Google Blocks Viagogo In Denmark

Google has blocked Viagogo after a Danish TV consumer affairs program revealed that it’s selling Copenhagen concert tickets for more than face value.

Viagogo will no longer appear at the top of the page when Danes are searching online for concert tickets, while the internet company’s lawyers are checking whether the secondary seller is breaking Danish law.

Google previously announced it would lower the search engine rankings of websites that receive a high number of Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests, regardless of whether the linked content is lawful.

Although reselling tickets for profit is illegal under Danish law, the secondary market has managed to grow via private speculators and online sites owned by companies registered in countries where it’s still permitted.

However, local newspaper reports say major Danish ticket provider Billetlugen is reporting Viagogo to the police for forgery and fraud.

“I don’t see why we should put up with people manipulating our tickets in order to defraud consumers and ticket buyers,” Billetlugen managing director Jeppe Jensen told the DR1 news website.

An investigation by consumer affairs program “Kontant” – which translates as “Cash” – aired by DR1 Aug. 14 showed that Viagogo’s employees buy huge numbers of tickets at the normal price, usually from authorised sellers such as Billetlugen, then sell them to consumers at two or three times the face value.

“Apart from it being illegal under Danish law, it is picking concertgoers and is just the same as the black market that we know from the side streets,” said Jakob Lund, director of Billetnet, Denmark’s other major ticket provider.
The Danish program also showed that on several occasions Viagogo staff had altered the name and price on print-at-home tickets.

It interviewed Hugo Schaper, who runs Viagogo’s Dutch business, who said he did not want his real name on tickets that would be resold in Denmark.

“We do it because it saves us a lot of questions about the difference between the two prices,” Schaper told the “Kontant” reporters. He admitted to using a number of aliases to buy tickets for a variety of events and concerts in Denmark.

“We use a lot of names because we would rather not have the right name on the ticket when it’s resold,” he said.
UK-based Viagogo director Ed Parkinson told “Kontant” that it’s not company policy to change the name and price of the original ticket.

“I’ve found an area to be addressed,” he said. He denied that the company buys and resells tickets on a large scale.
“We are a marketplace for individuals and buy tickets only in rare cases where it has been impossible to get a ticket for a customer. But we must of course look at whether there are some routines here that should be changed or tightened up,” he explained.

Unlike “Dispatches,” the UK TV documentary on the secondary market screened in February, “Kontant” didn’t show evidence that any major promoters are supplying tickets direct to Viagogo.

Live Nation Denmark chief Flemming Schmidt and ICO director Kim Worsøe, the country’s biggest promoters, have both previously told Pollstar they don’t supply secondary sites with an allocation of tickets to be sold for more than face value.

“Dispatches” appears to have prompted many sections of the Danish media to take a look at secondary sites.

Apart from “Kontant,” Viagogo has also come in for some scathing criticism from leading daily broadsheet Politiken, while “Operation X” – TV2’s regular consumer affairs program – is also known to be researching an investigative documentary on the Danish secondary market.

In April, when Politiken suggested Viagogo was breaking Danish law, government consumer affairs ombudsman Kathrine De Neergaard told the paper that there were legal complications with a prosecution.

“Even through Viagogo’s practice is illegal in Denmark, it is very difficult to act upon, because what they are doing is fully legal in England and presumably also in Switzerland, where the company operates from,” she said.

Politiken had found tickets for Roskilde Festival (July 5- 8) with a face value of 1850 Danish kroner ($307) on the Viagogo site for as much as DKR 6073 ($1,008).

Tickets for Leonard Cohen at Rosenborg Castle Aug. 25 with a face value of DKR 790 ($131) were on sale for as much as DKR 1735 ($288).

The paper claimed that Viagogo “cheats angry customers out of thousands of kroner.”

Shortly after “Dispatches” showed “The Great Ticket Scandal,” Viagogo UK had shifted its operational base to Switzerland in what some said was a maneuver to get free of the grasp of UK law.

The apparent move overseas could make it harder for the UK courts to enforce a ruling ordering Viagogo to make the names of some of its clients known to the Rugby Football Union.

The RFU’s rules prohibit the resale of match tickets for more than face value. The organisation wants to know which of its members placed tickets on Viagogo for the 2010 Investec internationals and the 2011 Six Nations Championship.

Last March, High Court judge Mr. Justice Tugendhat ruled that Viagogo must reveal the names and addresses of those who placed tickets, a decision backed by the Appeal Court Dec. 9.

Viagogo has vowed to continue the legal battle and insists that it won’t divulge the names of its clients, although moving out of the UK courts’ jurisdiction could be an easier and arguably cheaper option.