B.C. fights ticket scalpers with consumer protection law and eliminates bots

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A dog stands on a stand up paddle board as two women enjoy the summer temperatures in Deep Cove in North Vancouver, B.C. Saturday, June 29, 2013. Real estate company Royal LePage is predicting British Columbia's new speculation tax on out-of-province buyers will likely convince a wave of owners to sell their vacation properties, pushing down home prices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

British Columbia Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says he fondly recalls the day he waited in line at his local shopping mall for a dozen concert tickets to see Irish rock superstars U2 perform in Vancouver.

That was the late 1980s, and since then ticket buying has become much more complex, expensive and unfair, Farnworth said.

“I ended up taking my brothers and his friends and a couple good friends of mine, and we had one amazing time,” Farnworth said about the U2 show. “It was probably one of the best concerts I’d been to in my life.”

Farnworth introduced proposed consumer protection legislation Tuesday to bring more fairness and transparency to purchasing tickets to live entertainment events in B.C.

The Ticket Sales Act intends to prohibit mass-buying software, or so-called bots, that are able to purchase large amounts of tickets for live events, then resell them at inflated prices, he said. The proposed changes will also regulate how tickets to live cultural, recreational and sporting events are bought and sold in B.C., said Farnworth.

He described current ticket-buying practices as frustrating, computer-typing contests that do not guarantee tickets and if successful often result in higher prices charged by secondary sellers.

“Simply put, fans want to be able to get to live entertainment events without resorting to tickets sold on the secondary market at highly inflated prices,” said Farnworth. “With this new legislation, my hope is people in B.C. will find that ticket buying is a fairer, more transparent process.”

The law would require clear disclosure of ticket prices, refund guarantees by secondary sellers and declarations by those sellers that they are not the original ticket provider, he said.

“By establishing a regulatory framework for the sale of tickets in B.C., we want to ensure that everyone has a fair chance of obtaining a ticket at a fair price,” Farnworth said.

He said the government will depend on the original ticket sellers to ensure they aren’t being sold to resellers in mass quantities.

“It’s not going to be about getting the individual in the Cayman Islands or in Russia,” Farnworth said. “It’s about ticket sellers.”

He said the law will not place a cap on resale prices because enforcement of price caps has proved difficult to enforce in other jurisdictions.

“We’ve put forward legislation we believe will work,” Farnworth said.

Victoria entertainment manager Nick Blasko said the B.C. law provides more certainty for ticket buyers and establishes a strong stance against buying software.

“There’s been a gradual erosion of trust in the ticket process that nearly everyone who attends concerts or events can attest to,” said Blasko, whose company produces music festivals and manages popular Canadian sister duo Tegan and Sara.

“From outright counterfeit tickets to confusing pricing terms and information, the consumer is often at risk, particularly in the secondary marketplace,” he said.

The New Democrat government said in its throne speech in February that people in B.C. are frustrated that companies can buy large numbers of tickets and sell them at inflated prices.

The government launched a public consultation last year about the current ticket buying and selling process, which received 6,500 responses.

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