The scale of ticket touts’ grip on access to live music and sports has been revealed, after the Viagogo website published details of its most prolific sellers, under the terms of a court order secured against the company by regulators.
Information released by Viagogo showed that touts have grabbed thousands of pounds worth of tickets to see artists such as Ariana Grande and Fleetwood Mac, which they then advertise to music fans at vast markups.
For a single gig by Fleetwood Mac at Wembley Stadium, touts listed at least 84 tickets with a combined price of £53,364 – equal to an average of £635 each – despite the fact that the resale of tickets for the show is prohibited, leaving buyers at risk of being turned away at the turnstile.
A show by Ariana Grande at the O2 in London, for which resale is also prohibited, had at least 52 listings by touts, at a combined price of £23,098 – or an average of £444 each.
Touts listed £14,978 of tickets for one night of Take That’s homecoming shows at Manchester Arena, with one seller, ATN Spencer, who gave their address as the Shard skyscraper in London, posting tickets with a total asking price of £12,520.
Traders using Viagogo were also offering tickets for a talk by Michelle Obama at the O2, with one on sale – again by ATN Spencer – at £2664. Gigs by Bastille, Elton John and the Spice Girls were also targeted by touts.
The latest data disclosed by Viagogo offers more insight into the power wielded by touts than ever before.
In practice, however, the number and value of tickets sold by traders on the site is likely to be far higher because the information released on Friday only covers a single day’s worth of ticket listings.
Viagogo released the information under the terms of a court order obtained by the Competition and Markets Authority last year, demanding the firm give more information to consumers.
The company said on Friday that it was compliant with the CMA’s demands, but music industry figures and critics of the website said they believe it is still withholding some information from fans about what they are buying – such as seat numbers and the touts’ full company details.
The data that has been released makes it possible to trace dozens of touts, described by the website as “traders”.
They include firms whose owners and directors can be viewed at Companies House, such as North Financial Group, whose owner Andrew Newman is the super-tout exposed in an Observer investigation in 2016.
Other Companies House-listed ticket firms include White Widget Ltd, Enjoy The Show Ltd, JSK Entertainment, Greatest Show Events and JCP Hospitality, most of which appear to be small operations or sole traders.
Thumpers, a company in West Sussex, was offering two tickets to see Fleetwood Mac at Wembley Stadium for £2,391, including VAT and fees.
When the Guardian rang the company, the person who answered the phone, who did not identify themselves, said: “I deal a lot in Goodwood and other stuff,” adding that he sometimes sells tickets at face value.
He added: “I’m not doing anything illegal. I’m not doing anything wrong.”
Ticketing expert Reg Walker, of the Iridium Consultancy, said: “Now that Viagogo is having to show whether a seller is a tout or not, it is becoming apparent at how they dominate ticket resale.
“The sheer numbers of tickets on Viagogo annotated as being sold by a ‘trader’ – that’s a tout in plain English – paints a grim picture of the massive numbers of tickets harvested in bulk, then offered at hiked up prices back to consumers.”
Despite the extra information published by Viagogo on Friday, campaigners said it was still not complying with the CMA’s demands.
Stuart Camp, who manages Ed Sheeran, said Viagogo, which has threatened to sue the musician’s promotion company over ticket restrictions, was “making a mockery of the law”.
Adam Webb, the campaign manager of anti-touting music industry group FanFair Alliance, said: “As of this morning, Viagogo was under strict instruction to overhaul its business practices. Based on our findings today, they have failed to do this.
“A few minor changes have been implemented, some of which may add even more confusion for consumers.”
Webb added: “FanFair Alliance urges all music fans to avoid Viagogo. Its practices are an affront to audiences, to artists and to the law. We feel the CMA must now step up and take urgent action.”
Labour MP Sharon Hodgson said: “For years Viagogo have acted in blatant disregard of consumer protection legislation. Surely they’ve now run out of road?
“It is time that the CMA take serious and urgent action, so that even more genuine fans don’t become victims of this company.”
Under the terms of the CMA’s order, Viagogo must appoint an independent reviewer to assess its compliance with the regulator’s demands and sift through complaints and refund requests by consumers.
Viagogo declined to comment on whether it had appointed a company to perform the review but the CMA said it would also be analysing the website’s compliance.
A spokesperson said: “We are now undertaking our own checks of Viagogo, and if we find breaches of the court order we will not hesitate to take action. This could include pursuing rapid action through the courts.”