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Viagogo: If CMA “unable to act”, who will?

Music journalist Adam Webb, a vocal member of the FanFair Alliance, has decried “Viagogo’s dogged support of phantom sellers” and describing its international arm as “a complete mess” that only an “idiot” would buy.

Following the sale of StubHub’s international business to a US private equity firm, after Viagogo’s acquisition of StubHub was approved by the UK authorities, Webb expressed his displeasure at the deal and the company’s practices in general. 

In his Medium blog post titled Pure Speculation: Why is Viagogo listing thousands of non-existent tickets, and why aren’t regulators stopping them? Webb embarks on a scathing attack of both Viagogo and StubHub, and raises concerns over whether any agency – not least the CMA – can reign in resale malpractices.

He writes: “Let’s face it, if viagogo were a tiny High Street business, they would have been closed down yesterday.” 

Webb also mentioned the recent scandal surrounding Viagogo having to remove “an estimated £1m+ of fake and fraudulent tickets from its UK website – mostly for large outdoor festivals such as Reading, Parklife, TRNSMT and Wireless”. 

“Remarkably, it’s the second time this year Viagogo’s operators have been shamed into stripping great swathes of touted inventory from their UK site,” he wrote.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) approved the sale of StubHub to Viagogo this week, after a deal was agreed for the sale of its international business to Digital Fuel, a venture capital group. 

“FanFair Alliance has continually supported the CMA’s work to reform this absurd and artificially-fuelled market,” Webb added. “However, if our regulator is genuinely unable to act on the evidence we’ve provided, then surely they should reach out to another agency that will — or simply refer these serious allegations to the Police.”

Webb commented on the original announcement of the sale: “In the US, StubHub is an absolute juggernaut. By comparison, viagogo’s [sic] North American business is practically non-existent. 

“When announcing the merger in November 2019, viagogo stated the acquisition of StubHub was paid for ‘in cash’. However, we believe the bulk of the funding actually came from a complex of loans and two VC funds: Bessemer Venture Partners and Madrone Capital Partners. 

“Given what we now know about viagogo’s business model (hello smoke, hello mirrors) you’d have to question how much due diligence these shiny happy people actually undertook.” 

Image: Raphael Schaller on Unsplash

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