Viagogo is risking fines, or even the imprisonment of its directors, after the competition watchdog revealed “serious concerns” over the ticket website’s compliance with a court order designed to protect consumers.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had given Viagogo until mid-January to overhaul the website’s much-criticised business practices.
While the website did make some changes, such as publishing information about touts who use it to sell tickets at vast mark-ups, the CMA said it was insufficient.
“Having conducted urgent checks, the CMA has serious concerns that Viagogo have not complied with important aspects of the court order we secured against them,” it said in a statement.
“We have told Viagogo we expect them to make the necessary changes without delay. If they do not, we will go back to court to force them to do so. Severe penalties are available if they are found to be in contempt of court.”
A court could impose fines, or even seek the imprisonment of directors, if Viagogo is found to be flouting the court order.
A statement issued by Viagogo simply said: “We are compliant,” indicating a fresh courtroom battle may be in the offing.
The CMA is understood to be concerned Viagogo is persisting with several activities it was ordered to cease, such as advertising tickets without seat numbers.
This makes it hard for consumers to know exactly what they are buying and also impedes event organisers who do not permit resale and want to cancel any tickets they discover listed on Viagogo.
The company was also ordered to make it clear when resale was banned, so consumers know that they might be turned away from a venue if they buy through Viagogo. The CMA is thought to believe the website isn’t making this disclosure prominently enough.
Viagogo will also face questions over its messages to consumers about how many tickets are left and how fast they are selling, amid concern about “pressure selling” techniques designed to hurry consumers into making a purchase.
Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: “We’ve repeatedly exposed Viagogo as a rogue operator and it is extremely concerning to hear suggestions that they may be flouting this court order in the same way they have flouted consumer law in the past.
“If Viagogo doesn’t immediately change its practices and comply with this order the company and its bosses must be held accountable in the courts.”
Under the terms of the court order, an independent third-party reviewer, paid for by Viagogo, will review its compliance and investigate thousands of pounds worth of refund claims going back years.
Viagogo did not respond to questions about whether it had yet appointed an independent reviewer.
In November the Guardian reported that dozens of tickets to see Michelle Obama speak at London’s Royal Festival Hall the following month had been snapped up by touts and were on sale for between £5,000 and more than £70,000 on Viagogo. The Southbank Centre had set seat prices of £30-£125 for the talk by the former first lady.