Channel 4's Dispatches caused a minor stir in February when they broadcast a programme that exposed the shady dealings within the secondary ticket market. Viagogo attempted to prevent the programme from being shown but were unsuccessful despite two attempts to obtain a court injunction. The revelations did not come as a surprise to Safeconcerts nor to Safeconcerts' members, we have been highlighting the various issues surrounding the secondary ticket market for years.
As the fuss dies down behind the scenes Viagogo appear to have taken some very interesting measures that have so far gone unreported and unnoticed. These measures should raise alarm bells for the UK's ticket buying public.
On the 22nd March 2012 Viagogo Ltd, the UK arm of Viagogo changed its name to Consolidated Information Services Ltd and in doing so they classified the business not as ticket touts or a ticket agency but as:
"74909 - Other professional, scientific and technical activities not elsewhere classified"
On the 26th March 2012 Viagogo put itself into liquidation and appointed a liquidator.
On the 3rd April 2012 the statutory notice of liquidation was posted in the London Gazette under the name of Consolidated Information Services Ltd, so not a sign of the well known name Viagogo. Ah, now we see, who would make the link between this unknown company name and Viagogo?
[You can see the entries at Companies House here, or see the image at the bottom of this item.]
During March/April 2012 everything was transferred from Viagogo Ltd to Viagogo AG based in Switzerland.
There is no obvious indication on Viagogo, apart from a change in address, to show you are now no longer dealing with a UK company this means that if you have any problems with them you will be subject to Swiss laws, you will not be covered by UK law. Take a look at their company information page now here.
Of course it doesn't really matter what the policy actually says, the fact is that Viagogo have transferred everything away from the UK, effectively this means that they are no longer subject to UK laws. The big question is why a thriving UK company has gone into liquidation but appear to have a thriving business now based in Switzerland. What are the UK debts? Will all UK debts be cleared?
We are led to believe Viagogo gave assurances to Police in 2011 that it would not get involved in Olympic tickets but on the 17th April Viagogo announced that it is in 'collaboration' with the Spanish Olympic Committee.
“We’re proud to be supporting the Spanish Olympic Movement. We have always sought to partner with the world’s leading sports organisations and bring the benefits of our unique ticketing experience. Becoming a part of the Olympic movement in Spain is a big step for our business” (read in full)
Viagogo was part of a fraud prevention forum to do with Operation Podium (formed for the Olympic Games), despite industry experts advice some 20 months ago not to have anything to do with them. After the Dispatches programme, Podium suspended the prevention forum and ceased contact with Viagogo (why did it take a television programme for this to happen?)
Viagogo also lost its appeal against the RFU after it was ordered to disclose sellers' details to the RFU.
Viagogo is now believed to be the subject of a Police investigation into their activities as well as a much anticipated investigation by HMRC, was this a factor in their 'voluntary liquidation' and move to Switzerland?
As a market leader, the example that Viagogo have set will no doubt be followed by more and more of the secondary ticket agent companies as they all move as far away from the UK's current regulations as possible whilst keeping their hands firmly in the pockets of the UK consumers. They will all be watching their progress carefully to see if this move to Switzerland has any impact on their sales. Of course many of the nastiest of fraudulent ticket sites are and were based in countries other than the UK to avoid the long arm of our laws and they have been doing this for years so it was only a matter of time before others saw a gap in the legal red tape.
It doesn't appear that there will be any form of new legislation or restrictions applied to the secondary ticket market in the near future. The only way that ticket buyers can protect themselves from both the secondary ticket sellers and fraudulent sites is to avoid them. The Safeconcerts Be Ticket Safe® Directory will tell you what sort of site you are purchasing from. Our advice has always been to avoid buying from any company not based in the UK. Safeconcerts only ever recommend ticket buyers to purchase from legitimate, primary ticket sellers, we do not link to or affiliate with any secondary ticket sellers.
We believe that the majority of secondary ticket sites will do whatever it takes to avoid adhering to UK laws and this latest development by Viagogo is an excellent example of the tactics used to prevent openness, honesty and transparency in dealing with the public. The sad reality is that the legitimising of ticket exchanges means that genuine fans will just keep on using the same old sites, not caring where the tickets come from or how much money is being made on them. We now know that the "fan to fan" facade these sites have hidden behind for so long are nothing of the sort and we know that Viagogo have taken steps to ensure that they are now untouchable by UK law. What does that tell you about Viagogo?
Viagogo UK's entry on Companies House: