The newly elected Progressive Conservative government in Ontario put a last-minute halt on the implementation of key provisions of the updates to ticketing law in the province passed last year by the liberal leadership in power at the time. The cap, which would have kicked in at 50% above the so-called “face value” of a ticket, was confirmed as having been set aside for the time being by new Premier Doug Ford’s office on Tuesday afternoon, according to the CBC. It had been scheduled to come into enforcement on July 1.
“The previous government attempted to institute a cap on ticket resales with no way to enforce that cap, resulting in less consumer protection,” spokesperson Simon Jeffries wrote in an email statement to the CBC. “We have paused the implementation of this section until we can review this provision in full to make sure it is in the best interest of Ontarians.”
Resale marketplaces including Ticketmaster and StubHub lauded the halt on the cap, which was pushed through last year following consumer outcry over the market pushing prices for the Tragically Hip’s farewell tour into the stratosphere.
“This is a very rational and prudent decision,” wrote Patti-Anne Tarlton, chief operating officer for TicketMaster Canada, which has been aggressively expanding into the resale market.
The pause, Tarlton said, will make time to “evaluate the anticipated impact” of the law.
StubHub said it is “pleased” by the move which, according to a statement from spokesperson Cameron Papp, ensures that sales “occur on platforms that provide vital consumer protections.”
Vivid Seats, another resale website, said it is now reconsidering its options after geo-blocking all customers in Ontario earlier this week for fear of running afoul of the law.
The Liberal government, which had pushed through the new laws, were not so pleased. “No one voted for business to be conducted in secret, behind closed doors,” wrote NDP Leader Andrea Horwath of the sudden shift in policy taken by the new government. “And I’m sure no one voted to have a premier that would listen to influencers and lobbyists while shutting out everyday people affected by the laws. Ford seems to believe the public doesn’t deserve information about what he’s up to and why, and that’s wrong.”
Of course, that’s exactly what the liberal government did in the other direction last year while crafting the new regulations, most of which went into effect as planned on July 1. In its original drafting, the new regulations included language requiring transparency on held back tickets by promoter, artists, management and other industry insiders due to its ability to choke off supply to the general public and inflate prices without any consumer knowledge of how many tickets were ever available for sale.
Those regulations were left on the cutting room floor after a blistering lobby by the same industry insiders who benefit from an opaque primary ticketing market, including Ticketmaster Canada and Music Canada Live. “After further consultations, particularly with touring musicians, the government realized the rule would be a disincentive for musicians, particularly small and medium acts, to tour the province,” read a statement at the time.
The regulation was effectively unenforceable anyways, according to Ottawa concert promoter Dennis Ruffo, who appeared on CBC’s All in a Day on Wednesday to discuss the cap’s (at least temporary) demise.
Was the legislation unenforceable?
Totally, in my opinion. Especially when you consider most of the after market sellers were American based. How can you prevent someone from putting tickets up on StubHub when the transaction is going to be held in the U.S.A.? I don’t know how to do it… The other issue to me is that if anybody ready to pay the kind of money that some people pay for a concert ticket, I mean really, it’s their prerogative if they have the money to spend stupidly. How can you prevent it?
Should this be something the government is going after?
Honestly, I really don’t think so. It’s too difficult a thing to police. This may be a strange example, but it was never a problem for anyone who wanted to smoke marijuana for the last 75 years to get it. The government’s involved. I wonder if the people who were selling it to those people are going out of business because of it. The point being it’s like buyer beware. If you want to do something, how can the government prevent you from doing it? How can the government prevent someone from going online and paying $5,000 for a ticket to a basketball game during the NBA playoffs? And people did.
The pause on the resale cap does not mean it is an entirely dead issue. Ford’s government could still opt to put these caps into place after it takes its time to examine the issue and whether or not it’s a prudent move to protect Canadian consumers, or a futile gesture which would be at best unenforceable, or at worst, push consumers away from established secondary ticketing businesses with guarantees in place and into the black market.