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Viagogo claims Irish ticketing bill is unconstitutional

Viagogo has claimed Ireland’s anti-ticket-touting legislation is unconstitutional in a legal opinion submitted to politicians scrutinising its progress.

Lawyers for the resale giant claim the Sale of Tickets (Cultural, Entertainment, Recreational and Sporting Events) Bill 2020 attacks property rights, citing articles 40.3.2 and 43 of the country’s constitution, according to the Irish Times.

The legal opinion, submitted to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment by Viagogo’s senior counsel Michael Howard and barrister Patrick Fitzgerald, says the proposed ban amounts to an unreasonable and irrational restriction of property rights.

The Government-backed bill aims to prevent the selling of tickets for more than their face value.

In its submission to the committee, published last month, Viagogo also criticised the “special sweetheart” allowance made to UEFA for restrictions on the resale of all Euro 2020 match tickets, even for those taking place in other countries. It said it has received legal advice suggesting this would meet the bar for illegal state aid.

Viagogo also called for the prohibition of bots used to purchase tickets, stating that it would put the onus on the primary market to secure its own inventory. In response, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment told the committee it had initially been intended to include bots restrictions in the general scheme, but this will be included in an EU Directive that will be transposed in the new year.

The Irish Times reports that Frankie Mulqueen, Viagogo’s Irish-based global head of government affairs, said last week that if the bill were to become law, reselling would simply shift to the black market.

“Our day-to-day business is buying and selling tickets that people can’t use,” he explained.

“We make it clear that it is a secondary marketplace. We try to provide as much information as possible to consumers so they can make informed decisions.”

The bill will ban the resale of tickets to live events, matches and concerts in designated venues, at a price above face value. There is an exemption for amateur sports clubs and registered charities for fundraising purposes. A person found guilty of an offence under the act will face a fine of up to €100,000 or up to two years imprisonment.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said last year: “Touts and reselling websites ruin gigs and matches for everyone making it harder to get a ticket in the first place and driving up prices. This is about making sure people aren’t getting ripped off once live events, matches and concerts get up and running again, especially considering numbers are likely to be restricted to begin with.

“There is a specific provision in the Bill for the Euro 2020 championships next year, banning the unauthorised sale of tickets for matches. We want to make sure everyone gets a fair shot at getting tickets at face value.

“This legislation is also hopeful. We’re planning for the time when we can go to gigs, festivals and matches again.”