Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 22 May 2018
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
General Scheme of the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017: Discussion
I welcome Deputy Maurice Quinlivan, the sponsor of the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017, and Mr. David McFadden to the meeting to scrutinise the Bill.
In accordance with procedure, I am required to read out the following. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I remind our guests that presentations should be no longer than ten minutes each. Members have been circulated with the presentations submitted.
I now ask Deputy Quinlivan to make his presentation to the committee.
I will start by thanking my colleagues on the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation for the invitation to present the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017. I introduced the Bill in response to the public's ongoing frustration at ticket touting. Almost every time tickets for a match or concert go on sale, the media coverage is dominated by frustrated consumers who were unable to buy tickets when they went on sale and some who bought tickets at extortionate prices on secondary selling sites. Ticket touting is not a new issue; it has been around for years. In fact, former Deputy, Jimmy Deenihan, introduced the Prohibition of Ticket Touts Bill 2005. Unfortunately, that Bill failed to progress through Dáil Éireann during that session. Promoters and secondary selling sites have had ample time to sort out this issue voluntarily and they have failed to come up with an adequate solution. Measures such as those introduced by Ed Sheeran are very welcome, and I commend him on them. Unfortunately, due to the lack of legislation, other artists do not do this, so it is up to the Legislature to act. I see this as a consumer rights issue so I wanted to bring forward a solution to the problem. I am also aware that other Oireachtas colleagues, including Deputy Rock, who is present, and Deputy Donnelly, have brought forward their own Bills on this issue. This highlights the impact the lack of regulation is having on people right across the State. I have consistently said I am open and willing to work with other Oireachtas colleagues on this issue, and I hope the committee can facilitate that.
I will now briefly address the individual sections of the Bill. The Bill is relatively short. It consists of nine sections. Section 1 outlines the interpretation of numerous phrases, including a "designated event", meaning a sporting or cultural event for which more than 300 tickets have been offered for sale; "face value", meaning the original price of a ticket, including the full cost of the ticket plus any administration or other fees incurred in its purchase from the primary retailer; and "primary retailer" as a retailer responsible for selling tickets on behalf of, and at a price or prices agreed by, the event organiser or venue operator.
Section 2 of the Bill outlines the offence that is proposed to be introduced. This section states that it would be an offence to sell a ticket for a price greater than 10% above the face value of a ticket. This section also states that someone cannot sell a ticket of which they are not in possession. A person guilty of these offences would be liable, upon court conviction, to a fine of up to €5,000. I believe this sanction is proportionate and high enough to deter people from ticket touting.
Section 3 outlines the powers of An Garda Síochána. This includes arrest, confiscation and entry of premises for such reasons.
Section 4 outlines that at the end of a court process, where a person has been convicted of ticket touting under the proposed Act, if a member of An Garda Síochána believes this person has benefitted financially from the illegal activities, an order may be made for them to repay any proceeds of illegal ticket touting, as determined by the court.
Section 5 provides an exemption for registered charities from this legislation, as many charities use the sale of tickets for high-profile events as fundraisers for their particular causes, which should be maintained.
Section 6 of the Bill sets out how the legislation would affect Internet sites being used to sell tickets in contravention of this Bill. It states that if a member of An Garda Síochána or an event organiser is notified of the use of a site in breach of this proposed Act, the Internet site would have up to 24 hours to stop the provision of services to the person, that is, take down the advertisement. This section also sets out that the provider will engage with the Garda in respect of information it may have on the person who put up the tickets for sale. Refusal to do so would result in a similar financial penalty of €5,000.
Section 7 sets out that the Minister will engage with venue operators, event organisers and ticketing agents with the aim of establishing a voluntary code in respect of ticket refunds to consumers or an official ticket exchange facility for consumers or both. This would also allow consumers to return tickets to the primary seller for a refund, and the primary seller could then sell them on legitimately.
Section 8 sets out that expenses incurred by the Minister in the administration of this proposed Act shall be paid for out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas.
Finally, Section 9 sets out that if enacted, this Bill would be cited as the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Act 2017 and that it would come into operation one month from the date of its passing.
I will now briefly address some areas of contention that have been highlighted in respect of legislating in this area. Some will argue strongly that legislating in this area will just drive the issue underground. I do not believe this is a reason not to proceed. The Bill sets out limits to give consumers rights to reasonably priced tickets, and it is therefore up to consumers themselves to use those rights. Like everything else, some people will ignore the law and operate illegally but, for the vast majority of the population, I believe this will have a significant impact on this ongoing issue. It also sends a very strong message that ticket touting will not be tolerated. People have the right to reasonably priced tickets and can report ticket touts.
Another criticism is that people should be allowed to pay whatever price they wish for tickets and this should not be interfered with. I reject that assertion. The people most affected by extortionately priced tickets are often people on lower incomes who do not have the privilege to be able to pay any amount for a ticket and so end up being excluded from many cultural events. These people who miss out can turn out to be the most loyal fans. The issue identified by the Department on Second Stage as to whether a ticket is a licence or property, and the issues that could come from this, should be looked at. Perhaps the officials from the Department who will appear before the committee later will have an insight into this issue.
A similar argument is that people should be able to make a profit from tickets they no longer need. Unfortunately, the level of touting has escalated into an abuse of the ticketing system and must be addressed. People will still be able to make up to 10% on top of what they paid, which strikes the balance we need.
The Bill aims to give the Garda powers to arrest, search and confiscate in respect of tickets if they believe a breach of the law has taken or is taking place. It has been claimed that criminal gangs are benefitting from the lack of regulation in this area, so I believe these powers are both needed and proportional.
We note that the Bill does not address the so-called "bots", which can hoover up massive numbers of tickets. We could look at this and add to the Bill if this was found to be needed. However, if the Bill passes, fans will have a fair opportunity to buy tickets the first time around from primary sellers as touts and reselling sites will not be engaged in hoovering up all the tickets available as there will be no profit in reselling them. This could mean the "bot" system becomes less relevant. I will not say it would be gone, but it would be less relevant. Even the measures introduced by Ed Sheeran and his promoters come with some drawbacks. Due to the requirements of names being placed on these tickets, and ID being required to confirm this, people who received tickets as presents had problems getting into his concerts.
On Second Stage of the Bill, Deputy Niall Collins, who has since moved on to a different committee, mentioned the issue of GAA clubs selling tickets combined with a dinner ticket and how this could be separated. He also mentioned the fact that sports clubs sell tickets to fundraise. I would be happy to look at an amendment that could exempt recognised sporting bodies and clubs from the legislation in the same way as charities as such sporting bodies always have the benefit of their supporters and members in mind.
I am not citing this Bill as the answer to everything. We never did so. Rather, it is a starting point. With input from other members, I hope it can become legislation that will make a real difference to consumers. I thank the committee for its time. I would welcome any questions.
I will ask a few questions myself first. I thank the Deputy for his work on this. I know other Deputies have done quite a lot of work on it. Everyone accepts it is a huge issue. I will give the committee an example. Three weeks ago, my daughters and I were going to see "Matilda" in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. It was a present from Santa Claus for one of my daughters, who is 12 and a half years of age. She had been waiting five months to see the show. As we were going into the venue, I was absolutely amazed that there were ticket touts outside the venue for what was a children's show. It was completely sold out. As my two daughters and I were walking in, a tout came up to me to ask whether I had any spare tickets. I would say an awful lot of the kids there had received their tickets as presents from Santa, given the kind of show it was. I was struck. We are used to seeing ticket touts at matches and concerts, but this was mostly a children's event. Any child there was with a parent or guardian. I was really struck by this. I knew this Bill was coming down the line so I thought the experience was very relevant.
I ask the Deputy to go into the measures that were introduced by Ed Sheeran and his promoters.
There is another family story to go with this. A member of my family was going to that concert and had bought the tickets at face value from somebody else in the family who could not go. However, there was a worry that it might not be possible to get in so it was necessary to bring the ID of the original purchaser. That was a genuine case of one cousin selling the tickets to another because he or she could not go. There was a concern however that he or she might be stopped. That did not happen. Ed Sheeran went a long way to try to sort this out but a few difficulties were still raised with it. Will the Deputy explain about the "bots" please. Is that when somebody buys up a lot of tickets and sells them at a very inflated price?
When we talk about "bots", we are talking about online sites that hoover up tickets when they go on sale. They take quite a number of tickets, so they will not be available to genuine fans when they go on sale. This Bill would probably not solve that completely but it would tackle it. If we take the profit out of the ticket, then the need for the "bots" is probably diminished.
As we researched this, we found the danger is that secondary sites are often selling tickets they do not have. They are gambling that they will be able to get those tickets and then sell them on at a profit. It is not sustainable and there needs to be legislation. Ed Sheeran was mentioned. I commend him again. He has made the best effort he could but it did cause some problems where a different name was on a ticket-----
-----that was bought genuinely for a cousin or friend. We have all had the problem where we buy tickets in good faith in advance and then, a good number of times, something like a family event comes up and it is not possible to go. We need to make provision for that. I also understand that some people bought five or six tickets to Ed Sheeran and then the secondary person had to turn up to the event to let those people in. They were doing that as well. I do not know if that was on a huge scale but anecdotal information was given to my office recently when the Bill was being prepared. Mr. Sheeran did his best and I do not think it is the promoter or the artist who should be doing that. We should be legislating for that. That is the purpose of the Bill.
I read the Bill before I came down. It seems to be logical and a good bit of work was put into it. I wish Deputy Quinlivan well with the Bill. I hope it gets through the wringer in this sitting of the Dáil anyway. Well done.
I am, obviously, going to commend my colleague but we can all relate to this Bill. We have all had to try to buy tickets at some stage for ourselves or - more commonly now - for our children. It is a nightmare to find how quickly the tickets are snapped up and are then suddenly for sale at an exorbitant price. It can often be twice the price. Before the committee started, we were speaking informally about how well this committee has worked and we were complimenting the Chair, and rightly so. One of the reasons this committee works well is because, to some extent, we have put our party political hats to one side and we try to find common ground. The common ground is here in respect of this Bill. All of us know the current situation is not acceptable. It was never acceptable where I grew up in a working class community in London. The first rule was never to talk to a tout. We never had anything to do with them. I think it is the same in many parts of Dublin as well.
We do have to tackle this issue. We are often criticised for not dealing with issues relevant to people. This is relevant to an awful lot of people and my colleague, Deputy Quinlivan, deserves great credit for this initiative. There should be enough common ground among all of us. Deputy Quinlivan has already indicated that if the Bill needs to be improved, he is open to those improvements. Let us work constructively and make sure that this Bill makes progress.
I welcome the spirit and the sentiment of the Bill. I also commend my colleague, Deputy Noel Rock. He has been a champion on this since he was elected in February 2016. He has gone to extraordinary lengths on this. I have looked at videos online where he has confronted ticket touts on what is being done, let alone what is being done by the "bots". I also commend Deputy Quinlivan but Deputy Rock has to be recognised too. As a Deputy, he has gone over and above in bravely confronting some of these touts publicly; that must be acknowledged. I have seen some of his videos on Twitter. I welcome the spirit of the legislation.
There are two at the moment. There is Deputy Quinlivan's and my own with Deputy Stephen Donnelly. That was introduced when Deputy Donnelly was an independent Deputy. It is somewhat unusual in that it is the first co-sponsored Private Member's Bill between Fine Gael and a Fianna Fáil Deputy. What Deputy Neville, Senator Davitt, Senator Gavan and Deputy Quinlivan have said is correct. There is a clear cross-party consensus on the obvious need to address the issue and on the fact that ticket touting is a massive problem. It is not on the scale of many of the problems the Oireachtas faces but nevertheless that does not mean it is completely trivial and that it is not real.
It is real and it is costing real families real money. This Bill, and our own Bill, goes some way in attempting to address that. There has been some push back, in particular from industry. It has engaged in extensive lobbying and in saying things such as that this Bill would drive the problem underground. Deputy Quinlivan outlined that in his own contribution. I am not necessarily sure that is the case. I would like to hear from the officials and I know they are here behind me and due to speak to us. There are many questions that should be answered in the public domain to shine a light on this and to illustrate why a Bill should proceed - if not my Bill then this one. This problem should be solved.
We looked at that and changed it twice before we published the Bill. We are saying that it will be an offence. If gardaí suspect that tickets are being sold, they will have the power to go into a property and confiscate the tickets. Is that what the Chair was asking?
If they believe a breach of the law has taken place or is taking place. It has also been claimed that criminal gangs are involved in this and are benefiting from this because of a lack of legislation in the area. We have a concern about that. I believe these powers are both needed and are proportionate for that reason. That is why it is in the Bill.
I cannot see the powers being used that much. It would be just outside of a venue. As the Chair said, if a person was there with his or her kids and saw ticket touting, he or she could alert the gardaí or the gardaí might be there themselves.
They are genuine people who intended to go but cannot because something has popped up. We were careful to make sure that those people were not affected by this and that they would have the opportunity to sell the ticket at a profit so that they would not be liable for any expenses such as postage or additional costs of tickets.
The part of the Bill that deals with powers is really important. At times, the Oireachtas has been guilty of passing Bills that have no teeth. I think this Bill will be very effective but for it to be so, those Garda powers are absolutely essential. The Bill has the potential to transform how one buys tickets and to prevent people from becoming captives of ticket touts. I compliment Deputy Quinlivan on putting a lot of thought into the Bill. It is well constructed and deserves good support across the board.
The Bill states that a person guilty of these offences would be liable upon court conviction to a fine of up to €5,000. Does Deputy Quinlivan believe that goes far enough? What if it was done by a concentrated ring of people?
It would probably not be enough for a concentrated ring of people but it sends out the message that we are taking this seriously and that there will be a sanction. It is only a start and it can be looked at later. The amount of €5,000 sends a strong message as most tickets would not sell for a price like that.
I thank members for their support. We need to keep talking about this issue but we also need action. As far as I know, we are waiting for a money message, which means it is down to the Government to provide. I hope it does not delay on that. Unfortunately, as Deputy Pearse Doherty said to me yesterday, there are 27 Opposition Bills sitting there at the moment, waiting for a money message. The Bill was frozen for nine months after it passed Second Stage.
I thank everyone for their comments. Hopefully we can progress the Bill.
We all know there is a problem with this issue but we all want to solve it. It would be hugely disappointing if this Bill was frozen again or not dealt with because of a money message. As the Chair said, the costs are not going to be significant. If we are going to tackle the issue, the costs are going to be incurred anyway. One of the best things about this committee is that we have not played party politics and it would be a real shame if we ended up doing so. I hope we do not.
I welcome Mr. Kieran Grace, principal officer for competition and consumer policy at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and Mr. Bill Cox, assistant principal, to scrutinise the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017.
Mr. Kieran Grace:
I thank the committee for the invitation to address it on the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017. The Bill’s main provision is the proposed prohibition of the sale, or offering for sale, of tickets to events with a capacity of over 300 for a price in excess of 10% above their face value. The other provisions deal mainly with the interpretation, application and enforcement of this prohibition. This departmental submission focuses accordingly on the proposed statutory price cap of 110% of the face value of tickets. It draws on the results of the public consultation on ticket resale undertaken by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in 2017, the subsequent engagement with stakeholders, and information obtained from public authorities in a number of European Union and European Economic Area member states with legislation that restricts ticket resale.
The responses to the public consultation and subsequent discussions showed significant, though not universal, support for some form of price cap legislation. A statutory price cap received support from two of the three main sporting bodies, the GAA and the FAI; the two main event promoters; the Consumers Association of Ireland; and a number of public representatives and consumers. The IRFU reserved its position on the introduction of legislation on ticket resale and stated its willingness to participate in further discussions on the issue. Opposition to a statutory price cap came mainly from primary ticketing services providers and secondary ticket platforms. The European Consumer Centre Ireland also had reservations about price cap legislation on the grounds that the secondary ticket market could have benefits for consumers and that a cap on prices would be difficult to enforce in cross-border transactions in particular.
In respect of ticket resale, there are no precise figures on the exact number of ticketed entertainment and sporting events that take place every year, but it is reasonable to assume that it is in the thousands. While the figure can vary from year to year, the number of entertainment events that give rise to a non-marginal level of resale is probably no more than 50, and the number of such events that give rise to any significant level of resale is generally no more than ten. Most of the stadium and outdoor arena concerts this summer had or have tickets available on the primary ticket market. The tickets for these events on secondary marketplaces were generally listed at, a little above, or even below face value. Of the 38 events taking place in the 3Arena between now and the end of the year, just four are currently sold out. Our discussions with industry representatives and monitoring of secondary ticket platforms suggest that secondary ticket sales typically account for between 1% and 5% of the tickets sold for major entertainment events but can rise to 10% or a little over for some exceptionally high-demand events.
The number of sporting events that give rise to an appreciable level of resale is, depending on fixtures, generally between five and ten annually. The proportion of tickets offered for resale for these events is well below that for major entertainment events due to the restrictive ticket distribution arrangements that apply. The great majority of people attending major sporting and entertainment events, therefore, are people who purchased their tickets from the primary seller.
In his Second Stage speech on the Bill, Deputy Quinlivan stated that one of its main aims was to target those who buy tickets for events they have no intention of attending with the intention of reselling them at a large profit. Deputy Quinlivan went on to say that, despite their best efforts, most people seeking tickets for high-demand events have no chance of getting them because of the activities of resellers.
In order to get a factually-based assessment of the extent to which the secondary market prevents fans from accessing tickets for major events, the Department obtained detailed information from Ticketmaster and the main secondary platforms operating in Ireland about two events that gave rise to particular criticism about secondary ticket sales, namely, the Coldplay and U2 concerts in Croke Park in July 2017. While there was a significant and, it would appear, above-average level of resale for these events, it was not the reason most people seeking tickets on the primary ticket market failed to get them. Combined demand for tickets for the two events exceeded supply by a factor of more than three to one. Even if all of the tickets resold above face value on the main secondary platforms had been available to buyers on the primary ticket market, they would have met less than 5% of the estimated unsatisfied demand for tickets. In other words, more than 19 out of every 20 of the tickets unsuccessfully sought from the primary seller for these events would still not have been available for sale to fans even if there had been no tickets on sale on the main secondary ticket platforms.
While legislation along the lines proposed in Deputy Quinlivan's Bill will act to counter ticket profiteering, the evidence suggests therefore that it is unlikely to improve significantly the ability of fans to obtain tickets for particularly high demand events. That objective will only be achieved by a better match between supply and demand. This can clearly be done in some cases – the main reason for the low level of secondary market activity for the recent Ed Sheeran concerts is that the artist and the promoter ensured that sufficient shows were put on to meet demand. It is not possible to do this, however, in other cases. The GAA cannot put on an extra all-Ireland final to meet the demand for tickets. The touring schedules of major international acts may not always permit the staging of an additional concert in Ireland. In some cases, demand for tickets may exceed supply for one concert but may not be sufficient to make a second concert economically viable.
The increased prevalence and prominence of ticket resale has been driven by the Internet and the ready facility it offers to buy and sell tickets online on secondary marketplaces and websites and on social networks. If ticket resale in Ireland is subject to a statutory price cap, the borderless character of online trading makes it likely that some people in this country who wish to sell tickets at a higher price than that permitted by the legislation, or who are prepared to buy tickets at such a higher price, will go to secondary ticket marketplaces in countries where ticket resale is legal and is not subject to a similar price cap. In its response to the public consultation, the European Consumer Centre Ireland stated that, on the evidence of consumer complaints to the centre, the likelihood that traders operating outside Ireland would circumvent Irish legislation on ticket resale would appear to be high.
At present, ticket reselling above face value is permitted in all European Union and European Economic Area countries other than Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France - except with the authorisation of the event organiser - Portugal, Poland and Norway. Departmental officials discussed the experience with, and the effectiveness of, their ticket resale legislation with consumer protection authorities in Belgium, Denmark, Portugal and Norway. All indicated that while the legislation had been reasonably effective in preventing prohibited resale activity within their national borders, there continued to be significant levels of resale activity for high-demand domestic events on secondary ticket platforms and websites in other countries. Enforcing national prohibitions or restrictions on ticket resale in other jurisdictions is problematic and had not been undertaken by enforcement authorities in any of the four countries mentioned.
The international nature of the audience for major entertainment events emerged also from the data obtained from secondary ticket platforms on the Coldplay and U2 concerts in 2017. Almost two thirds of the tickets for the two events combined which were sold on these platforms were purchased by buyers from 85 different countries outside the State. Buyers outside Ireland seeking to buy tickets for events in Ireland on online marketplaces based outside Ireland may not feel themselves bound by a statutory cap on ticket prices in Irish legislation. To the extent however that such legislation was effective in reducing the supply of tickets for events in Ireland to overseas buyers, there would be a consequential loss in tourism revenues to Irish hospitality providers and the Exchequer.
On possible unintended consequences, the established secondary ticket marketplaces offer buyers a guarantee that they will be refunded the price of tickets which are not delivered or prove to be fake. Other than for certain trusted resellers, those reselling tickets on these marketplaces do not receive payment until after the buyer has gained access to the event. While many oppose the activities of secondary ticket marketplaces and there are questions in some cases about the implementation of the guarantees they offer, these marketplaces nevertheless afford consumers a level of protection that does not apply to secondary tickets sourced from general online marketplaces, pop-up websites offering tickets for specific events, social networks or street resellers. While legislation along the lines proposed in the Bill would help to reduce the level of above-face value resale, it is unlikely to eliminate it entirely. As long as there are sizeable gains to be made from reselling tickets for high-demand events at a multiple of the face value price and there are people willing to pay such prices, there is likely to be some secondary market activity at prices above those permitted by the legislation. If, as is possible, the proposed legislation would lead to the departure of the established secondary marketplaces from the Irish market, the resale channels that will, to whatever extent, fill the gap left by their departure are unlikely to offer the same guarantees to ticket buyers or to operate a business model that provides as effective a deterrent against ticket fraud.
We are happy to answer any questions the committee may have.
I thank Mr. Grace for his presentation. To be honest, I am not particularly impressed with some of the points Mr. Grace made in it.
This meeting is to discuss the sale of tickets but many of the points Mr. Grace made have little or nothing to do with the provisions of the Bill. For example, in paragraph one of page 3 of his opening statement, Mr. Grace mentions the issue of demand and the fact that the GAA cannot put on an extra all-Ireland final. Nobody is suggesting anything of the sort and this Bill has nothing to do with demand. We are not suggesting everyone gets a ticket to everything. This Bill is about capping the outrageous prices people are being asked to pay. I do not know what point Mr. Grace was trying to make about the all-Ireland finals but they have nothing to do with the provisions of this Bill.
In paragraph one on page 4, Mr. Grace states that "ticket reselling above face value is permitted in all European Union and European Economic Area countries", and then goes on to list Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France Portugal, Poland and Norway as exceptions to this. That is an odd way of phrasing it. Also in this paragraph, Mr. Grace states that the legislation in these countries has been "reasonably effective in preventing prohibited resale activity", but then goes on to discuss all activities outside their border. This is also a positive point being phrased as negative.
In paragraph two, also on page 4, Mr. Grace mentions this could affect tourism. It is a stretch to suggest capping the price of tickets will affect tourism. It will, in fact, benefit tourists who can buy reasonably priced tickets. I worked in the travel sector for 19 years. I know exactly how one sells tickets. One sells them with tour organisers as well. One does not have to sell them with the extra 10%, if people want to do that. People can buy tickets abroad and come over here as well. It is not a problem. Mr. Grace is imagining problems that do not exist.
Tourists arrive here already with tickets they have bought only to be turned away when they are cancelled. We need to look at that issue. That is currently leaving a bad taste in the mouths of tourists mouth if they bought tickets for variety or another event and cannot access it because they bought them from someone other than the original seller. If one planned on banning selling tickets to tourists, that could possibly affect tourists. However, it also has nothing whatsoever to do with this Bill.
In paragraph three of page 4, Mr. Grace also mentions that "the Bill would help to reduce the level of above face value resale, it is unlikely to eliminate it entirely". No law eliminates everything entirely. I do not see any point in that either. I have stated repeatedly that this Bill will not solve everything but it will help substantially.
I have a number of questions for Mr. Grace. On page two of his opening statement, Mr. Grace mentions the Department got data from Ticketmaster and other sites about the Coldplay and U2 concerts. Could Mr. Grace share that data or information the Department got from them with us?
In paragraph two on page three, Mr. Grace mentioned people could go to other websites based outside the country to buy tickets. In my experience, most people buy from Irish sites due to the trust issues. Has Mr. Grace examples of these foreign-based sites being used widely?
In paragraph two on page 4, Mr. Grace states that 66% of tickets sold for U2 and Coldplay were sold to persons outside the country. That seems to be a considerable number. Can Mr. Grace explain where he got that figure from?
On the last page of his statement, Mr. Grace mentioned the departure of secondary marketplaces from the Irish market. I am conscious of this because one of them is in my constituency. This Bill will not ban reselling but will merely cap the prices. Why would they leave? Tickets can still be sold, but not for outrageous prices. Is this one of the reasons the Department is not acting on this issue because I do not believe the Department is? Is there any threat from companies that if something is done, they will leave. Should we continue to let consumers be ripped off?
Can the Department give a reason that there is no money message? Is this a political decision?
There are two final questions I have on the Bill. What was the level of lobbying? We have the submissions to the Department. There were 24 submissions. From my recollection of it, 12 of them were in favour of a version of this Bill, nine were neutral and only three were against - all three were from secondary selling sites. Mr. Grace might tell us what level of lobbying the Department received on this issue. Mr. Grace stated in his statement that the Department got detailed information from Ticketmaster. Can he share that with us?
Mr. Kieran Grace:
I have some general comments. First, the Department is not in a position to make any comment on the money message issue. That is not a matter for this Department.
Second, for the benefit of the committee and to remind Deputy Quinlivan, the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, in a parliamentary question in 18 April 2018, stated that she is "currently finalising a range of proposals aimed at helping ensure that ticket markets work better for consumers".
Mr. Kieran Grace:
The then Minister said she wanted to finalise a range of proposals aimed at making the market work better for consumers. Anything aimed at making something work better implies that it is not working currently.
In the context of naming Belgium, Croatia and so on and the reason for doing so, rather than naming the other 20 members of the EU, it was easier to name only six members of the EU that have the legislation, including Norway which is a member of the European Economic Area, EEA. There are a number of other members of the EEA. I was aware of the fact that my contribution was limited to ten minutes and so I did not list them all.
In his opening statement Mr. Grace said that "ticket reselling above face value is permitted in all European Union and European Economic Area countries" and then he listed the countries where it is not permitted. I believe he was-----
Mr. Kieran Grace:
There are two sides to every coin. Those are the places we wanted to illustrate because of the ten minute stricture in making our submission. That was done purely in the context of time constraint and not in any other context. I will now pass over to my colleague who will deal with some of the more detailed points.
Mr. Bill Cox:
There was certainly no negative intention in expressing the data about the legislative position in EEA and EU member states. It is just simpler, where there are six states that do have the legislation and 22 that do not, to state the position in that way.
The Deputy asked about the data for the U2 and Coldplay concerts in July 2017. We asked Ticketmaster for data on the number of people seeking tickets on the website during the first hour of general sale of those tickets. We reduced that figure by 25% to take account of people who were active on two devices such as a laptop and a phone. We multiplied by the number of tickets bought per transaction for those two concerts. This gave us the rough demand for tickets for the two concerts combined. We then asked the main platforms for the numbers of tickets resold for these events and it gave us a fairly reliable figure for the number of tickets that were on the secondary market which could have been on the primary market and available for buyers. The facts are, as we stated in the presentation, that the number of tickets on the main platforms for the two concerts combined would have met less than 5% of the unsatisfied demand for tickets on the primary market. The Deputy said that the GAA could have put on an extra date. We are not trying to undermine the proposed legislation but it might not meet some of its objectives. The problem is not that people cannot get tickets because of a secondary market. They cannot get tickets because supply outruns demand by three to one, as it did in this case.
The purpose of the Bill is to stop secondary selling. People who are genuinely trying to buy a ticket find that if it is not available, they can buy it seconds or minutes later from a secondary site, often owned by the same company, for exorbitant prices. This is the purpose of the Bill. It is not to provide for everybody and go to every event. That would be illogical.
Mr. Bill Cox:
We acknowledge that the Bill will help to counteract ticket profiteering. We have stated this in the presentation.
A related point was the question about the two thirds of buyers from outside the State for the two events combined. Again, this comes from the figures provided by the three main secondary platforms. We have precise numbers for the number of resales and for the location of the buyers of the tickets. The figure was a little below two thirds, or 64%. We received a detailed list of the 85 different countries. Most came from the UK and the US but there was a huge geographical spread. This is on the point made by the Deputy. We do not suggest that this proposed legislation should not proceed on the grounds that it would have adverse implications for tourism revenues. We simply make the point that this is something we have to take into account. When we assess legislative proposals, we are required to look at them in the light of certain criteria, and unintended consequences are just one of those. It is not necessarily an argument against the Bill. It is-----
Mr. Bill Cox:
People in some parts of the world may find it easier because of language, time differences and so on, to access tickets on secondary platforms than on the Irish primary seller platforms.
The Deputy also referred to our statement, "If, as is possible, the proposed legislation would lead to the departure of the established secondary marketplaces from the Irish market". Clearly this is a decision for the established marketplaces. Their business model is not like general online marketplaces that charge for every listing. They only make money when a ticket sells. Obviously they make more money the higher the ticket price. If people can only sell tickets at face value, the revenues of these marketplaces will decline substantially. This is just an economic fact. They may or may not depart the Irish market but they have departed the national markets in the countries that have introduced legislation that only permits resale at face value. It happened in Denmark, Norway and Belgium. Instead of buying tickets on seatwave.ie, people would buy from seatwave.com or seatwave.nl . Again, there is no suggestion of a threat in this assertion. It is just a factual observation that we feel obliged to make.
With regard to lobbying, we had a freedom of information request from the Deputy several months ago in which we set out the meetings we had. The position has not changed as yet.
I thank the witnesses for coming in and for their presentation. I have picked up on a few of the same points as Deputy Quinlivan. I agree with him that it was an example of negative framing when Mr. Grace asserted that no EU members state had brought in legislation on this matter, and then listed the seven states that had brought in legislation. It was a good example of negative framing. It is like saying that Dublin does not win all-Ireland championships except for the last one and the one before that, and the one before that again.
My apologies to my Mayo colleagues. I believe that this market does not function as a normal market. People are cornering the market and making super-normal profits but it does not adhere to the normal standards we would apply to the traditional equation of supply and demand. People are cornering the market through bots and other means. They are profiteering greatly off this market. This is the genesis of my concern and that of Deputy Quinlivan and other Deputies.
There is potential that the operators of secondary markets will leave Ireland if we bring about rigorous legislation on ticket touting. We should not, however, be afraid of confronting the matter. Those who engage in this activity are, effectively, economic leeches. They do not add anything to the value of production of a concert or a sporting event. They snap up tickets in their tens or their hundreds with the sole intent and purpose of profiteering. In my opinion, and I imagine in the opinion of Deputy Quinlivan and others, that is not correct. This is where the fundamental breakdown comes between the opinion expressed in the submission from the officials and the opinion of Deputy Quinlivan in his speech. I do not believe this practice is correct.
I have some questions on a few aspects of the submission by the Department. With regard to the guarantee that secondary platforms give, while they guarantee access and will give a refund in the event of access being refused, there is no such guarantee as to the type of access one gets. Among the hundreds of emails about touting received by my office I have received many complaints from people where they are guaranteed a concert ticket to the best part of Croke Park, for example, where they will be practically able to touch Bono or Mick Jagger and in reality they end up with a restricted view seat up in the gods.
They are at the event - the ticket guarantee holds - but they have paid more than 20 times the face value of the ticket and have ended up with a sub-premium product so it is not fair to say that the secondary markets behave entirely altruistically and correctly and that their ticket guarantee holds entirely true.
I note the proof that was cited in several examples on the demand for tickets and where tickets are bought from. If I am not mistaken we are effectively taking their word for it. I presume we have not sent anybody in to look at their systems. That might be answered for me. I presume they have made a submission to us and we are entirely accepting their word for it. I wonder if that would be good enough in this day and age if this were another sector such as banking. Would officials from a Department and parliamentarians who are trying to scrutinise and legislate accept the word of the main beneficiaries when they say there are no problems in this market? It is obvious that Ticketmaster is the main primary seller and practically the only primary seller within this market. It owns the main secondary platform as well so there is a very clear interest there. It demands a higher standard of scrutiny of us and a higher standard of proof of it. I would appreciate it if the witnesses would come back to me on the type of proof we have got so far.
My other question is a follow-on from Deputy Quinlivan's question. Have any companies threatened to leave? Have they outlined plans to leave in their submissions to the witnesses in the event that either Bill was given effect and passed by the Oireachtas? Has that come up in their consultations, discussions or documentation to date?
Have they consulted the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, CCPC, on their ongoing investigation in this sector? It is a serious investigation and I understand it is ongoing. It would be beneficial to all parties concerned were there a level of consultation in this regard, in light of both items of legislation that are currently before the Houses. I believe that should be borne into consideration before we make any decisions so I would like to hear if the witnesses have spoken to them.
I thank the witnesses again for coming in, I appreciate their time.
Mr. Kieran Grace:
On the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's investigation, it is independent as an enforcement body and there is no information, neither should there be any information given to the Department on that. The commission is carrying out an independent investigation to which the Department is not and should not be privy. The Oireachtas, in the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014, very clearly laid down the independence of the CCPC in its investigations and the Department has no hand or part in it. Therefore, we would have no information on that and nor should we.
Second, the CCPC was one of the bodies we asked for any inputs it may have wanted in the public consultation process at its outset. Third, I refer to Deputy Rock's earlier comment that it is a market not operating according to the normal market regime. We agree entirely on that because normally, when one comes to detriment for a consumer in a business-consumer nexus - committee members may disagree - one has a seller and a willing buyer. Normally, the detriment is of the consumer being browbeaten or there is an asymmetry in power between the seller and the buyer. In this case people are buying willingly even if it is a high price compared with the ticket price but the detriment is often affecting the people who cannot get tickets anyway. It is a strange morphing of the market. I am not commenting on whether paying over the price is good, bad or indifferent but it is a funny situation from a business to consumer market-type relationship that we are dealing with here. It brings along its own idiosyncrasies.
Mr. Bill Cox:
On the implementation of the guarantees, we acknowledged in the submission that there are questions about the implementation of the guarantees offered by some of the platforms and that includes some of the matters referred to by Deputy Rock so I do not think there is any foundation to that criticism.
Second, on the issue of the information we included in the submission about the U2 and Coldplay concerts, we asked for that information from the primary ticket seller, Ticketmaster, and from the three main platforms. They did not know what use we would make of that information and how we aggregated it and in some respects the information was not favourable to their cause because it showed a higher level of resale than we would have expected from our monitoring of the platforms. It may be that someone should go in. I have no reason to doubt the information they provided but if the Deputy wishes to doubt it that is his prerogative. We are not enforcers. We cannot go into those bodies and tell them to show us their books and IT systems. That is a role for someone else. As the Deputy will probably be aware the now deposed New York Attorney General did that for the ticket sector in the US and he had the powers to do it. We do not have those powers but I have no reason to doubt the validity of the information they have provided in this case. That is a road we should be careful about going down in my personal view.
There was a question on whether we have had any threats to leave. We certainly have not had any threats that companies would leave, that it is not to say they will not but no one has said that to us in the course of our meetings.
Mr. Kieran Grace:
To add to the last point my colleague made, when we mentioned about secondary markets leaving, it was in the context of the experience of Belgium and Denmark which had brought legislation in and it was one of the consequences of it. The question was that if it had happened in other jurisdictions it is not unlikely to happen here if that was the case. It is purely in that context that it was mentioned.
Mr. Bill Cox:
It is also just in the context of the basic business model of these platforms which is based on high charges on high prices and without that it is hard to see how they will continue to operate in this market. That seems to be to be a fact and we have to draw that conclusion but no one has made any threats to us that they will leave the Irish market. In any case, the operations here do not just serve the Irish market, they serve other markets as well. The Irish market would probably be a relatively small part of their operation.
I have been listening quite intently. Maybe my grasp of this is not entirely correct but I appreciate what Mr. Cox says about how the departmental officials are not enforcers and it is a funny type of market, as we have alluded to. I am curious about Ticketmaster. It knows it had 100,000 inquiries or whatever else. It is a nominal figure. Even if it is a nominal figure for a concert in Croke Park which is 90,000 people or whatever it is facilitating there. If it knows that 100,000 people will be interested in the tickets - this is the key point I am trying to grasp and I think I know the answer already - within the first five minutes, is Ticketmaster with its sister companies commanding 40% or 50% of these tickets and putting them onto the secondary market immediately? Is that happening? Are these guys doing this or are they meant to be appearing from somewhere else such as from secondary people? Is this a common practice when it knows there will be a massive demand for something? Is my understanding right or not?
Mr. Bill Cox:
We would have to say that as far as we are concerned, there is no evidence from Ireland of event organisers or the primary ticket seller placing large numbers on secondary market places. There is evidence from other countries that it has happened but there is no evidence from the Irish market. That was not just said to us by the usual suspects such as Ticketmaster. It was said to us by independent observers who would not necessarily have any axe to grind in favour of Ticketmaster.
With the general figures that have come back from these guys and as Mr. Cox says, some of them might not have been in Ticketmaster's favour, it does not seem to be the case that they are funnelling a lot of tickets onto a secondary market immediately.
Mr. Bill Cox:
Our assumption is that the fairly sizable number of tickets that ended up on the secondary market for those two events and for other events came from a large number of people who bought them opportunistically with a view to making a profit.
In addition, some people probably found that they could not attend the event but decided to make a little money on their situation when they offered the tickets for resale.
I presume that there is a smaller number of opportunistic guys than these ticket numbers suggest. I have a limited knowledge of this matter. I have heard somebody talk about this matter before and that person stated that a large number of tickets for highly sought after concerts were advertised on secondary sites.
Mr. Bill Cox:
Yes. The numbers are large in absolute terms. We have made the point that, in proportionate terms, the number is not as high as is sometimes claimed. The general view seems to be that one is probably talking about between 1% and 5%. In some cases the percentage can reach as high as 10% or a little more. That is a lot of tickets but it is not the main reason people cannot buy tickets on the primary market.
Mr. Kieran Grace:
Let us take for example a concert in Croke Park and there is a capacity for 80,000 people. There is a perception that 80,000 tickets will be available for purchase by the public but that is often not the case. In fact, many tickets are pre-sold by the promoters or the artists. In the UK and US, in some cases more than half of the tickets can be pre-sold, pre-allocated or distributed beforehand. In that case, if tickets go to a cohort of people or large groups of people before the tickets are released for general sale to the public and the recipients do not want to go, then they are in the position straightaway to advertise the ticket on a secondary site and at a time when demand is at its maximum.
Let us say a concert is due to take place at 9 o'clock on a Friday night. Everybody from around this country and outside of it who wants to attend is waiting for the tickets to be released for sale on the Ticketmaster website. Let us say a proportion of those tickets are already sitting in a person's hands, and there can be a rule adopted to sell one ticket per person and not have an industrial size sale. Let us say the tickets have been given to the performers' management for fan clubs, etc., and those people do not want to avail of them or they have got more tickets than they need, and they always get more tickets than they need, but they are willing to advertise the tickets on the site straightaway, one could have a situation within a couple of minutes of the big demand push at 9 p.m. on a Friday for tickets to concert X. The secondary market may have a lot of tickets for the concert to sell. Those tickets may not have come from the people who waited for the scheduled ticket release at 9 p.m. yet people already know, in the full knowledge, that they have them.
In terms of the Bill brought forward by Deputy Quinlivan, I wish to acknowledge that he has done a lot of work on this matter. I do not know if these guys manipulate the market themselves. If they were, then that would be the first place to cut out such a practice. That is my view but perhaps I am way off.
Without doubt, ticket sales is a major issue. To be fair, Deputies Quinlivan and Rock, and Deputy Donnelly who was a member of this committee, have done a lot of work on this issue. To put it simply for the benefit of the people watching proceedings, tickets for a major artist are normally sold out in as little as seven or eight minutes.
Let me continue. I do not think that Mr. Cox has realised that ticket sales is a significant issue. In some cases tickets are sold out in a very short space of time. I know because I have bought tickets and attended many concerts, as have family members. Sometimes it takes as long as 20 minutes or even an hour for all of the tickets to be sold and people are left disappointed. Some of them may not have proper Internet access or the necessary high-speed Internet access. However, within an hour or less those tickets will be on sale online but at an inflated price.
Coupled with that, people may be unable to afford to buy the ticket on the secondary site. Without doubt, on their way to the concert venue on the day they will encounter touts selling tickets and that applies to the All-Ireland GAA finals, U2, Coldplay, Pink Floyd or whoever. The witnesses seem to have adopted a simplistic view on the matter because they have dissected the Bill brought forward by Deputy Quinlivan.
I contend that there is an issue with tickets that must be dealt with and I compliment any Deputy who goes to the bother of trying to deal with this issue. I know that when there is an issue with ticket sales the matter will be discussed on the airwaves for 48 hours. Many people will telephone Joe Duffy's radio show to complain that they could not buy tickets but they are available somewhere else.
I feel that the witnesses have adopted a simplistic approach to the issue. I can attest to the fact that there is a major issue with ticket sales. Ordinary people work hard and they want to buy a ticket. I understand that there is a capacity demand mismatch for a lot of events. We understand that there are never enough tickets to go around when one's county has qualified to participate in an All-Ireland GAA final. However, it is very frustrating to see tickets being offered for sale at an inflated price on a secondary site only an hour after they have been released for sale. Therefore, legislation that tries to deal with the matter is welcome.
Mr. Kieran Grace:
We have not adopted a simplistic view of the matter and accept that there is a problem. The Minister concerned has said in the Dáil that she will finalise proposals to deal with the issue.
Sometimes the public coverage of the issue glosses over the associated complexities. Let us say a large proportion of tickets for a certain concert have been allocated before the tickets have been released for public sale, and even if 80,000 people have applied to buy 80,000 tickets to see Pink Floyd or whoever play in Croke Park, it is almost guaranteed that 80,000 will not be put up for sale at 9 a.m. on that day. Even if one had an exact match of 80,000 tickets for the 80,000 people looking to buy tickets on that day, and even if there were only 60,000 or 70,000 tickets, there would still be disaffected people because they cannot get them. Banning or putting price caps on resale will not solve the problem because high-demand events will always prove problematic.
Ed Sheeran got around the issue by ensuring he offered many concerts that were located around the country. In fact, his concerts may have sold out but everybody who wanted a ticket for one of his concerts managed to get one, unless they lived somewhere that had no Internet, telephones or anything. That is one way to get around the problem but it a very expensive way to do so for the artist. Ed Sheeran is a very popular artist because between 300,000 and 400,000 people want to attend his concerts but not every artist commands the same respect. We know that certain groups have enough fans to sell enough tickets for one concert but not enough demand to sell a second concert. Let us not forget that people want to save face. They will want to sell enough tickets for one concert but they will not want to undersell the next one.
I do not want to overstate the case about pre-allocation but I ask members to bear that in mind. I appreciate what the Chairman said about the high demand for tickets to an All-Ireland GAA final. Tickets for any All-Ireland are like gold dust and people normally sell them at face value because they want someone else to enjoy the annual event.
Mr. Kieran Grace:
The GAA and the Football Association of Ireland play a strong role in ticket distribution. They can track them much more clearly than perhaps an entertainment event. Another advantage that some sporting events have is that they tend to be all seated events and, therefore, it is easier to identify tickets.
A large event with standing room complicates the issue. It is not that it is cannot be fixed but there are more complications around it. If someone is selling on to get into a standing area, there does not tend to have a piece of turf designated A1, A2, A3 and A4, as is the case in the seated area. It is complicated.
The point we are trying to get across is that there is a series of complexities around this but the Minister stated in the Dáil in April that she is finalising proposals to ensure the market works better for consumers. It is not that there is a failure to do or consider something; it is a more complex issue than the public reportage of it indicates. In our consultation we have had feedback not only from those in the primary and secondary markets and the sporting bodies but also from people who are independently interested in the area. If it was an easy problem to fix, it would have been fixed a long time ago.
We might have to look at pre-allocation because there is no doubt that the tickets are making it on to secondary sites. The touts are getting tickets. We may have to look at the pre-allocation to corporate bodies or wherever. We understand that but there is an issue with that and we hear about it all the time. I attended a children's musical, Matilda, in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre three weeks ago, which was sold out but there were touts outside the venue. Santa Claus would have put most of those tickets in stockings all over the country. I was surprised that an event like that would be targeted by touts.
Mr. Bill Cox:
I did not want to give the impression that there is not a problem. My point was that the problem is not as great as sometimes suggested. We quoted data in the submission which indicate that most of the stadium and outdoor events this summer have not sold out. Tickets are available on the primary market for them at face value. People who buy tickets for resale lose sometimes as well as gain. Anyone who went on the secondary platforms would have seen that many of the expensive tickets for the Rolling Stones concert were on resale for much less than their face value. Those facts are sometimes lost in the public hubbub about this issue. It does not affect the great majority of entertainment or sporting events. It is a serious problem for a relatively small number of events every year. That is not to downplay the problem. It is just to try to put it in perspective.
The Department requested submissions on ticket touting and there were 24 submissions which I referenced earlier. I will quote from two of them. The GAA stated: "Touting in its various forms should be classified as criminal activity with appropriate penalties in place, whether this be on the street, online, or private trading of tickets above face value ...". Peter Aiken stated: "We would like to see the resale of tickets by third parties criminalised." There is a problem and we need to deal with it. Mr. Cox is trying to give the impression that there is not a problem. He said it is a minor issue but we hear about it all the time. Deputy Rock has left but he said that he has received hundreds of emails on the issue. I have received the same number. Every time a concert or sporting event is held, people are on to me because they were unable to get tickets.
In fairness, the witnesses have been to the fore on this issue. To be honest, I got the impression also that they do not accept that the issue is as big as can be at times. Would Mr. Grace like to respond?
Mr. Kieran Grace:
In regard to, say, Coldplay or U2, the upset and hurt caused to a person who wants to go to those concerts and does not get a ticket is very personal. There is a personal attachment to the band. They want to go to a concert because they are a fan. We are not understating that whatsoever.
The role we have is to try to get evidence together, go to the Minister and give advice on what might or might not be done. In that context, we try to scope the extent of the problem and by focusing on the problem, one can better focus on action. If we take a sledgehammer to it and then find we only needed a hammer, that can have unintended consequences.
The point of the consultation and getting the various data together was to identify the issue, the critical points and how we can deal with them effectively to solve the problem where it occurs. In many cases, there have been accusations that the system has taken too much of a blockbuster approach to something when in a more limited, targeted approach might have been better. We are trying to get that data and information together and, if a proposal comes forward, identify how we can target the issue to make sure it is effectively targeted.
The enforcement of any of these issues has to be targeted as well. There is no point in diluting the enforcement power. The Deputy's Bill has reference to the Garda. Where something has happened to the detriment of one person relating to a small gig, we do not want to dilute the power of the gardaí. We would be better off focusing on the major events. Events in Europe, for example, are attended by more than 300 people. That is what the Deputy is suggesting. If one person calls the Garda, is that a proper form of enforcement if thousands of people are being affected at another event?
The impact on the State relates to how we effectively enforce it. The Deputy spoke about sending a message in his contribution. Sending a message to hammer home a small issue may not be as effective as hammering the issue where there is major detriment.
I meant to refer earlier to the bots and the industrial-type harvesting of tickets. They are prevalent in the United States and they are used somewhat in the United Kingdom. There is no evidence that they are used here. However, that does not mean that we should ignore consideration of outlawing their usage to prevent this harvesting down the road. It arose in a tangential way in the consultation process. In the US, where the secondary market is almost de rigueur, bots are a profitable exercise because of the size of the market. The Irish market is relatively small and to invest in such infrastructure may not be cost effective.
Mr. Kieran Grace:
There has never been a non-acknowledgement. We have never said there is not a problem. We said the problem may not be as widespread as people think and it may only be in certain areas. If action is taken, those areas should be targeted. I am sorry if the impression was given that we do not acknowledge that there is a problem. I refer to the public consultation document, the questions we asked, the way we have gone after and interrogated stakeholders afterwards and the way we have made those documents available. We are not denying there is a problem. Far from it, but the extent of the problem and the reportage on it in the public domain could deflect from what we are trying to focus on, which is how to tackle those issues.
I thank both witnesses for their presentation. I will try not to be rude. I would not want to do that but I suspect like my colleagues, I am taken aback by the way the witnesses have phrased this. I was expecting the Department to come in and go through the Bill but the witnesses have not done that. Mr. Grace has alluded to the fact that there is something in the Minister's mind. That does not deal with the fact that we have a good Bill in front of us. We may have a second good Bill from our colleagues. We should be working on that, which is what we are trying to do, and moving it forward but rather than analyse the Bill, the witnesses have come up with a type of sceptical essay. Approximately ten minutes ago, Mr. Grace said: "I am not commenting on whether paying above the market price is good, bad or indifferent". Does he think paying above the market price is good, bad or indifferent?
Mr. Kieran Grace:
I made that comment in the context of a marketplace where there are willing buyers and sellers.
It was in the context of buyers being willing to pay above that that I said I was not going to say whether it was good, bad or indifferent. If a person wants to go to a concert or event and is willing to pay that, it is not for me to decide whether that is right or wrong. My comment was taken out of context. It was a case of looking at it in the context of a market situation where I mentioned detriment. Normally, one deals with asymmetry of power and information. In this case, there are willing buyers buying from sellers so it was in that context that I was not going to comment on whether paying above or below the price was good, bad or indifferent. That is not the point. It was in the context of a reply to Deputy Rock who said it was an atypical market.
For clarity, I take it Mr. Grace would agree with me when I say that paying above the market price is a bad thing in respect of these tickets. If being gouged on price by these secondary ticket sellers is a bad thing, this is why the Bill is being brought forward and why we have a cross-party consensus that this needs to be tackled. What I find shocking is that we have people from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation who sound more like representatives from the industry.
Mr. Kieran Grace:
I am in the consumer section of the Department, not the industry section. The issue of people being prepared to pay a price is a personal one for those people depending on what attachment they have to that entertainment or sporting event. It also raises the question of what ticket price was charged in the first place because, arguably, in a market scenario, the ticket price would be what people are willing to pay. That is what general economic theory would say. With some concerts, there are some moves towards what is called dynamic ticket pricing where there is a range of ticket pricing and if someone wants to pay more, they can pay more, not on the secondary site but on the primary site. In some cases, for example, the Taylor Swift concerts-----
Mr. Bill Cox:
That point is worth making. So-called dynamic or market-led pricing is one of the trends that have emerged in the ticket market over the past year. What it essentially means is that artists and promoters are trying to take revenue from the secondary market and give it back to the artist or promoter. They are doing that by drastically bumping up the prices on the primary market. There are eight different price bands for the upcoming Taylor Swift concerts in Croke Park that go from €74.50 to over €700. Tickets for the Rolling Stones concerts went from €70 to €450.
Mr. Bill Cox:
They are set by the artist with the promoter. I suspect that it will primarily be the artist. Live Nation, which promotes most of the main touring acts and manages some of them, has expressly said that its policy is to take back revenue from the secondary market by moving towards dynamic pricing, so that does raise a question for legislation of the kind contained in the Deputy's Bill when people can charge those kind of prices on the primary market.
Mr. Bill Cox:
There is certainly evidence for the US but the US is a very different market compared with Ireland. It is a recent trend in Ireland. I do not want to comment on what is going to happen with particular events. It may not work at all for some of them, but as I said, that is an issue for the promoters and artists. It is a growing trend, however, and it does raise a question about legislating to prohibit what are regarded as excessive prices on the secondary market in a situation in which secondary-type prices are increasingly being charged on the primary market for big events.
No, you are fine. I must still make the point that I do not think the witnesses have addressed Deputy Quinlivan's Bill today. To me, it reads like a sceptical essay and it also seems as if the witnesses are wedded to this idea that the market always works when, clearly, we know it does not. Deputy Quinlivan's Bill will cap price increases to 10%. Do the witnesses acknowledge that this in itself would make a very valuable contribution to this issue?
Yes, but Mr. Grace went on to say that it is unlikely to eliminate it entirely. As Deputy Quinlivan has said, nothing is going to do that. It is like Mr. Grace is making a point and then scoring against it at the same time. That is how it comes across.
Mr. Kieran Grace:
What we point out is that in countries that have brought in price caps, it has not eliminated it entirely. We cite the examples of Belgium, Denmark etc. We are trying to present the evidence here of what we have gleaned through the public consultation on the issue. We are not saying it will not have an effect. We said in our submission that it will help reduce it but it will not reduce it entirely. Deputy Quinlivan acknowledged that as well.
Mr. Bill Cox:
We are doing no more than we would do with any legislative proposal, which is to assess it in terms of established criteria, which are necessity, effectiveness and proportionality. I reject any suggestion that we are trying to undermine the Bill or question it. We would do this if it were a proposal from our own Minister. It is essentially just the first run of a regulatory impact assessment, RIA, that Deputy Quinlivan would be would be required to undertake if the Bill progresses any further. That is all that is involved here.
I thank Mr. Cox and Mr. Grace for their submission and assessment today. I could certainly feel some of the frustration here about how some of the questions were answered but I honestly think the witnesses have presented the information in probably the best format they could and I certainly appreciate it.
I also thank Mr. Grace and Mr. Cox for coming before us. I know that at times the questions might have been a bit robust but they are borne out of frustration on our part because we have dealing with this for quite a long time and a lot of work has been put into it. I am glad the witnesses acknowledged that there is an issue and that the Minister is certainly looking at it. We await that. I thank the witnesses for their time here today, which was much appreciated.