I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Private Member's Bill and I commend Deputies Rock and Donnelly on introducing it. I acknowledge the work done by Deputy Quinlivan, who has been a strong advocate for measures to tackle ticket touting.
There is no doubt about the public concern and anger that exists about the resale of tickets at inflated prices. Music or sports fans who are unable to get tickets for a concert or match that they want to attend understandably feel annoyed when they see tickets for sale on secondary websites at a multiple of the face value price. Their annoyance is all the greater when tickets are on offer on secondary websites at the very start of a general ticket sale or even before it in some cases. Disappointed fans naturally want to know how this can happen and what can be done to tackle it. I fully share the concerns of Deputies and the public on the issue. In July, I secured Government approval for taking the Second and later Stages of the Bill in Government time and for the drafting of amendments. The Bill’s Second Reading this evening is being taken in Government time.
In December, my Department submitted a number of amendments to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and my officials are currently engaging with the Parliamentary Counsel on these. My predecessor, the then Minister, Deputy Mitchell O’Connor, launched a public consultation on ticket resale in 2017, along with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Minister of State with responsibility for tourism and sport. They took this step because it was clear to them that, despite the amount of commentary on the issue, there was a lack of reliable information on many aspects of ticket resale, including the extent to which it was happening, the sources of the tickets that end up for resale on the secondary market and the prices achieved as opposed to advertised for tickets sold on that market. The responses to the public consultation and the subsequent discussions with stakeholders showed widespread, although not universal, support for legislation such as that before the House.
A statutory ban on the resale of tickets above their face value was backed by two of the three main sporting bodies, namely the GAA and the FAI; the two main event promoters, namely Aiken Promotions and MCD; the Consumers Association of Ireland; and a number of public representatives and consumers. Many leading artists and entertainers have also expressed their disapproval of the secondary ticket market. Opposition to a statutory cap on ticket resale prices came mainly from primary ticketing services providers and secondary ticket platforms. In a significant development, however, Ticketmaster announced in August 2018 that it was closing its secondary resale websites, Seatwave and Get Me In!, and would launch a fan-to-fan ticket exchange in which tickets will be able to be resold for no more than their original price. While commercial considerations no doubt played a part in this decision, it was evidence of the growing hostility to the secondary ticket market from fans, sporting bodies, promoters and entertainers. In its statement Ticketmaster indicated that its fan exchange would be launched in Ireland and the UK in October 2018. While the fan exchange appears to be up and running in the UK, it has yet to commence here. I hope there will be no further delay in its roll-out as it will be important, particularly after the enactment of this Bill, that people with unwanted tickets have secure and readily accessible platforms on which they can offer tickets for sale at face value or below.
While figures can vary from year to year, the number of entertainment events that give rise to a level of resale is typically in the region of 50 per year. It is often when major acts are performing that the problem is most acute. We have seen examples of this in recent years, with tickets for acts such as U2, Britney Spears and the Spice Girls sold online for vastly inflated prices. Similarly, the sporting events that generally give rise to a significant level of resale tend to be the more high-profile fixtures and events. For example, I am aware that tickets were available online this week for the Ireland-England rugby match for thousands of euro. We have seen similar experiences in the past for all-Ireland finals and semi-finals and for high-profile games involving the Irish soccer team. In this regard I welcome the decision by the GAA last year to cancel tickets for the all-Ireland hurling and football finals which were found to have been sold online above face value. Of course, there will always be issues of supply and demand. Croke Park can only hold 82,000 people, so if 90,000 people want to go there, there will always be disappointment for those who miss out. I believe this Bill will help to ensure that genuine fans are given the greatest chance possible to get tickets to see their teams play. It should never be the case that tickets simply go to those who have the deepest pockets.
I am confident that legislation along the lines proposed in the Bill will reduce the level of above-face-value resale. I await advice from the Office of the Attorney General as to whether the Bill and the proposed amendments will need to be notified to the European Commission under Directive 2015/1535 on the procedure for the provision of information relating to technical regulations and the rules for information society services. Officials of my Department and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel are working on amendments to the Bill. The proposed amendments will be moved on Committee or Report Stage.
As I have indicated previously, one of the amendments will deal with the use of bot software to get around limits on the number of tickets that can be purchased by a single buyer. I propose to prohibit the use of bots for this purpose as well as to prohibit the sale of tickets obtained through the use of bots. Action on this issue was one of the few measures on which there was support from all sides in responses to the public consultation. People seeking to profiteer from the resale of tickets should not be permitted to use unfair means to acquire large numbers of tickets.
I propose also to table an amendment prohibiting the unauthorised sale of tickets for the Euro 2020 football tournament. A commitment to introduce such a provision was given to UEFA as part of the bid for the staging of a number of matches here during the tournament. I will propose a number of other changes aimed at enhancing the effectiveness and enforcement of the Bill.
While the Bill currently applies to specified events with an expected attendance of over 300, I favour its application to designated venues with a capacity of 1,000 or over. Applying the legislation to known designated venues rather than on an event-by-event basis would facilitate its enforcement. A capacity threshold of 1,000 would also capture virtually all the venues where events are likely to give rise to ticket resale.
I am happy to hear the views of Deputies on other possible changes to the Bill. I thank Deputies Rock and Donnelly for initiating this important and worthwhile Bill. The fact that Second Stage is being taken in Government time shows the strong commitment on the part of Government to support the Bill. I thank the officials in my Department, who have put a huge amount of work into putting together the Bill. I look forward to hearing all the contributions and I hope we can have cross-party support to ensure we get the Bill enacted as soon as possible in order that genuine fans are protected.