Above-cost ticket-touting law - Protecting consumers comes first

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock.

In a rare example of consensus politics, the Prohibition of Above-Cost Ticket Touting Bill — introduced by Fine Gael TD Noel Rock and Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly — has been approved and supported by the Cabinet.

No doubt, professional ticket touts will already be working on ways to get around Ireland’s new law, which seeks to ban the above face-value resale of tickets for major sporting and entertainment events.

At the same time, many people may have misgivings and consider such a law intrusive and a sign of Nanny-state meddling in private, commercial transactions.

Such a restraining piece of legislation also goes against the promotion of free enterprise in our culture and economy, and serves to highlight inconsistencies in our laws.

It may appear to make little sense that a person can buy a house and flip it for a quick profit, but not do that with, say, a U2 ticket.

Or that someone who owns an acre of agricultural land worth €10,000 is quite at liberty to sell it for €200,000, if it has been rezoned for housing or commercial development.

If somebody has, literally, more money than sense and is foolish enough to pay €1,000 for a €90 ticket, why should the law criminalise that, but not a vulture fund making a quick buck buying and then selling bad loans? Profit, after all, is at the heart of business and, without that motive, we would not have free enterprise or even jobs in private industry.

Yet, while consistency in the law is important, it isn’t everything. Fairness and a properly functioning market are also essential to trade.

There are plenty of laws already that protect consumers when a market is broken or skewed massively in favour of one side.

The most recent example of this is the ceiling put on mobile-phone roaming charges. Even in the home of free enterprise, capitalism is not unfettered.

Like the EU, the US has plenty of health and safety legislation to protect consumers, as well as a statutory minimum wage to limit the exploitation of vunlerable workers.

Although there is no federal law that bans ticket-touting, some states have legislation that restricts the practice or prohibits it outright.

While Mr Rock declares himself to be a free marketeer “on a philosophical level”, his arguments in favour of the law are persuasive.

He and Mr Donnelly argue that the legislation is necessary because, while there has always been some low-level touting, the move to online sales and bots has brought ticket-touting to an industrial scale.

Similar legislation in the UK was prompted by reports of a link between online touts and organised crime. A new law introduced there in April makes it a criminal offence to use automated technology to purchase large amounts of tickets and then resell them.

The legislation is also necessary to put into effect the commitment given to Uefa to ban the unauthorised transfer and use of tickets for matches and official events taking place in Ireland during the Euro 2020 Championship.

Neither is the new bill a total killjoy. The law will apply only to sporting and entertainment events in designated venues with a capacity of 1,000 or more.

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