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Secondary ticketing: Ireland set for ban, Viagogo fined

The Republic of Ireland’s long and convoluted journey towards outlawing above-face-value ticket resale looks finally to be near an end, after the Irish government gave its backing to a new bill brought by the deputy prime minister, Leo Varadkar.

The Sale of Tickets (Cultural, Entertainment, Recreational and Sporting Events) Bill 2020, sponsored by former PM Varadkar (now the tánaiste and minister for enterprise), criminalises the resale of most tickets to live events, including concerts, and sports matches for profit.

Those found guilty of reselling tickets for a price above their original face value face a fine up to €100,000, or up to two years’ imprisonment.

The provisions of the bill apply to all events held at “designated venues” with a capacity exceeding 1,000 (excluding amateur sports clubs and registered charities). Venues may apply for designation to Varadkar and his successors, and the minister may also designate venues under 1,000 capacity if they are “of the opinion that the venue will hold one or more events which may give rise to the sale of tickets for a price exceeding the original sale price, and that the designation of the venue would be in the public interest.”

“This is about making sure people aren’t getting ripped off once live events get up and running again”

The new bill began life as a private members’ bill brought by MPs Noel Rock and Stephen Donnelly in 2017, which won the backing of the previous Irish government in 2018.

In a series of tweets, Rock says although it “took a lot of pushing” to get the bill to where it is now, he is “proud to have made a difference”:

The Sale of Tickets bill has been designated a priority piece of legislation for the current term of the Dáil Éireann (the Republic’s lower house of parliament), and is expected to be passed this year.

“Touts and reselling websites ruin gigs and matches for everyone, making it harder to get a ticket in the first place and driving up prices,” comments Varadkar. “This is about making sure people aren’t getting ripped off once live events, matches and concerts get up and running again, especially considering numbers are likely to be restricted to begin with.”

“Viagogo’s business practices were unacceptable”

“This legislation is also hopeful,” he adds. “We’re planning for the time when we can go to gigs, festivals and matches again.”

In other secondary ticketing news, Viagogo, the controversial Swiss-headquartered ticket resale giant, has been fined A$7 million in Australia after being found guilty of masquerading as an ‘official’ ticket seller, as well as making false claims about ticket prices and scarcity.

“Viagogo’s business practices were unacceptable,” says Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims. “Viagogo misled thousands of consumers into buying tickets at inflated prices when they created a false sense of urgency by suggesting tickets were scarce and when they advertised tickets at a lower price by not including unavoidable fees.”

The fine comes as Eric Baker, Viagogo’s founder and CEO – who oversaw the acquisition of rival StubHub for over US$4 billion, which is now facing regulatory scrutiny in the UK – treats himself to a new $39m house in Beverley Hills, Los Angeles.

 


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Senator: Reverse tout ban to save Irish jobs

A member of Ireland’s upper house has urged the Republic’s business minister, Heather Humphreys, to abandon plans for a ban on the resale of tickets above face value, saying it would put hundreds of jobs at risk.

Maria Byrne, a Fine Gael senator from Limerick, has called on Humphrey’s to rethink the government’s support for the bill, which she says could force controversial resale site Viagogo – a major employer in Limerick – out of the county.

Byrne (pictured) tells the Irish Independent she could oppose the passage of the Prohibition of Above-Cost Ticket Touting Bill when it comes before the Senate.

“Viagogo, whose European HQ is based in [Limerick suburb] Castletroy, is an online ticket marketplace for ticket resale and is a massive employer in Limerick, with 150 employees currently on its books [and] plans to grow its staff to around 250,” she comments.

“Viagogo is a massive employer in Limerick”

“I was alarmed to learn that ticket resale sites like the Ticketmaster company Seatwave closed down in Belgium when it introduced similar legislation.”

Noel Rock, the MP who introduced the bill in January 2017, says the legislation is in the national interest.

“The reality is that the majority of the public do not want to see politicians cave into lobbyists’ demands on this one, and would prefer to see matchgoers and concertgoers properly protected, rather than propping up the companies that facilitate this gouging of punters.

“The cabinet have accepted this, and we hope to be in a position to legislate in the months ahead.”

 


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Ireland set to ban above-face value ticket touting

As predicted in February, the Irish government has given its backing to the Prohibition of Above-Cost Ticket Touting Bill, paving the way for a ban on the resale of tickets for over face value in the Republic of Ireland.

The bill – in full An act to render it unlawful for any person to sell or offer for sale tickets for major sporting, musical or theatrical events for a price in excess of the officially designated price – was introduced by Irish MPs Noel Rock and Stephen Donnelly in January 2017, leading to a public consultation on secondary ticketing.

The consultation, which wrapped up last May, garnered responses from promoter Aiken Promotions; consumer groups ECC Ireland and the Consumers’ Association of Ireland; sports governing bodies GAA, FAI and IRFU; primary ticket agencies Ticketmaster Ireland and Tickets.ie; and several secondary sites, including StubHub, Seatwave and Viagogo.

Both the primary and secondary ticket agencies that responded were opposed to further regulation, with Ticketmaster saying the bill would “simply push the market underground or offshore”.

Despite the ticketing companies’ misgivings, Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s minister for business, enterprise and regulation, has announced the government’s support for the bill, which would outlaw the above-face value resale of sports and entertainment tickets in certain designated venues with a capacity of 1,000 or over, as well as banning the use of ticket bots.

“It’s wrong that people who make no contribution to sport or music can profit from the resale of tickets”

Humphreys (pictured) expects “most venues with a capacity of 1,000 or over” to apply for designation, “given the broad support for measures to counter ticket profiteering from sporting bodies, promoters and artists”, although her department will have reserve power to designate venues “where this would be in the interest of consumers”.

The ban will not apply to tickets sold by charities and sports bodies/teams for fundraising purposes.

“It’s wrong that people who make no contribution to sport or music [touts] can profit from the resale of tickets for sell-out matches and shows,” comments Humphreys. “In doing so, they deprive genuine fans of the opportunity to attend these events, and the time has come to put a stop to it.

“I am confident that this bill will have the support of the main sporting bodies, of many artists and promoters in the entertainment industry and of music and sports fans right across the country. ”

Adds Donnelly: “For too long, genuine music and sports fans have been ripped off by organised ticket touting. While there has always been some low-level touting, the move to online sales and bots has brought ticket touting to an industrial scale. Recent assertions to a Westminster committee link some of this to organised crime, based partly in Ireland.

“It’s now my ambition that we see other nations across Europe replicating this bill”

“Time and time again, fans are being told that all tickets are sold out on the primary sales website, while almost immediately being able to buy those same tickets at much higher prices on other websites. Fans suffer, as do artists and sporting bodies.

“This legislation is a strong move to protect fans, artists and sporting bodies, and I very much look forward to getting it through the Oireachtas [parliament] and into law as quickly as possible.”

“With this legislation accepted by cabinet, Ireland is set to take the lead in effectively banning ticket touting, subject to the approval of the Dáil [house of commons],” says Rock. “The legislation proposed is ambitious and sensible; it ensures an effective ban on ticket touting and also a ban on bots from snapping up tickets. I have no doubt that for sports and music fans, this legislation will be a game-changer.

“It’s now my ambition that, should this bill be passed by the Dáil and become law in Ireland, we see other nations across Europe replicating it.”

 


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Ireland ‘set to outlaw for-profit ticket resale’

The government of the Republic of Ireland is reportedly set to give its backing to legislation outlawing the resale of tickets above face value.

MPs Noel Rock and Stephen Donnelly are to meet with officials from the department of business this week, following the end of a review of the Irish ticketing sector, the Examiner reports, with government expected to give its backing to anti-ticket touting legislation. Rock and Donnelly introduced the Prohibition of Above-Cost Ticket Touting Bill in January 2017, sparking a public consultation on secondary ticketing.

The consultation, which wrapped up last May, garnered responses from promoter Aiken Promotions; consumer groups ECC Ireland and the Consumers’ Association of Ireland; sports governing bodies GAA, FAI and IRFU; primary ticket agencies Ticketmaster Ireland and Tickets.ie; and several secondary sites, including StubHub, Seatwave and Viagogo. Both the primary and secondary ticket agencies that responded were opposed to further regulation.

Now, according to the Irish Examiner, Donnelly (pictured) and Rock will jointly present a private members’ bill that would outlaw the above-face value reselling of tickets, which will then be accepted by the Irish government.

“This will change mindsets,” Donnelly tells the paper. “Anyone trying to sell at an inflated price will be breaking the law. It will be a culture change.”

 


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Irish biz divided on secondary ticket regulation

Concert promoters, ticket agents, lawyers and sporting organisations are divided as to the need for regulation of secondary ticketing in the Republic of Ireland, as MPs debated a new bill aimed at capping resale prices at 10% above face value.

Maurice Quinlivan, the TD (teachta dála) for Limerick City, yesterday evening presented his Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017, which would make it an offence to “sell or offer for sale a ticket for a designated event at a price greater than 10% above the face value of the ticket”, for its second reading in the lower house of Irish parliament, the Dáil Éireann. Quinlivan’s bill follows a similar piece of proposed legislation by Noel Rock TD, which was rejected by the Dáil in January in favour of a period of consultation with leading Irish music industry stakeholders.

While Quinlivan’s bill won some support, mostly from his own Sinn Fein party – Sinn Fein TD Sean Crowe spoke of the need to “tackle the ticket rip-off chancers”, while Martin Kenny TD suggested that “everyone agrees there is a major problem here” – an amendment by government minister Sean Kyne delayed the process of the bill by nine months to allow for further scrutiny.

Quinlivan this morning criticised “the government’s 11th-hour attempt to kick this legislation down the road for nine months”, claiming the bill was sabotaged by an allegedly bitter Rock.

“It has become clear that Noel Rock TD – who drafted a similar, but flawed, bill on the issue which has not moved from first stage – was upset with the decision that the government was to facilitate this Sinn Fein bill to address ticket touting,” he said, “and so an amendment was aimed at appeasing him and delaying the progress of my bill.

“It’s worth noting that Deputy Rock has gone out of his way to try and discredit the legislation over the past couple of days in the media, yet he made no personal contribution to the debate on the matter last night.”

“Where artists want to limit or mitigate resale, we provide comprehensive tools to achieve that”

The latest round of parliamentary debate comes after the conclusion of a public consultation on ticket touting by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Those who responded included promoter Aiken Promotions; consumer groups ECC Ireland and the Consumers’ Association of Ireland; sports governing bodies GAA, FAI and IRFU; primary ticket agencies Ticketmaster Ireland and Tickets.ie; and several secondary sites, including StubHub, Seatwave and Viagogo.

Aiken Promotions MD Peter Aiken proved the most vocal in his support for new regulation, stating he “would like to see the resale of tickets by third parties criminalised”. “This,” he said, “would give the public the opportunity to purchase a ticket on a fair and equal footing for all.”

That view, predictably, is not one shared by Ticketmaster (which owns Seatwave) or the secondary ticketing sites. In its submission, Ticketmaster criticised the “media frenzy around ticket resale”, which has, it said, “only served to confuse the public and sensationalise the issue. Our data shows that less than 1% of the tickets that Ticketmaster Ireland sells on behalf of its clients are subsequently resold – a vastly different story to what is told in the Irish press.”

The answer, said Ticketmaster, lies not in legislation – which would “simply push the market underground or offshore” – but “in technology, and where artists want to limit or mitigate resale, we provide comprehensive tools to achieve that.” (Recent examples include Iron Maiden’s use of paperless and named tickets and its Verified Fan tech, as deployed for Linkin Park’s One More Light tour.)

Aiken’s position is backed by both the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), which says it “would be helpful for legislation […] to combat the sale of tickets by persons who purchase tickets with no intention of ever attending the event, but who resell the tickets at a significant profit”, and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), which states “touting in its various forms should be classified as a criminal activity”.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), declined to pick a side but said it would “welcome the opportunity to enter into a further comprehensive consultation process”.

Despite its recent hiring of 20 people to battle ticket bots, Tickets.ie said the “presence of a secondary market is not detrimental in our view” – although it took a swipe at Ticketmaster by stating its belief that “the transparency of that market is a concern, […] and the vertically integrated nature of the largest promoter with the largest primary ticket agent, the largest secondary ticket agent and the largest venue owner does create an environment in which the smaller promoters and the consumer can be taken advantage of.”

“We would like to see the resale of tickets by third parties criminalised”

“We believe that the best means to protect the consumer is to properly enforce the existing consumer protection and competition laws,” said Tickets.ie CEO John O’Neill, “as opposed to the introduction of new legislation that will have limited impact in practice, be difficult to enforce and will ultimately raise costs for consumers and potentially reduce the number of live events in Ireland.”

Meanwhile, Tixserve – the mobile white-label ticketing platform launched at Omeara in February – said “the jury is out” on the effectiveness of legislation, instead highlighting the importance of ‘track and trace’ paperless technology to combat illicit electronic ticket sale.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation, says her department will now consider the responses before deciding on its position “on a complex issue with a number of different dimensions”.

“I would like to thank the individuals, sporting organisations, promoters, primary and secondary ticketing service providers and others who took the time and trouble to respond to the consultation,” she comments. “Their responses contain a considerable amount of interesting and informative material about the organisation of major entertainment and sporting events and the operation of the primary and secondary markets for such events. They cover a range of different views on the matters at issue and put forward a range of different, and in some cases, conflicting solutions as to what might be done to help ensure that ticket markets would work better for music and sports fans in the future.

“I would encourage everyone with an interest in the issue to read and reflect on the responses to the consultation. Before decisions are taken on a complex issue with a number of different dimensions, it is important that we have the fullest possible understanding of the issues and interests at stake and the widest possible debate on the policy measures that should be adopted.”

 


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‘They got Capone on taxes’: RoI probes touting

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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Irish MP introduces anti-touting bill

Two months after the passing of a landmark piece of legislation criminalising ticket touting in Italy, an MP has introduced a similar bill – the Prohibition of Above-Cost Ticket Touting Bill 2016 – for consideration by the Oireachtas, the parliament of the Republic of Ireland.

The draft legislation, presented yesterday to the Oireachtas bills office by Noel Rock, the Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin North-West, would, if passed, “render it unlawful for any unauthorised person to sell or offer for sale tickets for major sporting, musical or theatrical events for a price in excess of the officially designated price [face value]”.

The bill has won the backing of Wicklow and East Carlow TD Stephen Donnelly, who has separately contacted the Competition and Consumer Protection to ask for an “investigation into potentially illegal activity” by ticket touts.

The move to outlaw for-profit ticket resale comes amid controversy in Ireland over tickets for U2’s show at Dublin’s Croke Park next summer, which sold out in under six minutes and, inevitably, appeared on secondary sites shortly after.

“The government has to act swiftly to outlaw the reselling of tickets over face value”

“I have been inundated with people contacting me regarding examples of ticket touting following the sale of U2 concert tickets,” says Rock. “This will be one of the biggest concerts of the year and consumers are now being asked to pay a large figure – well over face value – to attend. It’s just not fair on true fans who couldn’t obtain a ticket…

“The government now has to act swiftly to outlaw the reselling of tickets over face value.”

Promoter Live Nation Global Touring announced this morning the U2 tour in question, The Joshua Tree Tour 2017, sold more than 1.1 million tickets in 24 hours, with sold-out dates across North America, Britain and continental Europe, including the tour’s entire European stadium run.

 


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