FanFair Alliance, the anti-touting campaign group, has claimed that secondary ticketing platforms are misleading would-be ticket buyers by consistently securing top search engine results.
Ticket resellers such as Viagogo, StubHub and GetMeIn! were found to be in the top two results in 94 per cent of Google searches for tickets.
FanFair Alliance investigated ticket sales for 100 upcoming UK tours, by artists ranging from Metallica to Cliff Richard and Lulu to Run the Jewels.
The group’s research found that a secondary ticketing website has paid to top Google rankings on 77 per cent of occasions.
Yesterday (Monday), Ed Sheeran’s promoter scolded Google for not doing more to prevent touts from profiting from the singer’s gigs.
Stuart Galbraith said: “Google needs to bow to pressure and stop taking money for tickets which are sold on the secondary market.”
Tickets for Sheeran’s ‘Divide’ tour began appearing on Viagogo within minutes of them being released, the BBC reports.
“Ed and I have a strong aversion to secondary ticketing,” Galbraith told BBC Radio 4’s You & Yours programme.
“We put up lots of measures to try and stop the secondary ticketing market when his tour tickets came out on Saturday. The vast majority of secondary sites adhered to our threats of prosecution but Viagogo did not.”
Viagogo was the top result 65 times out of the 100 tours, presenting itself on Google as an official site, despite its secondary reseller status. In addition, the company’s executives failed to show up to a Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee evidence session into ticket abuse.
FanFair discovered that, despite resale dominance, only six out of the 100 tours were actually sold out. The majority still had face value tickets available from authorised primary sellers.
Adam Webb, FanFair campaign manager, said: “This is a real problem for UK audiences. If you’re looking to attend a gig or festival, you’d probably expect a search engine to act as a trusted guide and direct you to the legitimate ticket seller.
“However, we consistently see secondary ticketing platforms, led by Viagogo, using paid search to dominate search rankings and even masquerade as “official” sellers – causing considerable confusion in the process. FanFair is contacted on a daily basis by consumers who have been duped by this kind of advertising and led straight into the arms of a ticket tout.
“The reason that Viagogo and other secondary sites can manipulate Google search in this way is simple – it’s because they can afford to.
“Their business model is practically risk free and their service fees are typically set at around 20 to 30 per cent of the resale price. As a result, when purchasing AdWords they can outbid authorised ticket sellers whose charges are significantly less.
“FanFair has brought these practices to the attention of regulators and Google itself, but until action is taken we strongly recommend that would-be ticket buyers give search engines a swerve and check first with the artist or festival website.”
Viagogo was also found to be prominently placing artists’ names in its URLs, as well as the appearance of bogus price comparison websites that frequently defaulted to Viagogo.
Sheeran’s promoter Galbraith said: “If we can identify that those tickets have been bought on the secondary market then there’s every chance their admission will be refused.”
While the reselling of live music tickets for profit is not illegal in the UK, Google said it does not allow fraudulent or misrepresentative ads and takes action when policies are broken.
Recently, FanFair Alliance questioned Ticketmaster’s commitment to holding professional touts to the same strict purchasing limits that are imposed on ordinary fans.
While the firm is a primary ticketing marketplace where fans can go to buy their tickets when they first go on sale, Ticketmaster also owns resale sites GetMeIn and Seatwave. These secondary platforms typically take up to 25 per cent on ticket sales and have become a profitable market for touts.