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Viagogo lobbying hard against proposed anti-touting laws in Ireland

By | Published on Monday 28 January 2019


While Viagogo is now claiming to be fully compliant with consumer rights law in the UK – although many critics and the Competition And Markets Authority would not agree – the company is also hard at work opposing new anti-ticket-touting legislation in Ireland. And new documents obtained by the Irish Times show that the secondary ticketing firm is now arguing that proposed new rules would contravene the Irish constitution and EU law.

The Irish government confirmed in July last year that it planned to support two proposed new laws that would restrict ticket touting in the country. In addition to the customary bots ban, banning software used by some touts to hoover up tickets from primary sites, the new rules would also outlaw the resale of tickets for profit entirely for some venues.

These plans made headlines in the Irish press again a month later, after Maria Byrne, Senator for Limerick, said she would oppose the new anti-touting laws because Viagogo employs about 150 people in the city – a local workforce since increased to around 275.

That it might be forced to pull out of Ireland entirely, thus resulting in job losses, is one of the lobbying lines that has been employed by Viagogo ever since wide-ranging anti-touting laws became an actual prospect in Ireland. But it’s not its only lobbying line.

The politician behind the bill to restrict the sale of tickets for profit, Noel Rock, tells the Irish Times that efforts to get the proposals passed into law have moved at a “glacial” pace due to heavy lobbying from the secondary ticketing firm.

A legal submission from Viagogo obtained by the Irish Times reveals other arguments put forward by the resale site. It reckons that, if it became law, the resale restriction would be “extremely vulnerable to challenge by reason of its likely infringement on constitutional rights granted by [Ireland’s Constitution]” and “would run contrary to EU law”.

It adds that proposed new powers for police to seize tickets believed to have been resold in contravention of the new law would undermine the right to innocence until being proven guilty. Not only that, it would be in breach of constitutional rights to property ownership.

The filing also includes the job losses argument – saying that the new law would pose a “significant risk to existing jobs” – and then lobs in the classic defence used by touting websites whenever new regulations are proposed, ie that the resale of tickets would just be pushed over to less secure channels online outside the jurisdiction of any new laws.

In a statement to CMU, Viagogo says: “Should the proposed bill move forward it would hurt fans by turning the clock back to an inefficient ‘black market’ with resale tickets moving from secure online platforms to the streets and informal social media groups. This will mean [that] tickets will be more expensive because of limited competition and no price comparisons; and there will be no consumer protection against fraud and scams”.

In spite of all this, Rock says that he’s still hopeful that the bill will pass by St Patrick’s Day this year – so that’s 17 Mar.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, it is not yet clear if Viagogo has made any moves to address the “serious concerns” of the CMA. The regulator said last week that it did not believe Viagogo had fallen in line with a court order that demanded it make various changes to the way it sells tickets by 18 Jan, so that its operations would comply with UK consumer rights law.

The CMA gave Viagogo one last chance to comply, though the resale site continues to insist it is already compliant. Assuming no further changes are made, the next move will be for the CMA to go back before the judges to argue the injunction has been ignored and Viagogo is therefore in contempt of court. If that was ruled to be the case, there is a possibility that execs at the rogue company could face jail time.