MPs call for Google to 'cut ties' with secondary ticketing sites

MPs call for Google to 'cut ties' with secondary ticketing sites

MP Sharon Hodgson has vowed to push for Google to “cut ties” with secondary ticketing sites in the wake of new research into how companies such as Viagogo and StubHub are “misleading” music fans.

The FanFair Alliance first carried out such research in July last year, searching Google for tickets to a random selection of live music events in the UK. The project aimed to uncover whether or not secondary ticketing sites were misleading users through pay-per-click advertising.

Searching for tickets to shows by acts including Ed Sheeran, Roger Waters, Justin Timberlake, the Rolling Stones, Superorganism, Wiz Khalifa and Krept & Konan, the research found that, 98% of the time, Viagogo, StubHub and Get Me In! were paying to top Google search results.

None of the events was sold out and the companies failed to make any obvious disclosure that they were listing ‘second-hand’ tickets.

Hodgson said: “Further research from FanFair Alliance has confirmed what we already knew – secondary ticket sites such as Viagogo, StubHub and GetMeIn! use misleading pay per click ads from Google to direct consumers to their websites, even though tickets are still available at face value on primary ticket websites.

“As the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, I am very concerned by Google’s relationship with secondary ticket sites, the platform it provides for them and the priority it gives over primary sites. I believe that it is time for Google to cut its ties with these sites, which so clearly break UK consumer law and watchdog rulings. This is something that I will be raising with the Government imminently.”

The new FanFair Alliance research found that Viagogo topped Google results on 52 occasions, and were in the top two results on 80 occasions, StubHub topped Google results on 41 occasions, and were in the top two results on 58 occasions and Get Me In! topped Google results on five occasions, and were in the top two results on 19 occasions. 

Last month, O2 partnered with the FanFair Alliance to clamp down on secondary ticketing, while UK Music boss Michael Dugher praised new provisions in the market back in April.

Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith recently told Music Week that he believes that “technology will rid us of secondary ticketing”.

Nevertheless, the FanFair Alliance research suggests that day is still some way off.

It is time for Google to cut its ties with these sites, which so clearly break UK consumer law and watchdog rulings

Sharon Hodgson MP

Adam Webb, FanFair Alliance campaign manager said: “Reforms of the UK’s ticket resale market continue to be hindered by the misleading marketing practices of the largest secondary sites. Their deployment of pay-per-click search advertising prioritises ticket touts before ticket buyers.”

He added that these “bad practices could easily be cleaned up by actions from three US-based corporations.”

“Firstly, Google,” he explained. “We have a situation where one of the world’s most trusted brands is providing life support to one of the worst. Viagogo is a company that systematically breaks UK consumer protection laws, ignores ASA rulings, undermines the UK’s creative economy and causes harm to UK consumers. When even the Culture Minister is advocating a boycott, then surely it’s time for Google to permanently remove this law-breaking site from its advertising networks?

“And secondly, we need Ticketmaster and StubHub to seriously up their game. Both have the wherewithal to act with greater transparency, to make clear in their search advertising that they operate resale platforms, and to stop misdirecting fans away from face value tickets at either their own or their partners’ box offices.

“None of this is rocket science. None of it should require regulatory intervention. Just simple and sensible changes that would benefit consumers and make it easier for them to buy a ticket.”

Nigel Adams MP for Selby & Ainsty joined the calls to bring Google to account. 

“A simple change by Google could give consumers the transparency they need to ensure they are purchasing a valid ticket to an event from a trusted source,” he said.

“The government is determined to help the industry clean up its act and it’s about time Google came to the table.”

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