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UK watchdog refers Viagogo-StubHub merger to in-depth investigation

The UK’s competition watchdog has referred the merger between Viagogo and StubHub for an in-depth (Phase 2) investigation.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said today (Thursday) that the acquisition could result in a “substantial lessening of competition” based on the information it currently has. The CMA in-depth investigation will conclude and decide on the future of the deal by December 9, 2020.

The decision comes after earlier this month Viagogo was given five working days to address the CMA’s concerns about the merger potentially resulting in customers who buy and resell tickets “losing out as a result of higher prices and fewer options.”

Responding to the CMA’s announcement, a Viagogo spokesperson said: “As we have throughout this process, we will continue to work diligently with the CMA during Phase 2 of their review. We remain committed to our belief that the combination of the two companies is a good move for customers worldwide.”

Viagogo completed its $4.05bn purchase of StubHub from parent company eBay in February. Around the same time the CMA ordered a halt to any integration between the companies until it completes its investigation into the merger.

The two companies’ combined market share accounts for more than 80 per cent and they are the top two players respectively in the UK.

Adam Webb of campaign group FanFair Alliance welcomed the CMA’s announcement today, claiming that Viagogo’s treatment of UK audiences has been “scandalous”.

“Even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the thought of such a business monopolising ‘for profit’ secondary ticketing remains highly problematic. Viagogo’s predatory marketing practices and business model continue to endanger audiences, and its $4.05bn acquisition of StubHub raises acute competition concerns, particularly in the UK,” Webb continued.

“Earlier this month, Viagogo was required to deliver a clear-cut solution to address these concerns. They have failed to do this. FanFair Alliance therefore welcomes the CMA’s decision to refer the merger for an in-depth investigation.”