The UK’s competition regulator will seek to have ticket resale website Viagogo found in contempt of court, after the company allegedly ignored repeated warnings to comply with consumer law.
The Competition and Markets Authority has sent a “letter before action” to Viagogo, officially triggering a process that it warned in March would begin unless the company cleaned up its often-criticised business practices.
If found in contempt, the company risks significant fines, while directors could even face prison.
The regulator obtained a court order last November, demanding that Viagogo overhaul its website to ensure full compliance with laws designed to protect consumers by a deadline of mid-January.
While the Switzerland-based website has repeatedly insisted it is complying, the CMA said on Thursday that it was still in breach of several terms of the order, despite several warnings.
It said Viagogo was not doing enough to warn buyers of tickets on its site that they might be turned away at the door of events where the venue or the promoter has banned resale.
Viagogo is also still using “misleading” information about the number of tickets left on its website, a tactic associated with efforts to place pressure on consumers to make hasty purchasing decisions.
Some seat numbers are still not being displayed on ticket listings, according to the CMA, despite the requirement to do so under consumer protection regulations.
And while Viagogo has been forced by the CMA to begin printing the names of touts who sell more than 100 tickets on its site, albeit only after credit card details have already been entered, the addresses displayed are often incomplete.
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: “It is simply not good enough that Viagogo is continuing to drag its heels by not complying in full with this important court order.
“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.”
The CMA’s efforts to ensure Viagogo complies with consumer law have been overseen by an independent adjudicator and the regulator said some progress had been made, including £400,000 in refunds for people who bought tickets through the site and were wrongly refused refunds.
“However, these are not enough, in the CMA’s view, to comply fully with the court order,” the regulator said. “Therefore, the CMA has today notified Viagogo that it will be asking a court to find it in contempt of court.”
CMA chairman Andrew Tyrie recently said the regulator should have greater powers to impose sanctions against firms it believes have transgressed consumer law.
If it had such powers, the lengthy legal process that has characterised the CMA’s pursuit of Viagogo would be unnecessary, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
The Guardian has approached Viagogo for comment.