Legislators in Ontario, Canada this week passed the Ticket Speculation Act, a bill designed to protect consumers by prohibiting primary ticketing companies, like Live Nation’s Ticketmaster division, from reselling tickets through secondary ticket broker sites they own.
Officials have claimed that the bill is not necessarily intended directly at rebuffing Ticketmaster from reselling tickets through its TicketsNow or TicketExchange secondary ticket Web sites. But, the law leaves little room for imagination because no other primary ticketing company is as dominant as Ticketmaster, nor do any have so high a profile within the secondary ticket marketplace.
Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley, who first spearheaded the legislation in 2009, believes the law could help consumers avoid being deceived into paying more for tickets than they expect.
“Ontario is working to ensure fair business practices remain the standard in Ontario. This legislation is about fairness,” Bentley said in a statement. “We are determined to ensure that Ontarians have fair access to entertainment tickets for events taking place in the province.”
As in the U.S., Canadian officials had received complaints from consumers about Ticketmaster redirecting fans to TicketsNow when events were sold out; like most secondary ticket sites, TicketsNow resells tickets at premium prices that at times are several times higher than face value.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission settled similar complaints with Ticketmaster and convinced the company to give refunds for Bruce Springsteen tickets that fans bought through TicketsNow when they thought they were buying them through Ticketmaster.
Ticketmaster has since said it has stopped that practice, so how the new Ontario law will affect its business is not known. A spokesperson for Live Nation, Ticketmaster’s parent company, did not respond to a message seeking comment.
In addition, some critics of the new law said it will not stop the reselling of tickets at high prices, nor will it thwart the use of “bot” software, computer programs that can surreptitiously and quickly break past online firewalls to procure large blocks of tickets.
“The bill does no harm, but it doesn’t do any good either,” consumer advocate Peter Kormos told CTV. “The government is going to frame it as somehow helping consumers, good, god bless them. But, at the end of the day the consumer is still going to get screwed.”
The Ontario law states, in part:
No primary seller shall make a ticket available for sale for admission to an event in Ontario if a ticket for admission to the same event is or has been made available for sale by a secondary seller who is related to the primary seller.
No secondary seller shall make a ticket available for sale for admission to an event in Ontario if a ticket for admission to the same event is or has been made available for sale by a primary seller who is related to the secondary seller.
For the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), a primary seller and a secondary seller are related if a relationship between them, whether corporate, contractual or other, results, directly or indirectly, in an incentive for the primary seller to withhold tickets for sale by the primary seller so that they can be sold by, through or with the assistance of the secondary seller instead.