The UK Supreme Court has ruled that secondary market ticket sellers must hand over to the primary seller the names of people who have breached the primary sellers’ Terms and Conditions by re-selling their tickets at inflated prices on secondary market sites.  The UK Rugby Football Union won its case against Viagogo (now a Swiss company) to reveal the names of people who re-sold seats they had booked for its’ 2010 Internationals and the Six Nations Championship in 2011.  The Supreme Court judgement on 21 November after the appeal on 14 June 2012 was in fact against Consolidated Information Systems Limited, the former UK firm known as Viagogo Limited, now in liquidation.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) stance is clear: there were supporters who wanted to buy tickets, and the RFU had set affordable prices, and they did not want those tickets sold at vastly inflated prices, but sold to their supporters at the set prices.  The RFU plans to use the names handed over by Viagogo to “name and shame” the re-sellers and may take further Court action against individuals to recover the money.

While Viagogo says only a a handful of names is involved, the RFU says thousands of tickets were sold on the Viagogo website in breach of their Terms and Conditions.  The RFU says “appropriate sanctions will be handed down” including clubs and individuals having their seat allocations suspended or revoked, being named and shamed, or prosecuted to force them to return the profits they made from their tickets.  The Judge in the case being appealed by Viagogo had also held that those who entered the stadium by use of a ticket obtained in contravention of RFU conditions were arguably guilty of trespass.

The RFU is one of the few UK sporting bodies to take direct action over re-sellers who breach the Terms and Conditions of ticket purchase.  Their ticket purchase procedures could not make the Terms and Conditions of purchase clearer.  The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Association, using their Terms and Conditions, in the past has simply cancelled as void any tickets advertised for sale on e-Bay or other secondary market sites.  The Supreme Court ruling confirms the legal contract status of the Terms and Conditions of purchase and that purchasers are bound by these if they choose to buy the tickets.

Perhaps reflecting their attitude to the law, The Guardian reported Viagogo spokesman Ed Parkinson saying “the resale of rugby tickets is still legal.  Our data protection is now better, so fans may therefore now buy and sell rugby tickets on Viagogo with confidence that their information will be protected”. In fact the Data Protection Act in the UK does not protect identity in the case of legal proceedings, and the Supreme Court ruled that revelation was proportionate under article 8 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, so it is hard to see how Viagogo intends to evade the Supreme Court ruling.  The Guardian reported that Viagogo was continuing to sell tickets at inflated prices for the England versus South Africa game at Twickenham, prices inflated up to £599.

The UK’s Channel 4 investigative TV programme Dispatches revealed in February 2012 that despite the descriptions on their websites, fewer than 25% of the tickets sold on secondary market sites come from fans trying to re-sell tickets.  Most come from allocations from the promoters, from “power-sellers”, from ticket brokers, and from staff making direct purchases from the likes of Ticketmaster.  If they could not get enough tickets by those means, whenever necessary the companies were buying the tickets themselves, impersonating the public, using numerous credit cards registered at the home addresses of staff.  If Viagogo says only a handful of names of fans are involved, the other sources could be pursued by the RFU.

Viagogo moved from the UK to be a Swiss company, closing down their UK company, at the time of the investigation into their re-selling practices, when Dispatches’ under-cover reporters filmed their training of staff and advice to refrain from explaining the source of their tickets or even the seat locations.  In Portsmough, the Police are also investigating the sale of fake tickets by Viagogo for a Mumford and Sons gig at Portsmouth Guildhall.  The BBC reported hundreds of fans, some who had travelled from the US, had paid inflated prices for £23.50 face value tickets which turned out to be fakes and were refused on the door on Thursday 22nd November.  Viagogo spokesman Ed Parkinson told the BBC that a handful of people had so far complained, and he promised a full refund.

Read the UK Supreme Court Judgement here: http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/decided-cases/docs/UKSC_2012_0030_Judgment.pdf