Why I couldn't buy a ticket to the Hip concert

Andrew WestSubmitted by Andrew West

Last year, tickets went on sale for what may very well be the final concert tour for the Tragically Hip. I was one of the thousands unable to buy a ticket last year because 2/3 of their tickets were sold to scalpers in just a few milliseconds after they went on sale. Then within minutes, these scalpers went on websites like StubHub or TicketsNow to sell those tickets—including presale tickets—to fans for hundreds or thousands of dollars more than they paid for them.

In Ottawa, tickets that originally sold between $56-$136 were listed on StubHub for between $295-$1,127. In some cases, that’s an over 750% increase.

Many fans were upset. I listened to a lot of people complain on local talk radio. I’m certainly included in that upset group. I would have loved to see the Hip again, and in Ottawa which might end up being their second last show ever.
 
Scalpers are able to buy thousands of tickets in less than a second because they use automated software commonly called “bots”. Last week Yasir Naqvi, Ontario’s Attorney General, called this “a complex problem.” To their credit, the Liberal government is currently conducting a consultation on ticket buying and reselling. Yes this is a complicated situation but a resolution does not have to be put off.
 
Many Ontarians would benefit from anti-scalping bots legislation now. But enforcing any anti-scalping bot legislation is an issue since many of these scalpers aren’t in Ontario.
 
The problem is there’s a huge financial incentive for them to break the law if they can get away with it. But as it stands right now, there is no law to really stop them. There are some minor laws like how Ticketmaster can’t buy their own tickets and pretend to be a different company to sell them for more money, or how scalpers mustn’t sell fake tickets and have to give a money back guarantee. That’s about it.
 
At one point in time it was illegal for anyone to sell a ticket in Ontario for more than they paid for it. But in 2015 regulations came into force—for some reason—allowing anyone to scalp tickets at any price. Scalping tickets online in Ontario became a lot more rewarding. So around the same time in 2015 that Yasir Naqvi became the Attorney General, Hip tickets were being bought up and sold by scalpers.
 
The 2015 regulations benefit scalpers the most. Yes there are some people who legitimately buy tickets and may want to sell them for some reason (e.g., something comes up and they can’t go) and they may want to make a profit. But tickets are not property that you can buy and sell; they are licenses. When you buy a ticket you’re paying to be allowed into a venue to see an event. Basically you’d be trespassing if you ran into a Sens game without a ticket.
 
Licences have conditions and can be revoked, just like your driver’s license. I’ve bought many Blue Jays tickets through Ticketmaster. On the back of those tickets it says “This ticket is a revocable license”. It also says the ticket holder is not allowed to resell the ticket for an amount higher than the price printed on the ticket. So scalpers who buy tickets in Ontario and then resell them at higher costs are breaking the terms of their contract when they buy tickets. But now there’s no law in enforce this. In fact, the law specifically allows for this.

What we can do: anti-scalping bot legislation 

A Green Party of Ontario government would steadfastly work to create anti-scalping bot legislation, and repeal the exceptions under the Ticket Speculation Act allowing scalpers to sell tickets for more than a ticket’s face value.

What we should consider: limits on resale profits and other restrictions

Maybe one day in the future you may have some tickets to an event you can’t go to, so you sell them. Sure, it’d be nice to make a profit if possible. Now maybe at the time you might be mad if there was a law against that. (You may say “I bought this ticket and I should be able to sell it at any price I want.”) But weigh that against the feeling of having to pay an arm and a leg from a scalper to see a show, because they bought all the tickets in seconds.

Tell us what you think to help fix our ticket buying systems in Ontario>>

Or, you can send me feedback directly at andrewwest@gpo.ca.

-- Andrew