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Viagogo claims new anti-touting laws in Ireland are unconstitutional

By | Published on Tuesday 16 March 2021


Legal reps for Viagogo last week argued that plans to ban ticket touting in Ireland are unconstitutional. They also provided some of the classic defences of the secondary ticketing market, including that banning sites like Viagogo from operating will push ticket resale onto the black market.

Proposals to basically ban the unofficial resale of tickets in Ireland have been working their way through the law-making process for years. They began as a private members bill in the Irish parliament before being embraced by the country’s government. Wording of the snappily titled Sale Of Tickets (Cultural, Entertainment, Recreational And Sporting Events) Bill was then approved last year.

As that wording was approved, the Irish government explained that “the bill will ban the resale of tickets to live events, matches and concerts in designated venues, at a price above face value. There is an exemption for amateur sports clubs and registered charities for fundraising purposes. A person found guilty of an offence under the act will face a fine of up to 100,000 euros or up to two years imprisonment”.

That bill is still being scrutinised, although the Irish government has said that the new ticketing laws are a priority. And last month the Enterprise, Trade And Employment committee in the Irish parliament urged ministers to get the new law passed as soon as possible, noting that some games for the rescheduled Euro 2020 football championship are due to take place in Dublin in June, and it would be good to have touting dealt with by then.

However, according to the Irish Times, Viagogo is having one last go at derailing the proposed new laws. Its lawyers have submitted a legal opinion to the politicians doing the final scrutiny of the bill telling them that the legislation breaches basic property rights guaranteed by the Irish Constitution.

Meanwhile, the often controversial ticket resale site’s chief lobbyist in Ireland, Frankie Mulqueen, last week also declared that, if the new laws pass, touting will shift from websites like Viagogo to message boards and social media groups where there will be no consumer protection if tickets are not delivered or are cancelled by the promoter, or if the tout is an actual fraudster and no tickets actually exist.

This has long been a key argument presented by secondary ticketing websites.

Anti-touting campaigners counter that, without Viagogo-type sites employing sneaky search engine advertising tactics to put touts alongside – and often above – the websites of official ticket sellers, the demand for touted tickets would significantly slump. Most customers wouldn’t buy from dodgy looking sellers on message boards, but are regularly misled into thinking that on a site like Viagogo they are actually buying from an official seller.

Critics also often point out that, while in theory Viagogo offers some protection to customers, its own customer service record is so poor that those protections aren’t worth much.

In terms of the allegations that Viagogo routinely misleads customers, the Times reports that Mulqueen argued: “We make it clear that [our site] is a secondary marketplace. We try to provide as much information as possible to consumers so they can make informed decisions”.

While it is true that Viagogo does now usually state that it is a secondary marketplace, cynics would argue that that’s mainly to comply with Google advertiser rules.

It remains to be seen if Viagogo can derail the Sale Of Tickets Bill at the final stage. Assuming not, the next big test will be whether the new laws in Ireland are properly enforced.