B.C. government to ban ticket bots, require clear ticket price disclosure

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The B.C. government has introduced legislation that will eliminate ticket bots and mass-buying software. But the legislation does not set a cap on reselling sites or force venues to disclose to the public how many tickets are available.

Ticket bots are used by ticket resellers to buy large quantities of tickets for resale at inflated prices before members of the public can buy them at face value.

“We want to make sure that everyone has a fair chance of acquiring a ticket at a fair price,” Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said.

“The act will make the ticket buying experience online and at the box office better for fans across the province.”

Government’s have tried to ban ticket bots before but have ran into trouble because they are based in other jurisdictions. British Columbia is trying to avoid those issues by giving ticket sellers the legal power to cancel tickets purchased by mass-buying computer software.

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“It’s not going to be going about getting the individual in the Cayman Islands or Russia. It is about tickets sellers such as Ticketmaster who have the ability to track bots to cancel transactions,” Farnworth said.

“We will also have the ability through the legislation to put in civil action.”

READ MORE: Public calls for price cap on resold tickets, cracking down on bots

The legislation would ban primary ticket resellers like Ticketmaster from never making tickets available on the primary market. Ticketmaster will often sell tickets directly, for inflated prices, on a secondary site often advertised as an improved fan experience.

In a statement, Ticketmaster applauded the legislation without directly mentioning the ban on moving tickets to the secondary site.

“Ticketmaster’s mission is to ensure tickets get into the hands of fans. The use of BOTS and spec ticketing subvert that mission and we have long had zero tolerance for both” the statement reads.

“Ticketmaster has been at the forefront of combating BOTS, investing in and utilizing best in class technology to circumvent and block them, and never allowed spec ticketing, which defrauds and confuses fans. The legislation introduced in British Columbia will improve the overall ticketing buying experience and we applaud the Solicitor General and his team for their commitment to the issue.”

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Vancouver-based ticker reseller Kingsley Bailey says the legislation does not require venues and ticket companies to tell the public how many tickets are available for an event.

Bailey says he believes only about 30 per cent of tickets are actually made available to the public. The rest, he says, either end up on the secondary market, go to sponsors or get snapped up in presales.

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“This legislation has to address that and it hasn’t,” Bailey said.

The province says there are issues with posting how many tickets are actually available.

“It’s quite a complicated issue because a lot of it depends on how the venue is structured, the nature of the venue and that can change,” Farnworth said.

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“What we focused on are those areas where we know we can make some significant improvements on the ability to access tickets.”

The legislation ensures that ticket resellers provide refund guarantees by secondary sellers and secondary ticketing platform operators.

A secondary ticket seller must also disclose that they are a secondary ticket seller as well as their name, location and contact information.

READ MORE: In light of the Ticketmaster investigation, are there other ways to get tickets?

Secondary sellers can no longer legally advertise tickets that they do not have in their possession. Companies have been caught before advertising tickets that they were never able to get for consumers.

Bailey says that secondary sellers will often change their location in Vancouver if they were caught either offering fraudulent tickets or advertising tickets that never came through.

“The best way you can see that is you can look and see that they are in a different location because they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar and their was no cookies,” Bailey said.

Last year, the B.C. government launched a consultation in which around 6,500 people responded. More than 80 per cent of people wanted to see a cap on ticket prices like they do in Manitoba. The B.C. government did not address that concern in the legislation because of problems Manitoba has seen.

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“We have looked at legislation across North America. No where else has put in price caps,” Farnworth said.

“The problem with doing that it is not enforceable and second it drives tickets in to the black market. We don’t want to put legislation out there that creates a false sense of hope.”

Penalties in the legislation include fines of up to $100,000 for businesses, or $10,000 for people.

The world’s largest ticket reseller, StubHub, was consulted for this legislation. They are reviewing the legislation but applaud the move to ban bot.

“StubHub supports initiatives that put fans first. We welcome comprehensive legislation that looks at the market holistically and addresses those issues that are negatively impacting fans,” StubHub Global Head of Public Affairs Aimee Campbell said.

“Banning the use of bots to unfairly procure tickets is a great first step for fans in British Columbia. We look forward to further reviewing the legislation introduced today.”

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