Consumer watchdog steps up ticketing probe

Some 235,000 documents and emails have been examined as part of an ongoing probe into anti-competitive ticket event pricing, the body responsible for the inquiry has said.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) said that as well as the 235,000 items, there have been nine summons hearings with sworn evidence given since its investigation began this year.

The examination was so complex that a date for conclusion could not be given, the body said.

The CCPC, which is a statutory body that enforces competition and consumer protection law, started its investigation in January into suspected breaches of competition law in the provision of tickets for live events.

When U2 tickets on Ticketmaster’s site sold out in January, tickets immediately appeared on its sister site Seatwave for multiples of the original price.

Some sellers had been asking for up to €1,000 a ticket for the concert, which took place in July in Croke Park.

It said its investigation began because of “concerns of potentially anti-competitive conduct such as exclusive arrangements, rebates, high service charges by operators involved in providing tickets, and ticketing services”.

The watchdog said it has also been in contact with “other industry participants and authorities in other jurisdictions in relation to similar investigations”.

“The CCPC is currently conducting an in-depth analysis of the information gathered as well as continuing with witness summons hearings and contacting industry participants. By their nature, investigations such as these are complex, require the co-operation of companies, as well as in-depth analysis of the information gathered, and so the CCPC cannot provide a definite timeline as to the conclusion of this investigation at this stage,” the body said.

The CCPC said it was aware of its UK counterpart, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigating hotel booking websites over concerns they did not help people find the best deal and were potentially breaking consumer law.

The CMA said it was concerned about the clarity, accuracy, and presentation of information on sites, which could mislead consumers.

Major hotel booking site operators include US firms Expedia; Hotels.com, Booking.com,which is owned by The Priceline Group; and Germany’s Trivago, which is majority owned by Expedia.

The CMA said it would examine how hotels were ranked, for example whether results were influenced by how much commission a hotel pays over the customer’s requirements, and the use of pressure selling, such as claims about how many rooms were left.

Ireland’s consumer watchdog, which is headed up by Isolde Goggin, said it was in continuous monitoring of websites across a range of industries but stopped short of saying it would launch its own probe in the Republic.

“We are aware of the CMA’s proposed work in this area. The CCPC regularly monitors online trading sites across many sectors for compliance with a number of provisions including the Consumer Rights Directive and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. At present, this is the extent of our involvement in the sector in this regard,” it said.

The CCPC has taken action against hotel room aggregator sites previously, including Booking.com, it said.

Additional reporting Reuters


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