can read the entire feature in issue 105 of IQ Magazine now.

To read the previous instalment of the report on new products and services, click here.


The controversial business of secondary ticketing was never far from the headlines, pre-Covid, and indeed on the eve of the pandemic being declared, leading European operation Viagogo acquired eBay’s ticketing division, StubHub, for an eye-watering $4.05billion (€3.5bn) in cash.

The timing of that transaction, in February 2020, led to financial publication Forbes branding it the “worst deal ever” as sports and live entertainment were among the first sectors to close down, effectively shutting down the secondary market, too.

Since then, Viagogo sold its StubHub assets outside of North America, primarily to meet anti-competition regulations, but with little to no revenues over the past 18 months, the company will be determined to make the most of 2022’s packed events schedule to start clawing back some of that substantial investment.

According to Adam Webb, campaign manager at FanFair Alliance, an anti-touting campaign group, “The fear now is that the secondary players will be as desperate to get as much inventory as they can, and the other side of that is that some promoters will be desperate to sell tickets any which way, as well.”

“There’s still a lot of work to do on the industry’s behalf educating their consumers about capped resale services”

With thousands of tours, festivals, and other events going on sale in the weeks and months ahead, Webb is all too aware that many people may need to use secondary services to divest of tickets for rescheduled shows they can no longer attend for any number of reasons.

Webb contends that while those ticket exchange platforms with capped resale rules also suffered during the pandemic, they also seem to have weathered the storm.

“Just before the likes of Reading and Wireless festivals, there were loads of tickets available on places like Twickets, so there was real need – possibly driven by Covid – for a lot of people to genuinely resell their tickets,” says Webb.

“Because of dates being rescheduled or people who have health concerns, I think having that option through is probably more vital than ever, and there will be a need for primary agents to up their game a little bit to make sure fans are aware of those ticket exchange services, what they are and how to use them.”

He adds, “Going into 2022, with the calendar busier than probably ever before, lots of consumers are still unaware of the difference between an uncapped seller like StubHub or Viagogo and the primary ticket services.

“So I think there’s still a lot of work to do on the industry’s behalf educating their consumers about capped resale services and how to use them. All of the primary ticket companies have a resale service or are affiliated with one but those services need to be marketed a bit better.”

 


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SJM Concerts partners with Twickets

Twickets has been appointed the official resale partner of SJM Concerts’ Gigs and Tours.

The partnership with SJM, one of the UK’s leading concert promoters, will provide a fan-friendly resale option for all tickets purchased through Gigsandtours.com, allowing users to list tickets for sale via Twickets’ website or mobile app at no more than the price originally paid.

Launched in 2016, Twickets has since served as the official resale platform for leading artists including Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys, Mumford & Sons and Elton John. It now attracts more than three million users to its ticket marketplace every year.

“Providing a safe, secure and easy way to resell tickets is best practice”

“We continue to strive to not only offer our customers an efficient and straightforward purchasing experience, but also help them when things don’t go to plan,” explains SJM Concerts’ Matt Woolliscroft. “Providing a safe, secure and easy way to resell tickets is best practice and yet another step Gigsandtours.com is taking to innovate and improve concertgoing.”

Twickets founder Richard Davies says: “The UK is in the midst of a market shift away from rip-off secondary ticketing platforms and towards consumer-friendly resale services. I am proud Twickets is at the forefront of this change, and delighted we can bring our expertise in resale to such an important player in the UK music scene. Our goal is always to improve the ticket buying experience, fill venues and keep customers happy.”

 


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Promoters buy into Oz ticket marketplace Tixel

Australian ticket marketplace Tixel has raised A$1.5m ($1.2m) in a funding round that includes a number of leading concert businesses and music investors.

Promoters Unified Music Group and I Oh You, labels Rose Avenue and Future Classic and investment firms Alberts and Galileo Ventures are among those who participated in the round, with Alberts CEO David Albert also set to join Tixel’s board of directors.

The funding will be put towards growing the Tixel platform and expand its product suite for event organisers, the Melbourne-based company says.

Launched in 2018, Tixel offers a ‘fair-price’ marketplace (capped at 10% above face value) for fans to buy and sell tickets to events. Most of the company’s inventory is currently in Australia and New Zealand, though it expects growth in the UK and US as in-person events return outside Australasia.

“The entire music and live entertainment industry has suffered beyond measure this last year, and our team is incredibly grateful to have been able to weather the storm,” says Zac Leigh, co-founder and CEO of Tixel. “We’re feeling optimistic about the steep uptick in demand we’re seeing on Tixel from fans wanting to see their favourite musicians, artists, comedians and sports stars.

“Our investment partners … know that a safe and honest place for fans to buy and to resell tickets is a critical need”

“Our investment partners share this optimism and know that a safe and honest place for fans to buy and to resell tickets is a critical need both today, as our plan-making remains fluid, and into the future.”

“At the heart of every investment we make is the goal to back pioneers who share our vision for a better tomorrow,” comments Albert. “A core pillar of our impact thesis is contributing to a vibrant culture. Tixel is a great example of this and sits within our arts, music and entertainment theme. It helps to bring fairness to a market that can attract exorbitant pricing, and safety to transactions that have the potential to be fraudulent.

“Having an independent ethical ticket resale marketplace in Australia can mean more fans at shows, more bar and merch sales for our venues and, importantly, an all-round better experience for everyone involved.”

Other capped-price ticket resale services active in Australia include UK-based Twickets, which launched there in 2017, and Ticketek Marketplace, which allows Ticketek customers to resell unwanted tickets.

 


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TicketSwap expands network with Portugal’s Boom

Amsterdam-based resale platform TicketSwap has announced a partnership with long-running festival, Boom.

The partnership includes integration with their ticketing company Weezevent, which allows TicketSwap to void a sold ticket and instead issue new tickets to buyers.

This Secure Swap integration ensures that fans can buy and sell quickly and easily, while providing visibility to the festival organiser.

The partnership with Boom marks TicketSwap’s first foray into Portugal and follows recent launches in Italy and Brazil.

“It’s great to have such a prominent partner for Portugal as we continue on our mission to be the experience platform that every fan loves”

“We are delighted to be working with Boom Festival,” says TicketSwap CEO Hans Ober. “The event is spectacular and people travel from all over the world to be there. We are very pleased to provide a safe and transparent way for fans to sell their tickets at a fair price.”

“TicketSwap have been expanding at a pace. We have set up an office in Brazil, launched in Italy, and we’re hiring our first local staff in the UK, Sweden, and Germany. It’s great to have such a prominent partner for Portugal as we continue on our mission to be the experience platform that every fan loves.”

The 25th edition of Boom festival will take place on 22–29th June 2022.

The event, which takes place every two years, has been ‘exceptionally popular’ on TicketSwap, with nearly 4,000 people registering for tickets and almost 500 tickets sold in the first three days.

 


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Viagogo fined for breaking Italian anti-touting law

An Italian court has rejected an appeal by Viagogo against a €3.7 million fine for hosting listings for tickets sold in contravention of Italian law.

The judgment, handed down by the regional administrative court (TAR) of Lazio (Latium) on 2 April, upholds a 2020 ruling in favour of the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM), which brought legal action against the secondary ticketing site for listing tickets to 37 events at above face value between March and July 2019.

Ticket touting is effectively illegal in Italy under the country’s 2017 budget law, which states that tickets to entertainment events may only be sold by authorised retailers. Consumers are permitted to sell unwanted tickets only for a price equal to, or less than, their original face value.

The judges rejected Viagogo’s argument that it was acting merely as a “passive hosting provider” connecting resellers with potential buyers, which would exempt the resale platform from liability under Italian law. Instead, Viagogo was found to provide a range of services and promote and advertise tickets in a way that could not be considered to be carried out without any awareness or control on its part.

“The service provided by Viagogo […] does not have the characteristics of passive hosting,” the court concluded, “given that it clearly does not consist merely of the ‘storage of information’ but rather optimisation, advertising and promotion of the tickets on sale.”

“Uncapped secondary marketplaces … have long been shielding under the liability exemption offered by EU law”

“Nor has the appellant in any way substantiated the claim that such complex activities would be carried out by the platform in a completely automatic manner and without any awareness and/or possibility of control on its part,” adds the ruling.

Additionally, even if Viagogo had qualified as a ‘passive hosting provider’, it would still not have benefited from the liability exemption afforded by the law as it did not act quickly to remove or disable access to the listings once notified by authorities, according to the court.

The ruling follows similar decisions in both Italy (Mediaset v. Yahoo) and the European Court (L’Oréal v. eBay, Google v. Louis Vuitton) which have held websites responsible for the content ‘passively’ hosted on their platforms.

“Uncapped secondary marketplaces such as Viagogo have long been shielding under the liability exemption offered by EU law by claiming to have little to no knowledge of the activity taking place on their sites,” comments Sam Shemtob, director of the Face-Value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT).

“It is time that they’re held responsible for the illegal activity they promote and profit from, both in Italy and across Europe.”

 


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