Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General dismissed concerns that Live Nation Entertainment violated the province’s anti-scalping laws when it sold tickets for Madonna’s September 10, 2012 concert in Ottawa. Tickets to the performance in ScotiaBank Place went on sale directly through Live Nation on February 14, 2012 and were sold out within 21 minutes, the fastest sellout in the venue’s history. Tickets remained available on a Live Nation subsidiary called VIPNation.com, however, at an inflated price that was often hundreds of dollars above face value.
According to Ontario’s Ticket Speculation Act of 1990, reselling tickets above their face value is forbidden.
“We understand the frustration at some people’s experience in trying to buy concert tickets,” said the Ministry’s Policy and Adjudicative Tribunals Division in an email response to TicketNews’ inquiry. “However, it is very common that large blocks of seats are allocated to insiders, like people connected to the artist or the promoter, and they may sell rather than use the tickets.”
The Ministry acknowledged that the Ticket Speculation Act does prohibit reselling tickets at a price above face value and clarified the amendments that were made two years ago. “Our legislation was also amended in 2010 to ban the sale of tickets to the same Ontario event by the primary seller and a related secondary seller. This was intended to avoid the temptation of related parties to collude to raise prices beyond what the Act would allow,” the Ministry stated in the email.
“Some of the secondary sellers act as agents for the holders of the tickets, and the holders set the resale prices,” the Ministry added. “As a result, it is not clear that the sales sites are committing an offence.”
Ontario is no stranger to questionable ticket-selling practices. In 2009, anger erupted after TicketMaster declared that tickets for particular performances were sold out while simultaneously offering tickets for the same performances, at higher prices, through its subsidiary TicketsNow. The uproar inspired then-attorney general Christopher Bentley to propose amending the 19-year-old Ticket Speculation Act.
In its email response, the Ministry noted that enforcing legislation is a police matter rather than the attorney general’s responsibility. “It is the police, not the Ministry, who are responsible for such investigations.”
Whether the Ministry acts upon a legal violation is therefore dependent upon two factors; whether the police press charges, and the probability of conviction. As stated in the email, “The Ministry’s prosecutors may prosecute charges laid by the police, if there is a reasonable prospect of conviction.” This strategy makes the work of the Ontario attorney general entirely reactionary with regards to law enforcement.
International ticket selling presents a difficulty to attorney generals. Possible malefactors live outside Ontario’s jurisdiction, requiring cooperation with other law enforcement agencies and even with other countries. “It is a challenge investigating and prosecuting people, and enforcing any sanctions against people, who are outside Ontario, even if their activity is an offence in the province,” argues the Ministry.
The attorney general’s website lists the Ministry’s major responsibilities. First in the enumerated order is “administering approximately 115 statutes.” A link transfers the viewer to another Ministry page that lists the 115 statutes in alphabetical order; the Ticket Speculation Act is included. Returning to the previous page, the attorney general’s second and third responsibilities are “conducting criminal proceedings throughout Ontario” and “providing legal advice to, and conducting litigation on behalf of, all government ministries and many agencies, boards and tribunals.”
Ontario’s current attorney general, John Gerretsen, was appointed in October 2011. Gerretsen previously served as Minister of Consumer Services from August 2010 until his appointment as attorney general and Minister of the Environment from 2007 to 2010.
Gerretsen is continuing a $50 billion lawsuit against international tobacco companies, claiming that they downplayed the healthcare risks of smoking and target underage users in ads. “We will continue to vigorously pursue this litigation on behalf of all Ontarians,” Gerretsen said in a statement on Jan. 6. That same week, the Ottawa Citizen reports that Ontario’s Supreme Court threw out a complaint by the tobacco companies arguing that their international nature made them immune from prosecution.