StubHub and Viagogo offices raided in ticket touting investigation

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Competition and Markets Authority officials seize data relating to schemes that allegedly benefit industrial-scale touts

Investigators have raided the offices of ticket resale companies StubHub and Viagogo as part of a probe into suspected breaches of consumer law in the “secondary ticketing” industry.

Officials from the Competition and Markets Authority seized information about the companies’ relationship with prominent ticket touts, who harvest tickets for in-demand events and sell them via the two sites.

According to StubHub’s Top Seller Handbook, touts who make more than $250,000 of sales per year are entitled to benefits including discounts on seller fees, which increase as their sales rise.

Top sellers can also get access to a password-protected web platform, where they can access tools to help them manage their listings on multiple sites and upload dozens of tickets at a time for sale.

Earlier this year, eBay bought Ticket Utils, a company that produces software to enable “large sellers on StubHub to enjoy a best-in-class solution for inventory management, ticket distribution and internationalisation of their inventory”.

StubHub said its Top Seller programme was designed to “incentivise trusted sellers to sell their inventory on our platform, including lower fees and technical support”.

It said the programme followed all relevant laws and eliminated “fraudulent or illegal activity on our site.”

The site has previously come under fire from a parliamentary committee for allowing touts to sell tickets without complying with UK laws that demand sellers provide information such as the row and seat number.

StubHub said 98% of its sellers declared themselves to be genuine consumers rather than touts, but said it did not “police or monitor” the claims and was under no obligation to do so.

A spokesperson for the CMA declined to comment on the raids, which came nearly a year after it opened a probe into “suspected breaches of consumer protection law in the online secondary tickets market”.

In March this year, it provided an update on its work, saying it was looking into whether tickets sold to fans could deny them entry to venues, as artists and promoters try to prevent large-scale touting.

The CMA is also working alongside National Trading Standards, which is understood to be conducting a separate investigation into ticket touting known as Operation Electra.

The organisation was given a ringfenced budget to investigate ticket touting last year as part of a package of measures aimed at curbing the secondary ticketing market.

A spokesperson declined to comment on investigations but said: “National Trading Standards remains concerned that consumers are being left out of pocket after using secondary ticketing websites to purchase tickets.

“With concerts and events increasingly refusing to accept resold tickets, we’d strongly advise people take steps to protect themselves by only buying tickets from official sellers, most of which are working with the authorities to help ensure more tickets are made available to genuine fans through official vendors.”

StubHub said: “We understand the CMA investigation is ongoing and therefore await the outcome of this.”

Written by Rob Davies for the Guardian. Originally published on 10/11/2017. Source: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/nov/10/stubhub-and-viagogo-offices-raided-in-ticket-touting-investigation

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