Prohibition of Above-cost Ticket Touting Bill 2017: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled 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.

I propose to share my time with Deputy Stephen Donnelly. I welcome the opportunity to co-propose this Bill to the House alongside Deputy Donnelly who has worked with me on it. I understand from some of the longer serving journalists and other people around the House that it is a little unusual for people to co-propose a Private Members' Bill, particularly so when there is a member of a party and an Independent member involved. Perhaps this epitomises new politics in a positive way.

I would like to outline the potential solution proposed in this Bill and how it will impact on people. The nature of the problem is straightforward and easy to understand. For too long now, music and sports fans have been gouged, effectively paying multiples of face value for tickets to both music and sports events. A small cottage industry has developed around this issue and this industry has become more automated, industrialised and more formalised than ever before, with the result that normally the primary seller would perhaps regulate but in this instance it appears that the primary seller, the well known entity, Ticketmaster, is also a controlling stakeholder in one of the largest secondary selling entities, Seatwave. It is clear there is a potential conflict of interest arising, including the potential for the primary ticket seller not to regulate in the best interests of the consumer, as it would usually do in a normally functioning market. Deputy Donnelly will outline how the market is not functioning in an effective way. It is, therefore, felt that Government regulation is necessitated because the market is not functioning in a normal way for sports or music fans.

The Bill is based on the Belgian model which sought to outlaw the above-cost selling of tickets. In other words, it seeks to outlaw ticket selling at above-cost face value plus a small service fee. This provision was implemented in Belgium, which is a fellow EU member state, and as such it is compatible with all relevant EU laws on competition and consumer protection. It is clear that it has had a very positive halo effect within Belgium and the ticket selling industry in Belgium. This is a positive move for consumer protection and competition. I pay tribute to Deputies Naughten, Shatter and Ring who have all previously proposed similar legislation over the last two decades. I believe now is the time to take action on this issue. I also believe this is one of the most symbolic examples of what is called "nominative determinism", which means that a person's surname reflects the work he or she is doing, which in my case, my surname being "Rock", speaking on behalf of music fans in the country, is most fitting.

I regret I cannot claim any nominative determinism in terms of my surname.

There are many good ballad singers with the surname "Donnelly".

I thank Deputy Rock for his work on this Bill. It seeks to address an issue in what is a complicated market in respect of which some very serious comments were made recently in the House of Commons, including allegations of complicity by re-sellers working with organised touts who are breaking the law and very serious allegations about links between profits being made in this industry and Dublin-based paramilitaries and armed organisations in Israel. As such, we need to take this issue very seriously.

The power of the Bill is in its simplicity in that what it essentially provides is that in most cases a ticket must be resold at the original cost. In other words, a person is not permitted to purchase 20, 100 or 1,000 tickets at a cost of €80 each and then re-sell them to fans at a cost of €1,000 each. My understanding is that the Government is supportive of the direction of the Bill but that there are technical issues that will need to be addressed on Second and Committee Stages, including re-sellers moving out of this jurisdiction and how that can be addressed. However, this Bill will send out the very clear signal that it will be illegal for anyone to engage, in an organised way, in the block-buying of tickets for music or sports events and to re-sell them with a profiteering motive. I look forward to the Bill's passage through the House.

I draw the attention of the Taoiseach and the Government Chief Whip, Deputy Regina Doherty, that while ticket touting relative to some of the issues discussed in this Parliament in the last few weeks and to be discussed today is a niche issue, having heard the testimony from the UK House of Commons that the profits from this are being linked to Dublin-based to paramilitaries I would ask that this Bill be given a higher level of consideration by the Business Committee than it would otherwise be given. I again thank Deputy Rock for his work on this Bill.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.