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Viagogo boss Cris Miller apologises to MPs over ticket resale inquiry no show but defends business model

Viagogo has apologised to MPs for not attending a committee inquiry into ticket resale practices but defended its business model, in its first UK interview for two years.

Speaking exclusively to ITV News, Viagogo managing director Cris Miller admitted it was "clearly a mistake" to miss a 2017 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry and apologised but said missing a second inquiry in 2018 was down to "legal preclusions".

An inquiry was being held to discuss what action the UK will take on ticket touting.

He blamed the decision to avoid the earlier inquiry on the company being "immature" but on the second occasion he claimed he "had to listen to our lawyers".

He also defended the high price at which some tickets are advertised on the site, saying: "If I'm a buyer and I want to go to the Champions League final, and I want to spend €10,000, I think I should have an opportunity to be able to go."

No one from Viagogo showed up to represent the company at the 2017 inquiry. Credit: PA

Admitting fault for not attending the inquiry, he said: "Our focus as a business is that we were growing internationally and we were growing into the businesses as a younger business at the time and quite frankly we were simply naive and immature and got that wrong.

"We didn't really understand and appreciate the importance of what that DCMS inquiry was all about, looking back on it, it was clearly a mistake and we apologise for it."

He added: "The second time I was here, in London, ready to go and ready to be prepared however there were some legal preclusions for me to be able to attend unfortunately and I had to listen to our lawyers."

Despite apologising for missing the inquiry, the under-fire ticket boss said he was "very comfortable" with company's business model, claiming "if someone buys a ticket they have the right to resell it".

He said: "The event organisers shouldn't be able to deter someone, through harassment or cancellation, to be able to resell that ticket, so it's unfortunate that certain sellers feel that way."

Commenting on inflated prices on the Viagogo website, Mr Miller said "it is a market place, we run a platform and the market dictates the prices".

He also defended tickets for the recent Champions League final featuring Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur being sold for thousands of pounds, saying if someone wants "to spend €10,000, I think I should have an opportunity to be able to go".

Football fans had been desperate to buy tickets for Liverpool's Champions League final win over Spurs, with reports claiming one fan paid €10,000. Credit: ITV News

He added: "Why should we stop that person from doing that. There is a market and that's what we're providing. We're providing the market place, we don't dictate the prices. We just allow the market to take place. We step in the middle to make sure everything goes okay."

He claimed that one way the company makes sure customer purchases are fulfilled, in the case that something goes wrong, is to buy tickets from event sponsors or federations.

When quizzed on whether it would be unethical to buy tickets for sold out events from governing bodies, he responded "I don't believe so no, what's unethical is letting the customer down".

"There is no other way for the general public to get into these events."

He added: "Without the resell market, without Viagogo, most fans would have no opportunity to get into the Champions League final."

He stressed Viagogo does not approach sponsors or federations for tickets before events.

Viagogo's website gives fans the chance to buy tickets for already sold out events. Credit: Viagogo.co.uk

He claimed that his company often "has issues with event organisers harassing our customers, where they don't want them to get into the event or they're trying to turn them away because they bought them on our websites for competitive reason".

When pressed on whether he was referring to Ed Sheeran event organisers, who last year made attempts to stop fans buying through Viagogo, he responded: "I'm talking about a lot more than just Ed Sheeran."

He went on: "There's a lot of event organisers, not just in the UK that view our business competitively, so they take certain steps and certain features and tactics to try and make things more difficult, just because a customer bought a ticket over our website."

He said it "would be worse" for customers if his site didn't exist because people would end up using "fake websites" to buy resale tickets as he claimed they used to before Viagogo "showed up here in 2006".

"What people were doing was buying tickets from those websites, sending their money to some crook, based in Russia or wherever it might be, and then ultimately not getting any of the tickets at all," he said.

"We step in and clean the market up and do a lot better job than people give us credit for to make sure that customers actually get the tickets that they purchase."

'Victims of Viagogo' areas were set up outside Ed Sheeran gigs to help customers who had purchased invalid tickets on the site. Credit: ITV News

In 2018 the Competition and Markets Authority secured a legally binding court order against Viagogo to ensure it complies with the law.

One condition of compliance set in that court order was thattickets must be advertised with seat numbers and details.

ITV News found several listings on Viagogo, for the Cricket World Cup in particular, where tickets had been advertised without the relevant details.

Defending that he said: "There is a requirement for seat details however if the event organiser has not released all the seat details to the public.

"For instance, in the Cricket World Cup case, they sell tickets to travel agents of different territories. There might be sponsors that have tickets, there might be clubs that have tickets and a lot of those tickets actually don't have seat numbers.

"So what we do, we communicate with the seller, as soon as we become notified, if there is a discrepancy about seat information, we communicate with the seller, ask them if they have any proof that what they bought does not have the seat numbers and if that's the case we allow that to be still listed on the website."