Google has been urged to take action against Viagogo as it continues to dominate ticket search rankings through paid advertising.
An open letter from All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ticket Abuse, campaign group FanFair Alliance and the Society Of Ticket Agents And Retailers (STAR), has demanded that the search engine giant takes action against the controversial resale firm and its practices in the market.
The crusade has received support throughout the music, theatre and sports sectors, and has also received cross-party political support.
Other signatories include representatives from the Football Association, UK Music, the Concert Promoters Association, Music Managers Forum, Featured Artists Coalition, the National Arenas Association, the Association Of Independent Festivals and the Entertainment Agents’ Association.
“Viagogo’s use of Google paid-for search to achieve prominence to consumers continues to concern all signatories to this letter, now more than ever,” the letter states. “Working with the campaign group Victim of Viagogo, FanFair has helped many individuals who believe they were mis-sold tickets to claim back hundreds of thousands of pounds. The vast majority of these customers tell us they were led to Viagogo through Google search and unaware they were buying a resold ticket.”
Google may be violating its own guidelines, which stress that companies who buy prominence in search results via Google’s pay-per-click AdWords service must “comply with local laws”, according to the letter. It cites the Competition and Markets Authority’s legal action brought against Viagogo last month for alleged breaches of consumer law.
“In effect, one of the world’s most trusted brands – Google – is being paid to actively promote one of the least trusted,” the letter says. “We understand that Viagogo is a valuable client to Google, spending considerable sums each year on paid search advertising. However, we urge you to protect consumers who daily put their trust in Google, and act now to restrict Viagogo’s ability to pay for prominence.”
Google promised to offer a “better and safer” platform after its new global transparency regulations on ticket resellers came into force earlier this year.
The letter concludes: “We understand that Viagogo is a valuable client to Google, spending considerable sums each year on paid search advertising. However, we urge you to protect consumers who daily put their trust in Google, and act now to restrict Viagogo’s ability to pay for prominence.”
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and chair of the APPG on Ticket Abuse, said: “I have heard too many times from distressed customers of Viagogo that they were led to the website because it was at the top of their Google search. It is totally wrong that a trusted website like Google would direct consumers to such an untrustworthy website. Google need to take action in order to protect consumers, and I look forward to working with them on this in the very near future.”
FanFair Alliance campaign manager Adam Webb said: “Google are still directing would-be ticket buyers to a website considered so untrustworthy that it faces court action for suspected breaches of consumer protection laws. It’s an absurd situation, but with a straightforward solution. Google need to enforce their own advertising guidelines and stop Viagogo buying their way to the top of search.”
Image: Robert Scoble