Thursday, 31 January 2019
Prohibition of Above-cost Ticket Touting Bill 2017: Second Stage [Private Members]
The point I am making is that this situation is very unusual. When I came in here today I did not know whether the Bill would be introduced by the Minister or the two Deputies who sponsored it. It is very unusual for a Private Members' Bill to be introduced in this way and I am absolutely certain it would not have happened if any other parties had been involved. That is the point I am making in that regard. We all have Bills that are awaiting money messages in various committees, an issue which must be addressed. We have very limited time to debate anything as it stands and we may have to debate a Brexit Bill next month, although we hope that will not arise and we will not have a no-deal Brexit. If that does happen, we will have all sorts of difficulties and will need a considerable amount of Oireachtas time to deal with it.
To address the Bill, I welcome the Minister's statement that this is not the complete object because some of the most important issues in this area are not currently covered in the legislation before us. I refer in particular to the outlawing of bot software and am glad to hear the Minister intends to table an amendment dealing with that. I assume the Deputies sponsoring the Bill would also be happy with that. One of the biggest problems in this area is that tickets are bought up in bulk almost immediately, with the express intention of reselling them at a fairly significant profit. I am not sure what the Minister's intentions are in regard to ensuring that a percentage of tickets for all events go on general sale. I understand that for sporting events in particular, a certain number of tickets will be allocated to ten-year ticket holders, clubs and so on and that is perfectly acceptable. However, some percentage of tickets should be set aside for sale to the general public. We all know of people who go to every qualifying match in the GAA championship but who cannot get tickets for the final. Deputies might say that they should be able to get them through their clubs but that is not always possible and genuine fans sometimes lose out. Some percentage of tickets should be available to the general public. I do not know whether the Minister intends to include such a provision in her amendments. She said she is waiting for the advice of the Attorney General on whether the Bill will have to go to the EU for approval. I also welcome Deputy Donnelly's statement that the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission is examining the Bill, which is very positive because we all want to see progress on this issue.
I must be upfront and say that I am concerned about jobs in my constituency. There are 275 workers currently employed by an IDA Ireland backed company in Limerick which provides customer services for the EU-wide, if not worldwide, activities of an online ticket resale platform. I understand all of the points that have been made thus far. I also note that Deputy Donnelly said that this Bill would secure jobs and that it will be possible to charge commission on resale. However, I cannot find any provision in the Bill which states that one can charge commission on resale. The legislation states that a service charge means "any booking charge or fee imposed and printed on the ticket at the time of the initial sale by an authorised person". I cannot see the provision to which Deputy Donnelly referred but perhaps the Minister can clarify that later.
There is a concern for the aforementioned jobs in Limerick. The company in question was backed by IDA Ireland. I attended the official opening a number of years ago, as did the relevant Minister. We must be concerned about these 275 jobs, which is not a small number by any means. I am not endorsing the resale of tickets at inflated prices, which is essentially what this Bill is trying to address, but recording my concern for those jobs. The Minister must respond to this, given that she is also responsible for the IDA. I am anxious, obviously, to protect jobs in my constituency.
I fully support the general purpose of this legislation. I have been known to loiter outside Thomond Park on occasions when I did not have a ticket in the hope of meeting someone with one to spare but I would never pay more than face value. I have also done it for GAA matches and most people who do it will never pay more than face value. One will nearly always meet someone whose brother could not make it or some such and he or she will never ask for more than face value. That is generally how sports fans behave. I absolutely condemn those who hang around outside venues, pushing people out of the way so that they can sell tickets at inflated prices. That is what we want to stamp out and I assume that is the aim of the two Deputies who sponsored this Bill. It is what we all want to achieve.
Deputy Rock said earlier that the Bill is fairly simple and straightforward but questions around legality arise. One such question relates to the power of gardaí to seize tickets. The Bill reads thus:
If a member of An Garda Síochána has reasonable cause for believing that a person is committing or has committed an offence under section 2(1), that member may—(a) arrest without warrant the person who has so behaved
The advice of the Attorney General may be required on that provision because I do not think gardaí can arrest somebody on suspicion without warrant. Certainly those who try to stop shoplifters are very much aware that if they accuse someone and then turn out to be wrong, they may be charged with taking someone's good name. There may be pitfalls in this provision and if we are to pass legislation here, we must make sure it is tight and legally sound.
I presume that all of these issues will be discussed in depth on Committee Stage. I am not a member of the relevant committee but I presume I can attend and contribute to the debate. If I table amendments, I will not be able to vote on them but I presume I can attend the committee. I look forward to seeing the Minister's amendments. I assume she will publish them fairly soon. Opposition spokespersons will need to see those amendments well in advance so that we can get legal advice on them and on what is a very important Bill which is genuinely trying to address a serious problem. We need to get it right because otherwise it will be challenged and will not be effective.