Google has suspended controversial ticket resellers Viagogo from paid-for global search rankings with immediate effect.
The search engine giant released a statement this afternoon (17th July) saying that Viagogo is in breach of its advertising policy and ads would be removed straight away.
Explaining their decision to remove Viagogo from its global search rankings, Google wrote: “When people use our platform for help in purchasing tickets, we want to make sure that they have an experience they can trust.
“This is why we have strict policies and take necessary action when we find an advertiser in breach.”
"We were extremely surprised to learn of Google's concerns today. We are confident that there has been no breach of Google's policies and look forward to working with them to resolve this as quickly as possible," Viagogo replied in a statement.
Before today Viagogo often appeared prominently in search rankings on Google for gigs, and sports and theatre tickets thanks to paid-for advertising.
The trade body UK Music, the Football Association and a number of MPs sent an open letter to Google executives last September urging them to stop taking advertising payments from Viagogo.
In the letter they expressed their concern that Viagogo’s prominence in search rankings may lead consumers to buy invalid tickets. They also said that consumers are being directed to the site when primary tickets are still available elsewhere.
Google’s surprise move today comes just two weeks after the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) announced they were taking further legal action against Viagogo, following their ‘repeated warnings that the site has failed to fully comply with a court order The CMA secured.’
The CMA first took legal action against Viagogo last year over fears it was flouting consumer-protection law. A court then ordered Viagogo to change the way it conducted its business.
Earlier this month, the CMA alleged that the secondary ticketing site had not done enough to overhaul the way it presents information on its website to comply with UK consumer protection law.
We’re going to take further legal action against viagogo.— Competition & Markets Authority (@CMAgovUK) July 4, 2019
This follows our repeated warnings that the site has failed to fully comply with a court order we secured.
Read more: https://t.co/Zt166D2BsK pic.twitter.com/aE6hlXm2lI
Among the primary concerns were misleading ticket-availability messages, incomplete addresses of businesses selling tickets being displayed to customers, some seat numbers not being displayed on the website, and insufficient warning that some tickets with resale restrictions may not allow entry.
“It is simply not good enough that Viagogo is continuing to drag its heels by not complying in full with this important court order,” said CMA Chief Executive Officer, Andrea Coscelli, on 4th July.
“We secured the order on behalf of people who use these resale websites and deserve to know the facts before parting with their hard-earned money.
“After the CMA repeatedly raised concerns with viagogo, and also took the time needed to give proper consideration to the findings of an independent review of Viagogo’s compliance, we are very concerned that it still hasn’t done what it was ordered to do. We are now taking the next step in legal action to ask a court to find Viagogo in contempt.”
Last November, Rammstein obtained a preliminary injunction against Viagogo in Germany prohibiting them from selling tickets to their summer 2019 stadium tour.
Many bands have been vociferously fighting against secondary ticket sellers like Viagogo for a number of years.
For the UK leg of their Book of Souls World Tour in 2017, Iron Maiden implemented a successful anti-touting strategy. Measures included issuing paperless tickets with the buyer having to present photo ID upon entry, limiting tickets to four per person and 'setting conditions of purchase' so that tickets are not for resale.
Iron Maiden manager Rod Smallwood told Planet Rock: "I hate these f***** making money off the back of our fans. I hate it. And I’ve been fighting for some years now and I think we’re getting somewhere.”
Google’s move today could be a huge blow for Viagogo and their ability to do business.