Ticket resale site Viagogo may be forced to sell part or all of StubHub after the competition watchdog found the £3.2 billion tie-up could lead to higher fees for fans and lower quality services.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said its in-depth inquiry has provisionally concluded Viagogo’s takeover of StubHub could see a “substantial lessening of competition” in the sector.
The CMA said the firms are the only two main companies in the UK’s secondary ticketing market, with a combined market share of more than 90%.
It has set out potential options for the firms to address the concerns, including requiring Viagogo to sell all or part of StubHub.
Viagogo completed its takeover of StubHub in February this year, with the CMA launching its so-called phase two inquiry in June after initial concerns were raised.
In reaching its provisional conclusion, the CMA said it is concerned the merger could lead to increased fees for customers, including fans, who resell or buy secondary tickets to live events.
The deal could also reduce innovation in the sector, according to the CMA.
It said it is mindful of the impact of the pandemic on the live events industry, but added Viagogo and StubHub will remain “important competitors” without joining forces.
Stuart McIntosh, chairman of the CMA inquiry group, said: “The evidence we’ve seen so far consistently points in the same direction – that Viagogo and StubHub have a market share of more than 90% combined and compete closely with each other.
“We are therefore concerned that their merger could lead to secondary ticketing customers facing higher fees and lower quality services.
“We’re now inviting comments on our provisional findings and possible remedies.”
The CMA said a full sale of StubHub would address all its concerns and a partial sale would have to involve “at least the assets and operations of either StubHub or Viagogo that cover the relevant market – the supply of uncapped secondary ticketing platform services for the resale of tickets to UK events”.
It has set a deadline for views on the possible remedies of November 5, and November 12 for the wider provisional findings.
Viagogo said it disagreed that the deal will harm competition in the sector, but will work with the CMA to allay its fears.
A spokesman for the group said: “Our intention remains to provide event goers in the UK with the best possible service, and whilst we disagree with the provisional conclusion that the deal would reduce competition, we look forward to working with the CMA to deliver a comprehensive solution which addresses their concerns.”