B.C. government to crack down on ticket scalpers

Amy Smart - Times Colonist

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Solicitor General Mike Farnworth: “We’re looking at what other jurisdictions have been doing in regard to ticket resale legislation, including Ontario and the U.K.”

The B.C. government is looking to crack down on scalpers snatching up tickets and selling them to music and sports fans for exorbitant prices.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said ministry staff are researching options to keep access and pricing fair for event-goers.

“We’re looking at what other jurisdictions have been doing in regard to ticket resale legislation, including Ontario and the U.K. At the same time, policy work is being done in my ministry to come up with options so we have something that is effective and works for B.C.,” Farnworth said in a statement.

In Ontario, legislation banning “scalper bots” that bypass limits on the number of tickets one person can buy came into effect on Jan. 1. The law also limits resale prices to 50 per cent above face value.

The push followed outcry from Tragically Hip fans who were blocked from buying tickets to frontman Gord Downie’s farewell tour, before his death from brain cancer.

In the U.K., the government is moving to make the use of ticket bots a criminal offence, punishable with unlimited fines.

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Saanich resident Rae Roer said he was disappointed to see tickets for the Steve Miller Band with Peter Frampton advertised at bloated prices on resale sites — even before they went on sale to the public.

“I clicked on what I thought was the link to the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre and it took me to a resale site where tickets were already available,” Roer said.

Tickets for the show are listed at $39.50 to $99.50, plus services charges, through the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre box office.

They are listed for up to $380 on resale sites such as Ticketoffices.com and StubHub.

Roer said it turned him off from buying any tickets to the show at all.

“I didn’t even bother. I just thought, what the heck, and lost interest,” he said.

“I, like many others, have seen tickets sell out in minutes and have been left feeling frustrated.”

Music commentator and publicist Eric Alper, whom the Ontario government consulted as part of its legislation development, said there are dozens, if not hundreds, of businesses using the bots around the world.

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“Sometimes [the companies are] based in the province. Sometimes they’re based in countries that aren’t even on this continent,” Alper said.

“How do you stop a company that might be in Russia with their server in Africa from buying tickets for a show in Toronto? Those places are getting the very best tickets on the market, when normally, it should be going to the fans.”

Alper said the Ontario legislation is a step in the right direction.

“If a show is based in this province, then the Ontario government and police can go after those people no matter where they are in the world,” Alper said.

“It’s not going to solve the problem, but it’s a really great first step into reassuring customers that the government and the police are on their side to try to stop this problem.”

He said it will be up to individuals to report resale violations and police to act on those reports, or else it could be a toothless law.

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“It’s one thing to put these laws on the books. It’s another for people to take a look at what’s happening in their own city, venue or community and report it to police. And then see if the police are actually going to take this seriously,” Alper said.

“These scalpers are a multi, multimillion-dollar industry and they’re not going to give it up just because there’s a law on the table. It’s up to all of us to realize what we have to do.”

asmart@timescolonist.com

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