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Viagogo hits back at Irish ticketing laws

Ticketing resale company Viagogo has issued a legal memorandum to Irish government ministers claiming that the proposed laws governing ticket touting are “repugnant” to the constitution and would pose a threat to jobs at its office in Limerick.

In July, the Irish cabinet approved the laws which are set to lead to a ban on the above-face value resale of tickets for sporting and entertainment events in designated venues. The laws are also seeking to end the use of bot software to acquire tickets in excess of a number permitted by event organisers.

The proposed bill has been met with widespread opposition from stakeholders in the ticketing industry, and Irish business news website Fora has reported that Viagogo in November sent a legal document compiled by senior counsel Michael Howard and barrister Patrick Fitzgerald to ministers at the Department of Business and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The document claims the proposed laws would breach the Irish constitution and would also flout European legislation. Viagogo’s legal representatives claim the bill is “extremely vulnerable to challenge” as it would undermine consumers’ rights to sell tickets at prices dictated by the market.

Viagogo is also claiming that if enforced, the new laws would result in a “significant risk” to the 200 existing jobs at Viagogo’s customer service centre in Limerick as well as 150 new positions. In October, the Irish arm of Viagogo saw pre-tax profits more than double as the company continued its expansion in the country.

Concerning the “significant risk” described, Howard and Fitzgerald said: “That risk arises because of the direct impact on Viagogo’s business and the risk that the employees of (Viagogo) could be prosecuted for the resale of tickets through the Viagogo platform.”

Viagogo’s representatives conceded that the main issue affecting event ticketing at present is the use of bots, but added that this can be tackled through technical measures. Howard and Fitzgerald claim the proposed bill would “criminalise the business activities of the likes of Viagogo”. They added it is “repugnant to the constitution” as it would infringe in the property rights of Irish citizens.

“The price at which a person decides to resell a ticket is a matter for that person and the market,” they wrote. “Moreover, the proposed legislation may be contrary to EU law in violating Article 34 in relation to the free movement of goods, as well as Article 16 of the EU charter on the freedom to conduct business.

“The bill can be regarded as a breach of Article 16 as it seriously reduces the contractual freedom of consumers to freely dispose of tickets as they see fit.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Business told Fora that a legal adviser is examining Viagogo’s opinion.