After months of back-and-forth between Canadian lawmakers and ticket industry leaders, The Candian Press announced today that Ontario passed the Ticket Sales Act. The new law makes it illegal to use bot software or knowingly resell tickets purchased via bot software, bans tickets from being resold at more than 50 percent above face value, and requires an itemized list of all fees, taxes and service charges from primary sellers and the face value of the ticket from secondary sellers.
Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi announced his intent to reform ticket sales laws after outcry from fans about the sell-out of The Tragically Hip’s farewell tour – their last with recently deceased lead singer Gord Downie.
At first, the bill was also slated to include a requirement by primary sellers to disclose the total number of tickets available to the public for a given event at least seven days before they went on sale. This transparency measure was at the center of the province’s updates throughout the process up until a few weeks ago, when powerful industry insiders convinced the government to drop it from the bill.
Following today’s news of the bill being passed into law, Jeff Poirier, General Manager, Concerts and Theater – North America at StubHub released an open letter, addressed to “Ontario Live Event Fans”, making clear his and his company’s reaction to the legislation. The letter begins:
“Today, the Ontario Liberals passed their Ticket Sales Act. Consultations were initially approached with the best of intentions: increase transparency on availability of tickets on the market and level the playing field so you have better access and more insight into the ticket buying process. In the end, this legislation will be known more for its unintended consequences than its protection of fans like you.”
Poirier goes on to criticize the exclusion of the transparency measure “that could have truly benefited [fans]”, emphasize his and StubHub’s support of a bot ban, and finally, oppose the price cap that he says will not end price inflation, but rather make ticket resale less regulated and more susceptible to counterfeit and fraud.
Read the open letter in full below:
Ontario Live Event Fans,
Today, the Ontario Liberals passed their Ticket Sales Act. Consultations were initially approached with the best of intentions: increase transparency on availability of tickets on the market and level the playing field so you have better access and more insight into the ticket buying process. In the end, this legislation will be known more for its unintended consequences than its protection of fans like you.
In its original form, the Ticket Sales Act banned the use of bots to procure tickets, required ticket businesses to disclose more information to consumers, and capped the resale price of tickets. Yet the government has maintained proposals that set fans back and stripped important transparency requirements that could have truly benefited you.
Let’s start with bots: StubHub fully supports legislation prohibiting the use of bots to procure tickets. Full stop.
The issues impacting ticket access are broader than just bots. It has been reported that large percentages of tickets never actually go on sale to the general public, but instead are reserved for pre-sales and industry insiders. A 2016 study by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found that, for many top shows, an average of 75% of tickets are held back from sale to the general public. That means for these top shows, an average of ONLY 25% of tickets are made available at the general public on-sale. This is one of the reasons why you see popular shows “sell out” so quickly.
The original legislation required ticket sellers to disclose how many tickets were actually being made available for sale, a simple concept that would provide you better insight into the actual availability of tickets. This is the very issue the proposed legislation was trying to solve. Yet, the Government chose to remove this critical provision from the legislation, citing pressure from the live entertainment industry as a prevailing reason over establishing transparency for Ontariofans like you.
At StubHub, we understand transparency is important across the entire ticket industry, not just in the resale market. You should be able to know how many tickets are available for an event, what your seats will look like, and how much you’re going to pay for them. Only in that circumstance can you make a purchase that you truly feel good about.
When it comes to price caps, StubHub joins the industry in opposing this measure. This proposal stands to negatively impact Ontario fans like you and Ontario-based businesses like StubHub as ticket resales are driven off platforms that have robust consumer protections. Ticket resale prices will continue to be driven by supply and demand, not by arbitrarily set price caps. The fact is, if a venue holds 20,000 fans, but 100,000 fans want to attend the performance, ticket prices will reflect that demand. If the established market rate exceeds the 50% cap established by government, those sales won’t stop or adapt to reflect the price caps – they’ll just occur at their true value through channels the government cannot regulate. It will happen on street corners where the risk of counterfeit and fraud is significant, and no guarantees are in place; or it will happen on ticket resale websites located outside of jurisdiction of the Ontariogovernment. Either way – you and businesses that have invested in the province will be hurt.
Consumers benefit from a competitive ticket market where transactions occur through secure channels that prioritize fans. At the same time, it is important to incentivize and encourage this e-commerce to remain right here, in Ontario.
We have said from the onset that we believe there is a better way for the industry and for you. It’s our mission at StubHub to connect you to incredible live event experiences, and to do so safely and securely by including money back guarantees and fraud prevention measures. This legislation is a disappointment for the ticketing industry, and a disappointment for fans like you.
General Manager, Concerts and Theatre – North America at StubHub