Originally appeared on BNN.ca June 26, 2017.
The Ontario government is proposing new rules to crack down on automated online ticket buying.
In a release titled ‘Ontario Putting Fans First’ the government outlined a number of proposals to help police Canada’s ticket sale and resale industry. Those proposals include banning automated online ticket buying ‘bots’ and the tickets they purchase, capping resale prices at 50 per cent above face value, requiring increased disclosure from resale businesses and increased measures to aid the enforcement of resale rules.
“It’s not fair to fans when tickets sell out in seconds and show up on resale sites at a massive markup,” Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said in a statement. “That’s why we are changing the rules to make sure fans come first and to give everyone a fair shot at getting the tickets they want.”
Scalper bots came to the forefront in Canada last spring when many fans were prevented from getting tickets to the Tragically Hip’s farewell tour.
The new regulations are the result of a survey conducted by the province that polled over 34,000 fans in February and March of this year.
Music historian and co-host of the Geeks & Beats podcast Alan Cross questioned Ontario’s ability to ban bot-purchased tickets.
“The one that I think everybody’s most interested in is the fact that tickets purchased with bots or tickets that were purchased with bots and re-sold are going to be made illegal,” he told BNN in an interview Monday. “How they’re going to actually enforce that is a mystery, since a lot of these bots can be off-shore, they can be outside of Ontario’s jurisdiction.”
“Something does need to be done about this, but what? That’s for further discussion.”
Some artists have made efforts to get around the bots in recent years. Bruce Springsteen, Mumford & Sons and Adele have all utilized ‘paperless entry’ requiring concert-goers to present the purchasing credit card to enter the venue.
Foo Fighters used a much more traditional strategy in its ticket bot defence in 2014, offering fans a chance to get as many as four tickets to its Sonic Highways tour by lining up at the venue before online presales even began.
Ticketmaster has recently taken steps to better the fans’ odds to getting tickets, instituting the ‘Verified Fan’ procedure. The system, which requires fans to register before on-sale dates for a crack at tickets, has recently been utilized by artists including Harry Styles and LCD Soundsystem.
Ticket re-sale platform StubHub spoke out in favour of proposed regulations that would increase transparency for fans hoping to secure in-demand tickets.
“StubHub provides Ontarians with a safe, secure and convenient place to purchase tickets to live events they want to experience. We support practical polices that ensure fans have transparency and choice across the entire ticket market, without restriction or penalty,” StubHub Senior Manager of Government Relations Laura Dooley told BNN via email.
Cross also hit on the issue of transparency when it comes to ticketing procedures.
“What we really need is some transparency in this whole process,” Cross told BNN. “Let’s say for example [Toronto’s] Air Canada Centre, there’s 20,000 tickets for a given show: How many of those tickets actually go on sale to the general public?”
Cross noted that pre-sales from radio stations, VIP programs, the artists’ fan clubs, American Express ‘Front of the Line’ take a large chunk out of the pool before the tickets even see the light of day for public purchase.
“It’s not 20,000 … it may be 10 (thousand), it may be eight. We need to know that, which will in turn help us understand exactly why the prices on the secondary market are what they are.”
An Angus Reid Institute poll conducted last month found 80 per cent of Canadians favoured banning scalper bots outright.
“Regardless of experience, Canadians don’t have a great perception of the re-selling market. Even though relatively few have bought and even fewer have re-sold on the secondary market, they do see the resale industry as one that is part of a huge problem,” said Angus Reid executive director Shachi Kurl told BNN in May.