Royal Albert Hall president to be grilled by MPs over ticket abuse

Ticket reselling sites like Viagogo are also to be questioned over concerns that tickets to events from charity balls to Hamilton are being resold

The president of the Royal Albert Hall and the multi-millionaire founder of controversial ticket resale website Viagogo are to be grilled by MPs in the second phase of an inquiry into “ticket abuse”.

MPs on the department for culture, media and sport committee are planning a fresh evidence session, after they were told in a previous hearing about the relationship between powerful ticket touts and “secondary” resale websites.

Royal Albert Hall president Jon Moynihan is among the witnesses likely to be asked to give evidence in the light of revelations that members who own permanent seats at the venue are selling them for profit.

At least one MP on the committee is understood to have written to chairman Damian Collins, calling on him to summon Moynihan, who has defended members’ legal right to sell their tickets.

The committee is also keen to hear from Viagogo’s secretive founder Eric Baker, amid criticism of the Switzerland-based company’s practices.

Baker cannot be compelled to attend because the American is not thought to hold British citizenship.

But senior British staff, such as executive Ed Parkinson, can technically be forced to turn up to the committee session.

Eric Baker.
The committee cannot compel Viagogo founder Eric Baker to give evidence. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/The Guardian

Viagogo has proved particularly controversial among secondary ticketing firms, due to its apparent disregard for artists and venues trying to stop their tickets being resold.

It has also come under fire for making a profit on tickets for charity events, such as Peter Kay’s Dance for Life charity event to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Ticketmaster, which sent its UK chairman Chris Edmonds to the committee’s first hearing in November, is also likely to be recalled to give fresh evidence.

The previous session saw resale sites, which include Viagogo, Stubhub and Ticketmaster-owned Seatwave and GetMeIn, accused of acting like “old-fashioned fences” for helping touts sell tickets.

Critics say the secondary ticketing industry shuts out fans and forces up prices because touts are able to harvest tickets in bulk before anyone else can get hold of them.

Tickets for in-demand events then appear on resale websites, some of whom have close relationships with the touts, within seconds of first going on sale, often at huge mark-ups on their face value.

Recent events to have been targeted include a tour by U2, concerts at Wembley stadium by Adele and the popular hip-hop musical Hamilton, despite efforts by the show’s producers to prevent resale.

Security consultant and ticketing expert Reg Walker, who gave evidence at the first hearing on ticket abuse, said MPs should take the opportunity to pose tough questions to Viagogo’s publicity-shy executives.

“I’d like to see the committee ask questions, including whether these companies accept that they have to comply with UK legislation regardless of their country of registration.”

“How can Viagogo possibly offer non-existent tickets for sale before the real tickets go on sale?”

The committee’s second session, expected to take place in early March, comes amid growing scrutiny of ticket touts and resale sites.

The Competition and Markets Authority has launched a probe into whether touts are flouting the Consumer Rights Act 2015 by failing to publish their company details and information about the seat they are selling.

HMRC has also begun a separate investigation into whether touts are declaring their full income from the trade.

Some of the UK’s biggest touts have recently begun rebranding their organisations as the spotlight on them has intensified, an investigation by the Guardian found.

Contributor

Rob Davies

The GuardianTramp

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