In the last couple of weeks, I have been inundated with emails about the "Viagogo Glitch" which has seen many fans being ripped off by what can only be described as underhand tactics to squeeze even more money out of fans who are desperate to buy tickets to see their favourite artist, band or theatre show.
Fans searching for official tickets to see the likes of Ed Sheeran, Celine Dion, Drake or the much anticipated Hamilton West End show fall unwittingly upon Viagogo's website; they are relieved that they still have a chance to buy tickets, despite at significantly marked-up prices, which is a fact that some realise and some don't. This relief is sadly short lived when upon finalising the transaction, they receive an email and are horrified to discover that what they have been charged is far far more than what they had been led to believe during the transaction process.
This is not just an isolated incident by the odd fan who was overly eager and didn't read the info on the screen properly. As I've had many such stories retold to me in strikingly similar terms with almost identical accounts all with people being horrified to see the total, in one case running to over £6700, that is charged to their credit or debit card, when they were expecting amounts in the region of hundreds for tickets they bought off Viagogo's website.
One person who contacted me, said they were expecting to pay £250 for five tickets and realised after the transaction from their confirmation email that they had been charged £1678.06. People on mass do not all get this wrong. They do not all make this same misjudgement.
On their website, Viagogo create an atmosphere of urgency and panic with countless notifications to fans about queues of people waiting for these tickets, warnings saying how many tickets have been sold and that there are only a few left with clocks ticking down on how long the tickets will be held for. As Claire Turnham said to Money Saving Expert, her experience "was all a bit of a panic time-wise".
It could be argued that this puts fans under intense pressure to make quick decisions to buy, giving the misleading impression that if they do not purchase now, the tickets will be gone, leaving no time to check out the integrity of the website - as we all do when making a considered purchase; instead they make a rushed and emotional decision to buy - more often than not the tickets are for a once in a lifetime experience - this all results in them paying far more than they expected, or can afford to, and then finding themselves in an intense battle for a justifiable refund for such a blatantly egregious and possibly unlawful ticket transaction.
Curiously, the first response from Viagogo, after refusing a refund, is to suggest the victims re-lists their tickets on their platform, even offering to help them do this, basically turning their victims into touts, and ensuring they make another huge fee in the process.
However, after the remarkable campaigning and advocacy of Claire Turnham, Viagogo have well and truly been brought to account for their actions, and have publically said that this "brief hiccup" has been rectified and fans will be reimbursed. To date, a total of over £41,000 has been refunded to fans who have been caught out by this "glitch" but Claire is aware that there are still many more fans awaiting £45,000 of their hard earned money that they are still battling to have refunded. This also begs the question of how many more have not come forward due to embarrassment or not being able to face the battle and have just swallowed the costs, because Viagogo do not give the money back anywhere near as quickly as they take it from your account it seems.
This is a perfect example of a broken market, which is failing to put fans first. Instead it works against them and creates a marketplace where sharks roam and it literally is buyer beware. That is why I and many others in Parliament and within the live entertainment sector have pushed for the Government to do more to ensure fans get a better deal with more protection, be this through legislation, regulations or better education for consumers with guidelines for buying tickets off secondary platforms.
It is very welcome that the Government have now committed to legislate to 'ban the bots' and have accepted all of Professor Waterson's excellent recommendations, but what the "Viagogo Glitch" highlights is that my seven year crusade to clean up this parasitical market place to ensure genuine fans are not continually ripped off by touts and secondary platforms is far from over. However, the Government at long last is about to shine some serious daylight into this shady market in order to fumigate it and bring about the long called for transparency and enforcement measures we've all been calling for, so I hope before too long we can put this mess right once and for all so fans can buy tickets off these sites in confidence that it is a safe, regulated and fair marketplace and that they are protected in law when using it. This has always been and will remain my ultimate goal.