Watchdog loosens Ticketmaster’s grip on live events sales

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Ticketmaster Ireland is to stop using “exclusivity clauses” which tie music and entertainment venues to using its service alone for the supply of event tickets.

The move was agreed by the ticket sales and distribution giant following a lengthy investigation by the competition watchdog.

It is likely to lead to a significant shake-up in the ticket distribution market, where Ticketmaster has been the dominant force for some time.

Publishing the agreement today, the Competition and Consumer Protections Commission (CCPC) said it would allow for improved competition in the ticket sales market that could ultimately deliver consumers significant benefits in terms of price, service and innovation.

Ticketmaster has denied any wrongdoing or breach of competition laws. The terms of the agreement will become legally binding at a High Court hearing later this month.

The CCPC began an investigation in January 2017 looking into suspected breaches of competition law surrounding the operation of ticketing services for live events, which it believed were “causing consumer harm”. It said it had concerns Ticketmaster may have abused its dominant position in the Irish market.

Although the investigation looked at a wide range of issues, it is clear a major cause of concern related to potentially anti-competitive conduct such as exclusive arrangements.

An exclusivity clause can mean Ticketmaster is the only advertised source of tickets for a live event or that the company must receive 80pc or more of the tickets available.

Another form of exclusivity clause prohibits a customer from allocating tickets to a Ticketmaster competitor.

Under the agreement, Ticketmaster will give an undertaking not to enter into any agreement with a venue that contains an exclusivity clause.

It will refrain from using exclusivity clauses in agreements with live event organisers if the duration of the agreement is longer than three years.

Ticketmaster has also committed to agreeing to release venues from existing contractual obligations to comply with exclusivity clauses. A similar commitment has been made in respect of existing contracts with live event organisers where clauses apply for longer than three years.

In a statement, the CCPC said: “Ticketmaster Ireland holds a very significant share of this market in the island of Ireland.

“The CCPC had concerns that Ticketmaster Ireland may have abused a dominant position in the market by entering into long term exclusive contracts with contractual partners and that these contracts may have restricted competition in the market. Abuse of a dominant position and entering into anti-competitive agreements are prohibited by competition law.”

The agreement was signed by CCPC chair Isolde Goggin and Ticketmaster Ireland managing director Keith English.

The CCPC said that once the live events industry, currently reeling due to the pandemic, opens up again, the measures included in the agreement would allow for improved competition in the market, and provide more choice for Irish live event businesses.

In a statement Ticketmaster said: “We have been working with the CCPC and are pleased to have resolved their concerns. The motion filed in the High Court is simply a mechanism to formalise our agreement with them and concludes their investigation.”

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Source: Irish News