Nigel Adams MP, Sharon Hodgson MP, Stuart Galbraith (Kilimanjaro Live), Adam Webb (FanFair Alliance), Claire Turnham (Victims of Viagogo), and Annabella Coldrick (MMF) outside the VGL Services premises
Two MPs have been threatened with arrest after attempting to “doorstep” the bosses of Viagogo at the controversial ticket resale company’s “secret” offices in central London.
Conservative MP Nigel Adams and Labour’s Sharon Hodgson said they felt they had no choice but to turn up at Viagogo’s offices on Fenchurch Street in London on Thursday as the “shifty, slippery and secretive” company continues to ignore all official correspondence after snubbing the parliamentary inquiry into ticket touting.
“Viagogo told parliament they couldn’t attend the inquiry because they are registered in Switzerland and do not have adequate representation in the UK,”Adams said. “But we have found that they have this secret office so we have come here to meet them in person.”
The MPs said they had sent Viagogo and its parent company, VGL, an official letter but added that they did not have “huge confidence” that the firm would reply.
“So we thought that if we turned up in person we might get a bit of face time,” Adams said.
They did not get any. Adams and Hodgson, who were joined by a group of angry music fans who claim Viagogo had ripped them off, were told by the building’s security staff that the company’s bosses “don’t want to see you”.
When Adams and Hodgson protested that they were elected members of parliament and wished to air the concerns raised by their constituents, a security guard asked the MPs to leave and said: “I don’t want to have to call the police.”
The pair said they were shocked at being threatened with arrest for trespassing in the shared office building.
“In my 12 years in parliament I’ve never been turned away,” said Hodgson, who co-chairs the all-party parliamentary group on ticket abuse.
“We’re just trying to politely represent our constituents and parliament. Normally if you go and see someone [as an MP] you get the most senior person to sit down and talk to you, but here we’ve been told if we don’t leave they will call the police.”
Adams, who sat on the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, said: “We’re both reasonable members of parliament and all we want is drop off a letter.
“It’s extraordinary that we are being turned away. This is clearly a shifty, slippery and secretive company.”
He said music fans had been ripped off to the tune of thousands of pounds by buying unofficial concert tickets through Viagogo, which had then been cancelled by the artists’ promoters. Ed Sheeran this week cancelled 10,000 tickets for his gigs next summer that were being sold at inflated prices on resale websites.
Kerry West, who joined the MPs on the protest, said she had been “tricked” into spending more than £1,800 on four tickets for Sheeran’s gig. “I had Googled official Ed Sheeran tickets and thought I was buying the real tickets for £350, but then the process was very pressured and it took nearly £2,000 from my card.”
West’s tickets have been cancelled by Sheeran’s promoter but Viagogo has refused to refund her any money. More than 2,000 people have joined a Facebook group, Victim of Viagogo, and claim to have been ripped off by the firm.
Adams said the discovery that Viagogo has a physical office in the UK meant that company should be subject to its rules and should not be able to “hide behind claims that it operates from Switzerland”.
“They give the impression they don’t fall under the UK jurisdiction. But we found they have an office here, and employ people here so they should be subject to our rules,” he added. “Knowing the address will also make it easier for customers to complain.”
He said some customers had had their claims for compensation rejected by the company because they had sent letters to the wrong official address.
Viagogo had operated out of an office on Cannon Street, another central London location, but moved out before the parliamentary inquiry. The MPs discovered that VGL Services Limited operates out of offices at 71 Fenchurch Street.
Neither the Viagogo name or VGL appears on the list of other companies that occupy the building, but security staff confirmed that Viagogo staff do work in the building.
The security manager told the MPs he understood their concerns and had himself bought tickets through Viagogo, but he was unable to help them address their concerns in person to Prabhat Shah, who is listed as director of VGL Services Ltd.
Adams, Hodgson and Sheeran’s promoter, Stuart Galbraith, told the security guard to prepare for a “lot more visits” from unhappy Viagogo customers. The security guard said he was “already unhappy” with the number of people who had turned up to complain on Thursday.
Viagogo did not respond to requests for comment.
Research by Which? found that as many as a quarter of tickets to popular concerts and events end up on secondary ticketing websites such as Viagogo.
The consumer watchdog found that 26% of tickets for comedian Jack Whitehall’s upcoming Apollo show and nearly a fifth of tickets for Lady Gaga at the O2 Arena in London were available on Viagogo and three other resale sites – GetMeIn!, Seatwave and StubHub.
About 15% of tickets for the first night of the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall were also found on the sites, including £38 tickets with a mark-up of 279% on StubHub and 300% on GetMeIn!
Which? also found that 49% who bought tickets on these sites thought they were official sellers. Alex Neill, its managing director of home products and services, said: “People are finding themselves having to buy tickets through secondary sites more and more, and yet many struggle to find the basic information required by law.
“There needs to be more transparency within the secondary ticketing industry and the competition authorities must take strong action against those who aren’t playing by the rules.”
Story via Rupert Neate in The Guardian.