Viagogo snubs MPs' inquiry into online ticket reselling
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Switzerland-based firm angers MPs by failing to send an executive to give evidence before select committee into secondary ticketing
By Rob Davis | March 21, 2017 | The Guardian.com
The controversial ticket resale website Viagogo has refused to show up to a select committee hearing, in an apparently unprecedented move likely to anger MPs considering a crackdown on the secondary ticketing industry.
Despite an advance request to appear before the department for culture, media and sport (DCMS) committee, Viagogo refused to send an executive to answer MPs’ questions as part of an inquiry into ticket abuse.
Committee chair Damian Collins MP said it was a “considerable disappointment that Viagogo have decided not to send a representative despite the fact that they have a substantial office on Cannon Street [in central London]”.
It is extremely rare for company executives to refuse to appear at a select committee inquiry. It is understood Viagogo told MPs by email on monday night that they would not be attending.
Irene Rosenfeld, then boss of food group Kraft, provoked fury when she twice ignored an invitation to face MPs over the US company’s controversial £12bn takeover of Cadbury’s. But unlike Viagogo, Kraft did at least send three middle-ranking executives to face politicians’ questions.
Nigel Huddleston MP, a member of the DCMS committee, said Viagogo had shown “if not contempt for parliament, a lack of respect to parliament and by extension the British public”.
MPs have since discussed making it a criminal offence to decline to attend and even the Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley was eventually persuaded to attend a committee hearing earlier this year, after initially resisting.
Viagogo’s refusal saw the company “empty-chaired”, a symbolic gesture where a space and namecard is reserved for a representative in the committee room, to highlight the absentee’s decision not to attend.
The Switzerland-based company, which also has offices in London, was summoned to give evidence after revelations in the Guardian about the company’s behaviour.
It was accused of “moral repugnance” for reselling tickets to an Ed Sheeran gig in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. It has also been criticised by a fans’ group that claims the company withheld thousands of pounds in refunds after overcharging customers due to what it called a “glitch”.
The company has become a focal point for mounting criticism of ticket resales, which came to a head earlier this month when DCMS announced plans for legislation to curb the power of secondary ticket firms and touts, who use them to make vast profits.
Viagogo has also been accused of trying to manipulate online reviews of its services, as it wrestled with negative publicity due to the revelations.
Viagogo did not respond to a request for comment.
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