News December 3, 2019

Google backflips on Viagogo ad-ban days after StubHub deal

Former Assistant Editor
Google backflips on Viagogo ad-ban days after StubHub deal

Money talks if you want to be at the top of Google’s search results.

Google’s ban on ticketing resale platform Viagogo – heralded as a “long overdue” win for the music industry – is already kaput.

The global ban on Viagogo followed pressure from the industry and consumer groups, while the Australian Federal Court found that Viagogo misled local consumers and breached Australian consumer law.

Now Viagogo’s ads are back up the top of Google’s search results for some of the biggest artists touring Australia this month, including Elton John and Liam Gallagher.

In each case, Viagogo advertising appears right next to ads for tickets on former resale rival StubHub – who Viagogo acquired last week, prompting concern from live music execs both in Australia and the UK.

For tickets to shows by Gallagher or John, users must skip the first four results, all re-sale platforms, to safely purchase tickets from official venue ticketing partners.

Viagogo, Google

In response to TMN’s request for comment, a Google spokesperson revealed that Viagogo had successfully appeal its suspension after making suitable changes to their account.

“Any advertiser can appeal a suspension, and if we find that they have made appropriate changes to their account, they may be eligible for reactivation. We still continue to enforce our policies and we will take action against ads or accounts that violate our policies,” said a Google spokesperson.

However, Google’s claim that Viagogo is now compliant with its policies is not sitting well with the industry.

Live Performance Australia CEO Evelyn Richardson tells TMN that Viagogo’s long history of ripping off consumers means that LPA isn’t convinced the resale company has turned over a new leaf.

“Our concerns about Viagogo’s conduct in the resale market haven’t changed,” says Richardson. “We expect all operators in the market to comply with Australian Consumer Law.

“Viagogo has a long history of disregarding consumer rights so we would expect to see the company lift its game significantly to ensure consumers are not again misled or ripped off.

“We are extremely disappointed to learn that Google has apparently reinstated Viagogo in its paid search results. We’ll be raising our concerns with Google directly and seeking an explanation from them for this turnaround.

“We had previously welcomed Google’s action against Viagogo, although it had been a long time coming despite the obvious question marks around Viagogo’s conduct.”

While Google says Viagogo addressed its concerns, specifically around not claiming to be an official seller, and making sure the ticket price is clear and obvious at all steps of the purchasing process, the fact remains that tickets being re-sold for hugely inflated prices.

GA standing tickets to Gallagher’s show in Brisbane this Friday are selling for up to $472, after the cheapest tickets were originally on sale for as little as $99.80.

TMN also saw Lower Tier tickets for John’s forthcoming Rod Laver Arena being flogged for as much as $2,293.

Elton John

Elton John / by Ben Gibson (Facebook)

Of course, inflated ticket prices are only part of the issue facing the industry. Viagogo doesn’t confirm the validity of the tickets it lists.

The faces of the fight against Viagogo, Frontier Touring’s Michael Gudinski and Chugg Entertainment’s Michael Chugg, both expressed their disappointment in the decision.

“I’m incredibly disappointed to hear that Google has done a backflip on their decision to stop Viagogo from advertising,” said Gudinski in a statement.

“It surprises me that a company of Google’s reputation would condone a business of Viagogo’s nature. Since Google removed all Viagogo advertising we have seen a notable drop-off in the number of complaints, which shows the measure was effective.

“I can only assume that Google’s decision has been made in their economic interests, however, it is an enormous step backwards in the fight against ticket scalping.

Michael Chugg, who last week heralded his part in the industry’s previous win against Viagogo as one of his greatest achievements upon being inducted as an ARIA Icon, told the Daily Telegraph the latest move by Google was “Disgusting”.

Chugg said that around 100 fans were turned away from Elton John’s Perth show on Saturday due to having invalid tickets. That figure will increase across the rest of John’s tour, he believes.

“Google shouldn’t be taking their money; it’s disgusting.”

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