Live Music

Viagogo rapped over ‘misleading’ NME ads

Viagogo has been censured by the UK’s advertising watchdog over advertorials that appeared on the NME website advising fans how to secure tickets to see major acts such as Taylor Swift and Guns N’ Roses.

An Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) investigation found the ticket marketplace breached advertising rules through “misleading” marketing communications. Viagogo has also been warned not to distribute materials that omit information about resale restrictions in the future.

The investigation focused on two advertorials that were first published on the NME website last summer and linked back to Viagogo’s site. The first, which first appeared in June, gave advice on securing tickets to BST Hyde Park, headlined by Pink and Guns N’ Roses. The second, which was published in July, was headed “A beginners guide to getting Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ tour tickets. How to avoid the scammers and secure tickets”.

FanFair Alliance filed a complaint with the ASA over the two advertorials. It claimed they were “misleading” as the resale of tickets through secondary ticketing websites such as Viagogo was prohibited by the events listed in the ads.

Legitimately available tickets

In response, Viagogo said the ads simply stated that tickets for the events were legitimately available on their secondary ticketing marketplace and were not an offering to consumers to enter into a transaction for a specific ticket.

An ASA summary continued: “They believed consumers would not consider that an ad for an event was misleading because it failed to mention every possible contingency that may arise – for example, that the event might be cancelled due to the illness of the performer.

“They believed it was extremely unlikely that a customer would not gain admission to an event after purchasing a ticket through Viagogo, even if the terms and conditions of the event itself purported that resale tickets were prohibited. Less than one per cent of customers were denied entry to events after having purchased a ticket on their platform, and they operated a guarantee so that if a customer was not admitted they would be entitled to a refund.”

Viagogo told not to ‘mislead’ customers

ASA upheld the complaint as it determined that the prohibition of resale tickets, as outlined in both the BST Hyde Park and Taylor Swift Era’s tour terms and conditions, was material information which was likely to affect a consumer’s decision to purchase tickets through Viagogo.

“Because Viagogo was a secondary-ticket outlet, we considered BST Hyde Park and Taylor Swift Era’s tour tickets purchased on the Viagogo website were purported to be invalid, according to both event’s terms and conditions,” it added.

ASA ruled the ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising).

ASA said the ads must not appear again in the form complained of, while Viagogo has been told to ensure future ads do not mislead consumers by omitting material information regarding the entry restrictions on tickets purchased through them and other secondary ticketing sites.

FanFair Alliance files new complaint

However, FanFair Alliance claims the advertorials – which are still live – remain in breach of advertising rules. It said Viagogo has added a disclaimer to the offending advertorials, but these are “inaccurate and misleading”.

Commenting on the ruling, Adam Webb, campaign manager, FanFair Alliance said: “This is an important ruling by the ASA, which highlights how websites like viagogo continue to mislead consumers and mis-sell them touted tickets. British audiences deserve greater protection from these rip-off merchants. It is high time the UK followed the example of countries like Ireland and France and outlawed their parasitical practices.”

FanFair Alliance said it has written to both the ASA and the Competition & Markets Authority, urging them “to take further action against Viagogo in order to protect consumers”.

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