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‘They got Capone on taxes’: RoI probes touting

Irish MPs yesterday debated ticket resale regulation, with those wanting immediate action struggling to convince the jobs minister, who favours a public consultation

By Jon Chapple on 25 Jan 2017

Mary Mitchell O'Connnor, Dáil Éireann, Oireachtas, 24 January 2017

O'Connor in the Dáil yesterday


image © Oireachtas

MPs in the Republic of Ireland yesterday spoke of the need for immediate regulation of the secondary ticketing market, following the launch of a public consultation by government ministers “in response to public concern at the resale of tickets for major entertainment and sporting events at a price often well in excess of their face value”.

The consultation, drafted by jobs and enterprise minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, transport minister Shane Ross and minister of state Patrick O’Donovan, invites the views of “interested parties” – including consumers, artists and managers, promoters and primary and secondary ticketers – on “possible measures aimed at securing fairer access to tickets for consumers”.

However, several members of parliament, known locally as teachtaí dála (TD), questioned the need for a public consultation given the existence of similar investigations in other countries. Noel Rock – who last week announced he had drafted a piece of legislation, the Prohibition of Above-Cost Ticket Touting Bill 2016, which would criminalise the resale of tickets for more than face value – said in a debate in the Republic’s lower house, the Dáil Éireann, that “given the plurality of comprehensive reports that are available, and in light of the [fact] that these problems are fundamentally the same from country to country, it seems that the launch of a new consultation process is perhaps not necessary”.

Rock cited the Waterson report in the UK, described as “substantial and comprehensive”, and praised Belgium’s “recently introduced legislation on this matter” – resulting in the blocking of several secondary ticketing sites – “which was very effective”.

Stephen Donnelly TD said he “agree[s] with Deputy Rock with regards to consultation”. “I am not entirely sure that a lengthy period of consultation is required,” he told the Dáil. “What are the timelines for the consultation process? When will we be able to debate the findings on the floor of the house? What can be done by the government in the short term? We all know that consultation processes and follow-up legislative processes can take time. […]

“I would like the minister [O’Connor] to give us her thoughts on what she and her government colleagues can do now to send these companies a clear message in the short term that this sort of behaviour needs to stop.”

“Expert reviews on this issue in a number of countries have concluded that legislative regulation is unlikely to be effective. We cannot ignore these considerations in the clamour for action”

O’Connor, however, was unmoved, saying the issue must be subject to consultation to ensure any future legislation “will be effective”. She told the TDs: “I understand the reasons they and the public are anxious to see action on this issue, [but] if legislation is to be introduced to regulate ticket resale an established procedure must be followed. This includes the preparation of a regulatory impact analysis. In Ireland, as in other countries, public consultation is an integral part of the impact analysis process. It is relatively easy to enact legislation, but it is more difficult to ensure that legislation will be effective.

“Anyone who takes the time to read the consultation paper will see that the issues around ticket resale are neither simple not straightforward, as the Deputies have mentioned. The organisation of major events, and the sale or resale of tickets to those events, involves a number of parties with different interests. The record of legislative efforts to regulate ticket resale in other countries is mixed at best. Expert reviews on this issue in a number of countries, including the UK, have concluded that legislative regulation is not warranted or is unlikely to be effective. We cannot ignore these considerations in the clamour for action. My aim is to ensure whatever action is ultimately taken will make a material contribution to ensuring fairer access to tickets for consumers.”

She also suggested alternative courses of action, such as requiring promoters to offer a return service for unwanted tickets, “greater cooperation” from resale sites on rooting out fraudulent sellers and – somewhat missing the point – a “greater readiness on the part of ticket buyers to resell tickets at face value”.

Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae, meanwhile – who shares Rock and Donnelly’s view that “people in Ireland are being exploited in the worst form when it comes to ticket touting” – presented a novel temporary solution pending the outcome of the consultation: going after touts for tax evasion.

“When the US authorities were unable to get Al Capone for murder, they got him for taxes,” he said. “Are those who are involved on a professional basis, or otherwise, in ticket touting in Ireland paying tax on their exorbitant profits? The U2 tickets that sold out in six minutes were being sold for more than €1,000 afterwards. Will those involved pay tax on their exorbitant profits?

“Everybody else in the country has to pay tax. […] I suggest that if we cannot get them in one way, we might be able to get them in another way.”

 


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