I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
This legislation bans ticket touting and the reselling of tickets for large events above face value. It will promote fair access for fans to cultural, entertainment, recreational and sporting events. We all look forward to a time when we will be able to attend a show, a concert or a match again. While no events are being held at present due to Covid-19, we need to prepare for what could be a high demand for tickets for events once reopening becomes possible. We do not want to see fans taken advantage of due to a limitation on attendance numbers. We are all too familiar from past experience with fans waiting patiently to buy tickets at 9 a.m. only to be disappointed to see those same tickets minutes later on a secondary website for far more than they can afford. This is not pricing dictated by artists, sportsmen or sportswomen or events organisers.
It is being dictated by the systematic purchasing of tickets by touts and secondary resellers, seeking to make a profit without doing any real work. A public consultation on ticket resale in 2017 and subsequent discussions with stakeholders showed widespread, although not universal, support for legislation along the lines contained in this Bill. A statutory ban on the resale of tickets above their face value was supported by two of the three main sporting bodies, the GAA and the FAI, and the two main event promoters in the country, Aiken Promotions and MCD Live Nation, the Consumers Association of Ireland as well as many public representatives and consumers. As has been seen in the press, many leading artists and entertainers have also expressed their disapproval of the secondary ticket market, made much worse now that it has gone digital. Opposition to a price cap at the time came mainly from primary ticket service providers and secondary ticket platforms.
At that time, one of the largest primary sellers was also in the market of resale. However, in 2018, Ticketmaster announced 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 could be resold for no more than their original price. The fan exchange was launched in 2019 and facilitates people who cannot attend events to transfer their tickets and recoup their costs, but not make a profit. While commercial considerations no doubt played a part in Ticketmaster’s decision, it was also a response to the growing resentment from fans, consumers, sporting bodies, promoters and entertainers to the secondary ticket market.
Members of the Oireachtas have been active on this issue for some years. In 2017, the former Deputy, Noel Rock, and the current Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, introduced a cross-party Private Members’ Bill seeking the prohibition of above-cost ticket touting, and later that year Deputy Quinlivan introduced his Bill. In 2018, the Government made the decision to support the Bill from Deputy Stephen Donnelly and the former Deputy, Noel Rock, on Second Stage and approved the drafting of some amendments to the Bill. Unfortunately, the Bill lapsed upon the dissolution of the 32nd Dáil. Although the Bill before the House differs from the previous Bill in a number of respects, it has the same objective - to see fans treated fairly. I regret that it has taken so long to bring the Government's Bill before the House, but I hope we can progress it quickly through the Houses and enact it in line with the reopening of the economy.
The Bill prohibits the sale or advertising for sale of tickets for a price exceeding the original sale price for designated events or events taking place in designated venues that have a capacity of 1,000 people or more. The Bill’s application will be limited to those events that give rise to significant demand or where it would otherwise be in the public interest to prohibit above original sale value resale. Designation will also make the task of monitoring and enforcing the legislation more effective because it will apply to either a particular individual event or a list of venues contained in a register. In line with a commitment given by the Government to UEFA, the Bill will also prohibit the unauthorised sale of tickets for matches during Euro 2020. While the matches are not now going ahead in Dublin, the undertaking given by the Government to UEFA was not restricted to matches to be held here. It is important that the Government honour commitments given to international sporting bodies as part of a bid to host major events here.
I will now turn to the 27 sections of the Bill and set out what each seeks to achieve. Sections 1 to 6, inclusive, contain the definitions of the terms that feature in the Bill along with standard provisions on commencement, expenses, regulations, the service of documents and the application of the Act. Section 2 includes clarification in the definition of venue operator which, we believe, meets two of the recommendations in the pre-legislative scrutiny report from the Oireachtas joint committee. This section also now includes a definition of ticket package in line with a further recommendation in the pre-legislative scrutiny report.
Section 7 provides that a venue operator can make a written application to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to have a venue designated if it has the capacity to hold 1,000 or more and the applicant is of the reasonable opinion that the events in the venue may give rise to the resale of tickets or ticket packages for a price exceeding their original sale price. This latter requirement meets one of the recommendations in the pre-legislative scrutiny report. The Minister may designate the venue where he or she is satisfied that the application satisfies the conditions for designation or may refuse to designate where he or she is not so satisfied. The Minister will also have a reserve power to designate venues, including those with a capacity of fewer than 1,000, subject to certain criteria.
Section 8 provides that the Minister may revoke a venue designation where he or she is no longer satisfied that the conditions for designation are met or where the venue is no longer in operation or has ceased to hold events. It further specifies the requirements for the notification by the Minister of a refusal or revocation of a designation and provides that the venue applicant or operator may make representations under section 12, and an appeal under section 13, against such a revocation or refusal, or in the case of a refusal for venue designation, may apply instead for the designation of an event under section 9.
Section 9 provides that an event organiser or venue operator may apply to the Minister to have an event designated for the purposes of the Act if, having regard to the nature of the event, the applicant is of the reasonable opinion that it may give rise to the sale of tickets by a secondary ticket seller for a price exceeding the original sale price. An application may be made for the designation of an event which takes place on an annual or other periodic basis in the same venue. The Minister may designate an event where he or she is satisfied that the application satisfies the conditions for designation or may refuse to designate an event where he or she is not so satisfied. Subject to specified conditions, the section also permits the Minister, after consultation with the event organiser or venue operator, to designate an event that has not been the subject of an application for designation.
Section 10 provides that the Minister may revoke the designation of an event where he or she is no longer satisfied that the conditions for designation are met. The section also sets out the requirements for the notification by the Minister of a refusal or revocation of a designation, and provides that the event applicant, event organiser or venue operator may make representations under section 12 and an appeal under section 13 against such a revocation or refusal.
Section 11 provides that where the Minister makes or revokes a venue or event designation, notification of the making or revocation of the designation will be published in Iris Oifigiúil and information made publicly available in other appropriate ways with specified details of the designation or revocation.
Section 12 provides that an applicant, event organiser or venue operator may make representations to the Minister within 14 days of being notified of a proposed refusal or revocation of a venue or event designation. The Minister shall have regard to any such representations in deciding whether to proceed with the refusal or revocation of a designation. The Minister must notify the venue operator or event organiser in writing of the decision and, unless an appeal is brought, the revocation will come into effect 28 days from the notification.
Section 13 provides that an appeal can be made to the District Court against the refusal or revocation of a venue or event designation or against a designation made by the Minister, where no application was made by the venue operator or event organiser.
Section 14 provides that the Minister shall establish and maintain a register of designated events and venues, and shall publish it on the Internet or in another appropriate manner.
Section 15 provides that a secondary ticket seller who sells, or advertises for sale, a ticket or ticket package for an event in a designated venue or a designated event for a price exceeding the original sale price is guilty of an offence.
Section 16 provides that a primary ticket seller shall not sell, or advertise for sale, a ticket or ticket package for an event in a designated venue or a designated event without providing information that the ticket or ticket package is for such an event and that its sale for a price exceeding the original sale price is prohibited. A primary ticket seller who sells or advertises for sale a ticket or ticket package in contravention of the section is guilty of an offence.
Section 17 provides that a secondary ticket seller shall not advertise or offer for sale on a secondary ticket marketplace a ticket or ticket package for an event in a designated venue or a designated event without providing information on the original sale price of the ticket and the location of the seat or standing area to which the ticket entitles the holder to gain admission. The section also requires the operator of a secondary ticket marketplace to ensure that a ticket or ticket package is not advertised or offered for sale on its marketplace without the secondary ticket seller providing this information. A primary ticket seller or secondary ticket operator who contravenes the section is guilty of an offence.
Section 18 provides that sections 15 to 17 will not apply to the sale, or advertising for sale, of a ticket or ticket package by or on behalf of a charitable organisation or amateur sports club if its sale has been approved by an event organiser and the proceeds of the sale are used only to fund the activities of the charitable organisation or sports club.
Section 19 provides that a term in a contract between a primary ticket seller and another person shall be void insofar as it excludes or limits the transfer of a ticket or ticket package for no monetary consideration or its sale for a price not exceeding the original sale price. The section does not apply to a term in a contract for the sale of a ticket or ticket package for EURO 2020 or for an event which excludes or limits the transfer or sale of a ticket or ticket package on the grounds of safety, public health or public order. It provides that nothing in the section shall prevent or limit an event organiser from enforcing a term in a contract for the sale of a ticket or ticket package that prohibits the sale of the ticket or ticket package for a price exceeding the original sale price.
Section 20 provides that a secondary ticket seller who sells, or advertises for sale, a ticket or ticket package for a match or official event in the EURO 2020 championship without written authorisation from UEFA is guilty of an offence.
Section 21 provides for the powers of entry and search, and of examination, seizure and retention of evidence, of a member of An Garda Síochána who has reasonable grounds for believing that the person is committing, or has committed, an offence under the Act, or that evidence relating to such an offence may be found in a place. It further requires persons at, or in charge of, such a place to provide such assistance and information, and produce such books, records or other documents, as a member of An Garda Síochána may reasonably require for the purposes of his or her functions under the Act. The section further provides that a member of An Garda Síochána shall not enter a dwelling other than with the consent of the occupier or in accordance with a warrant issued by a District Court judge and specifies the requirements for the issuing of such warrants.
Section 22 provides that a person is guilty of an offence if he or she obstructs or interferes with a member of An Garda Síochána exercising a power conferred by the Act or a warrant issued under it or impedes the exercise by the member of such power. It further provides that a person commits an offence if he or she fails or refuses to comply with a request or a requirement under section 21 or provides false or misleading information in respect of such a request or requirement.
Section 23 provides that where a member of An Garda Síochána finds a person committing an offence under section 15 or 20 of the Act, the member may arrest that person without warrant and demand his or her name and address. The person who fails or refuses to give his or her name or address, or who gives a false or misleading name or address, is guilty of an offence. Section 24 sets out the penalties that apply to persons found guilty of an offence under the Act.
Section 25 provides that it is a defence for a person against whom proceedings are brought under the Act to show that he or she made all reasonable efforts to comply with the provisions of the Act alleged to have been contravened. Section 26 provides that, subject to specified conditions, it is a defence to the offences prescribed under section 15 (3), section 17(5) and section 20(2) for the operator of a secondary ticket marketplace to show that he or she was providing for a specified purpose an information society service consisting of the transmission or storage of information provided by a recipient of the service. The defences provided for in the section are based on the provisions of Articles 12 to 14, inclusive of EU directive 31 of 2000 on legal aspects of information society services, in particular e-commerce, in the Internal Market. Section 27 sets out provisions relating to the disclosure or taking of privileged legal material pursuant to the Act.
This Bill will act as a deterrent to individuals and entities that buy up tickets at the expense of sports and music fans, sporting bodies, artists and promoters. I look forward to working with the House on Committee and Report Stages, including on any amendments that may be proposed. The Bill underwent pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment and has been adapted in light of the committee’s report. I hope, therefore, we can have cross-party support to ensure that we get this Bill enacted as soon as possible so that genuine fans are protected once we enter the summer. In the meantime, I commend the Bill to the House. Gabhaim buíochas.