There’s no escaping it. No matter how early you get up, or how quick you get, online or how long you’ve been waiting in a virtual queue, you always know you’re fighting a losing battle even before the clocks strike nine or ten and that, inevitably, the website will crash, making all your endeavours worthless. Online ticket touting is one of the biggest issues with the ticket-selling market and it’s a problem that, no matter how much they might say they want a change, the big companies (or in the case of this monopolised market, the big company) don’t want to go away. Though ticket touting has always been a problem, in recent years it’s become somewhat of an epidemic, with everyone being affected some way or another.
Ticket touting, for those who are unaware, is the purchasing of tickets to sporting or musical events with the chief objective of selling the ticket on at an enormously high mark up price, sometimes three or four times the original retail price. Criminals have begun using professional ticket touting software known as “bots” that are capable of hacking into the primary ticketing system (e.g Ticketmaster) and taking out hundreds of tickets using multiple, valid credit cards. This hacking makes it almost impossible for the majority of genuine, legitimate fans to get access to tickets. The touts then put them for sale online at often three times the original price, and fans are so desperate to attend that they pay outrageous and ridiculous prices to see their favourite band, team, or singer.
Within the last few weeks, tickets for shows by Coldplay, U2 and Ed Sheeran all selling out within seconds, yet being available instantaneously on Ticketmaster-owned secondary ticket-seller Seatwave for more than four times the original price. Government officials have been considering ways to crack down on ticket touting. Attempts had previously been made in 2011 to outlaw the resale of tickets at an increased value, but Minister for Jobs at the time (Richard Bruton) rejected to pass any legislation as he believed that any attempt to stop touting would just lead to touts using websites based abroad and would not solve any problems.
Two weeks ago, however, an attempt was made again to pass legislation to ban touting. Fine Gael’s Minister for Communications, Climate action and Environment Denis Naughton recommended a private member’s bill to the cabinet outlawing touting of any kind. The legislation, written by Fine Gael TD Noel Rock and independent TD (now a member of Fianna Fáil) Stephen Donnelly, would ban the resale of tickets above face value bar those auctioned or sold for charity. The current Minister for Jobs raised the same issues as Richard Bruton did years before, but in stark contrast there seems to be almost universal support for the bill this time around. Also relating to the issue, the Consumer Protection Committee have also recently launched an investigation into suspected breaches of competition laws relating to ticket resale. While the results of both the investigation and the cabinet vote may not be instant, it could lead to a solution in the not too distant future.
Ireland are proving to be very slow in dealing with the problem of touting. There is a law in place since 1995, as part of the casual trading act of 1995, stating that tickets cannot be sold in public unless the seller has a licence, but this is very rarely something that Gardaí check, and with touting moving online no licence is needed. Music ticket resale is already banned in countries across the world, such as France, Norway, Israel and the majority of Canada. In some states in the U.S., tickets are not allowed to be sold on the grounds or in the surrounding area of the arena where the event is taking place. In the U.K. the government has found it more difficult to manage; the resale of football tickets has been banned since 1944 (as part of the effort to deal with hooliganism) but the concert ticket touting industry, according to IQ magazine, is worth over £1 Billion per year. It is very difficult for any government to pass any laws rlating to online retail as there is very few ways in which the police force could properly enforce it. So if it’s so difficult, why don’t ticket retailing companies help find a solution? The answer is simple: money.
Ticketmaster is the largest ticket retail company in the world following its $2.5 Billion merger with concert promoters and organisers Live Nation. It sells tickets in almost every country in the world, and was valued at over $8 Billion in 2007. In 2014, it completed the acquisition of operating assets from European company SeatWave. Since then it has used this company to act as a secondary ticket seller, where users can sell tickets at any price they want to other users. When doing so, TicketMaster charges a 12.5% service charge derived from whatever value the ticket was sold for. This means that if a ticket is sold at three times the original value, Ticketmaster make three times the amount of profit on each ticket. For them, it is a simple case of grab all the money that they can, however they can.
So while we all may be giving out about touting, there’s very little the government or anyone can do. Reasonable solutions could be that the name on each ticket must appear with I.D., but that would deny tickets sold at a genuine price as well. There could also be the introduction of a ticket collection system at the venue, where the cardholder must be present to enter the venue. However, without the major ticket companies supporting a solution there’s very little hope of anything of worth taking place soon. It seems as though the early morning wake ups, the virtual queuing and the inevitable website crash have a long way to go until they become a thing of the past.