A coalition of anti-ticket abuse campaigners has written to Google to demand action on Viagogo's ability to dominate ticket searches through paid advertising.
The open letter by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ticket Abuse, campaign group FanFair Alliance and the Society Of Ticket Agents And Retailers (STAR) has received extensive backing throughout the music, theatre and sports sectors, and has also received cross-party political support.
Signatories include representatives from 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. The move follows the recent CMA announcement that Viagogo is being taken to court over concerns it is breaking UK consumer protection law, and last week's no-show at the DCMS select committee.
"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," states the letter. "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.
"It is an untenable situation. In effect, one of the world’s most trusted brands - Google - is being paid to actively promote one of the least trusted.
"Viagogo’s search advertising is also, we believe, breaking Google’s own AdWords guidelines."
Google vowed to provide a "better and safer" platform for users 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 custumers 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."
STAR CEO Jonathan Brown added: "Fans have always ranked as number one for STAR. We urge Google to redouble their efforts on behalf of both our passionate consumers and the fantastic live entertainment industry we serve."
Last week, Switzerland-based Viagogo said it had initiated court proceedings against Stuart Galbraith, founder of promoter Kilimanjaro Live, in Germany over Kili's move to cancel thousands of tickets bought through the resale site for Ed Sheeran's 2018 stadium tour. Kilii branded Viagogo's allegations "ludicrous, laughable" and "totally false".
Galbraith has previously called on Google to stop taking adverts from secondary ticketing companies found to be operating "in breach of the law".