Sunderland MP questions how Viagogo is among top Google search results despite facing court action

A Sunderland MP has questioned how a ticket resale site can be paying for adverts on tech giant Google while facing court action.

Thursday, 1st November 2018, 11:41 am
Updated Thursday, 1st November 2018, 11:48 am
MP Sharon Hodgson has been campaigning for fair ticketing prices

Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West Sharon Hodgson said during Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) questions in the commons that it could not be right that Viagogo was still in the top two search results 80% of the time.

While Tory MP Damian Collins claimed Google is colluding in "fraud" over the resale of tickets.

DCMS Minister Tracey Crouch was notably absent from the chamber after a trip to the US.

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She is said to be on the brink of quitting over the delay to gambling curbs announced in the Budget.

Ms Crouch's colleague Margot James fielded questions over how Viagogo, which is being taken to court for a catalogue of consumer rights breaches by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), was still operating.

Mrs Hodgoson said: "Time and again people are telling me they were directed to Viagogo by a Google search.

"Does she think it's appropriate that Viagogo is facing court action but are still able to buy themselves to the top of the search?"

Ms James said the point was "very good" but signalled her hands were tied to some extent.

"She might be interested to know the Advertising Standards Agency ruled, however, that consumers would not assume Viagogo was a primary ticket agent for the event and therefore there was nothing in the advert to claim it was primary," Ms James said.

"But Google conditions state that resellers must prominently disclose themselves as a reseller so she can draw her own conclusions from that."

At the end of August, it was confirmed that by the CMA that it has commenced legal proceedings against Viagogo in the High Court.

It was as a result of the company's decision not to overhaul the way they operate when asked by CMA along with three other resale sites.

Despite being warned that a failure to do likewise would result in court action, Viagogo, unlike the three others, had not offered to make the changes the CMA considers necessary to bring it in line with the law.

MP Damian Collins asked why the firm was still taking money from ticket site Viagogo during Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) questions in the commons.

Mr Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, said: "Would she accept that Google is accepting adverts though Viagogo agents that are in breach of consumer protection law and Google's own terms of service as well?

"They are effectively taking money for being party to a fraud by allowing those adverts to run."

Ms James responded: "I absolutely sympathise with his point of view and I have had discussions with Google on this very point.

"I think it's safe to say we have a difference of view but we remain optimistic that the search engines will comply with their own terms and conditions in the end."