On 26 January 2017, Ireland's Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (or CCPC) announced that it has commenced an investigation into suspected breaches of competition law in relation to the provision of tickets and the operation of ticketing services for live events.
This is a sector which has been the subject of media comment for some time but it is not known what the investigation entails because the CCPC has stated that "as the investigation is ongoing, the CCPC is not in a position to provide any further information at this time."
However, the CCPC has stated that the investigation "will focus primarily on potentially anti-competitive conduct by operators including; those involved in providing tickets and ticketing services, promoters and venues. As part of the investigation, the CCPC has issued witness summonses and formal requirements for information to a number of parties involved in the sector." This looks like a full-blown investigation and could be quite involved. The CCPC has extensive powers to investigate possible breaches but unlike many competition agencies around the world, it is unable to impose a fine so cases usually conclude by: (a) a finding of no breach; (b) an agreement between the CCPC and the parties to settle matters; (c) a civil case by the CCPC in the courts; or (d) a criminal prosecution in the courts which is usually done by the Director of Public Prosecutions supported fully by the CCPC. It is not possible to say at this stage how the case will end as matters are still under investigation.
It is interesting that the CCPC has announced publicly that it is conducting the investigation but also that the CCPC has stated that it "welcomes contacts from parties in the sector who may have information that they feel is relevant to the investigation." In an earlier case in 2005, where the Competition Authority found no breach of competition law at all and closed its investigation, the Authority's investigation "was prompted by complaints from thousands of consumers (including a complaint petition signed by in excess of 8,000 individuals)" so there could be some interest from the public!
For further information, contact Dr Vincent Power or any member of the EU, Competition & Procurement Group at A&L Goodbody.