Google has suspended the secondary ticketing company Viagogo from its paid-for search results, globally and with immediate effect, a potentially huge blow to the website???s ability to do business.
The search engine???s surprise decision, which was welcomed by campaign groups and MPs including the digital minister, Margot James, comes with Viagogo also facing legal action from the Competition and Markets Authority.
Google said it had found Viagogo in breach of its advertising policy and would begin removing its ads on Wednesday.
The Swiss-based website???s listings have previously appeared at the very top of the page when consumers search for tickets, even for gigs by artists who have condemned the website, such as Ed Sheeran. Campaigners say this has led to buyers assuming the site is authorised by their favourite acts to sell tickets.
It has plummeted down the search results after Google???s decision and sits among smaller rivals which have not paid to appear above standard search rankings ??? and well below its main rival, StubHub, whose ads are still being accepted.
???When people use our platform for help in purchasing tickets, we want to make sure that they have an experience they can trust,??? said a Google spokesperson. ???This is why we have strict policies and take necessary action when we find an advertiser in breach.???
James said: ???Viagogo have routinely flouted the rules, and I???m pleased to see Google taking proactive steps to protect consumers.???
Viagogo has come under fire for practices such as ???profiteering??? from charity concerts, selling tickets whose buyers might be denied entry and colluding with professional touts accused of exploiting fans.
An undercover investigation by the Guardian last year found that the company had resold tickets for football matches in England, bypassing laws designed to improve safety.
The CMA is seeking to have the company found in contempt of court for allegedly ignoring repeated warnings to comply with consumer law.
Google was urged to stop accepting money from Viagogo in an open letter signed by the Football Association, several MPs and the trade body UK Music last year.
The letter said that Viagogo???s prominence in search results, via the search engine???s paid service Google Ads, was luring consumers into buying sports, music and theatre tickets that may be invalid.
Google???s decision to stop taking Viagogo???s money is thought to have been influenced by action being taken against the company by multiple regulators worldwide, including the CMA.
A spokesperson for Viagogo said: ???We were extremely surprised to learn of Google???s concerns today. We are confident that there has been no breach of Google???s policies and look forward to working with them to resolve this as quickly as possible.???
FanFair Alliance, a music industry group backed by artists including Iron Maiden, Adele, Nick Cave and the Arctic Monkeys, has led the campaign to have Viagogo ads removed from Google.
The organisation???s campaign manager, Adam Webb, said: ???This is a landmark moment, and a major step forward to preventing exploitation of audiences in the secondary ticketing market.
???After publishing extensive research highlighting the impacts of Viagogo???s misleading search advertising, FanFair Alliance has been in constructive conversations with Google for over two years in an attempt to address this issue.???
The group called on other platforms such as Facebook to follow Google???s example.
Claire Turnham, awarded an MBE for her work in securing refunds for consumers who bought tickets from Viagogo, said she was ???ecstatic???.
???Given almost every victim of Viagogo across the UK and beyond comes via Google we are thrilled they have taken this definitive action to protect the public from ticket abuse worldwide.???
The Labour MP Sharon Hodgson said: ???A well-respected brand such as Google should have done this a long time ago. But I am now pleased that this step has been taken, which will protect consumers and fans.???