Friday 13 December 2019 2:37 pm

Watchdog probes Viagogo's $4bn Stubhub buyout on competition grounds

Regulators will investigate whether secondary ticketing site Viagogo’s buyout of rival Stubhub will lessen competition in the market, it was announced this morning.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is looking into whether to open a phase one inquiry into the $4bn (£3.1bn) transaction.

Read more: Ebay to sell Stubhub to Viagogo for $4bn

Stubhub, previously owned by Ebay, was founded by Viagogo boss Eric Baker before he sold it to the online retail giant in 2007.

But the CMA’s decision to look into the acquisition is Baker’s latest brush with the watchdog, after it asked Viagogo to improve the information it provided about tickets. 

That came amid concerns that secondary ticketing sites were ripping customers off, selling tickets at vastly inflated prices to their original face value.

In May 2018, the then Digital Minister Margot James said that if fans had to use a secondary site to buy tickets, “don’t choose Viagogo – they are the worst”.

In July Google suspended the company from advertising on its exchange after receiving complaints from the Football Association, trade body UK Music and MPs. It has now been reinstated.

Stubhub has a bigger presence in the US than Viagogo, which is better known in the UK and other parts of the world.

The CMA has invited involved parties to comment, and they have until 10 January to do so.

Read more: Ebay chief executive steps down

It said it is “considering whether it is or may be the case that this transaction, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002”. 

“And, if so, whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services,” it added.

A Viagogo spokesperson said: “It’s customary for regulators to review acquisitions of this size. We will work collaboratively with the CMA to address any of the enquiries.”