Now Google Ads gets enmeshed in Viagogo and StubHub legal grief

A French court has made what could be a momentous ruling involving the paid-for relationship that links Google and secondary ticket-market behemoths Viagogo and StubHub which often sell tickets in breach of an event’s explicit ticketing terms and conditions.

The ruling forbids Google from selling keywords to advertisers, including Viagogo and StubHub, when they are offering for resale tickets without the promoter’s permission.

The action was brought by French live music association Prodiss, who named Google France and Google Ireland (where Google’s European headquarters are located) in their court action. The Judicial Court of Paris found Google liable for reputational damage to live entertainment professionals, noting that by accepting advertising from ticket resale sites, it may have given fans the false impression that rightsholders benefit from inflated secondary-market prices.

Of even greater significance perhaps was the Tribunal judiciaire additionally declaring that Google had ‘undeniably participated’ in facilitating unlawful resale ‘with full knowledge of the facts’.

Prodiss brought the lawsuit after noticing advertisements for tickets to shows by Rammstein, Drake and Metallica on sites including, and at, or near, the top of Google’s search results. In France, it is illegal to sell tickets without authorisation from the event organiser.

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From the date of the ruling, October 15, Google was given one month to act on the ruling, which will apply to all live shows taking place in France, including ticket retailers based elsewhere but selling tickets for French shows.

The judgement prohibits Google Ireland, which operates Google Ads (formerly AdWords), from allowing the purchase of advertising keywords relating to the sale of tickets for shows in France, unless the purchaser can prove that they have written authorisation from the rightsholder.

It also ordered Google to pay Prodiss €40,000 for in damages and an additional €20,000 under article 700 of the code of civil procedure (CPC).

In November last year, Google began accepting advertising from Viagogo once more after having previously banned the site from its AdWords platform.

The court action is another chapter in the annus horribilis for Viagogo who closed on their USD4 billion-plus purchase of rivals StubHub just weeks before the impact of the coronavirus on the live event industry became clear, as we have charted in previous DAIMANI Journal articles.  

A previous ban by Google on paid ads from Viagogo had a dramatic effect. According to the industry bible, TheTicketing

‘The ban had a major impact on Viagogo, with reports claiming global site visits fell by around two-thirds from 15.3m in June – before the ban came into effect – to just 4.5m in August. In the UK, visits fell by 80 per cent to just 820,000 in August.’

Although France is a smaller market than the UK by both event size and frequency, the fact that such a prominent country within the European Union has apparently besmirched Google’s reputation by linking the tech giant to the actions of Viagago and StubHub suggests other trade bodies may also decide to attack the secondary platforms through the same paid-for relationship.

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Charlie Charters is a former rugby union official and sports marketing executive turned thriller writer whose debut book Bolt Action was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2010.
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