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Is the Ontario government again looking at limited the price of event tickets on the secondary market?

One of the things that the new Ford Conservative government did was delay the previous Liberal government’s plans to impose a 50% cap on the face value when it came to event tickets (concerts, sports, theatre, etc.) on the secondary market.

Other aspects of the Ticket Sales Act, 2017, S.O. 2017, c. 33, Sched. 3 went into effect as promised. But if you dig into Part II: Ticket Sales and Software, we have this:

Ticket Sales

Ticket sale on secondary market above face value

2 (1) Every person who makes a ticket available for sale on the secondary market or who facilitates the sale of a ticket on the secondary market for a total amount, including any applicable fees or service charges but excluding any applicable taxes, that exceeds the ticket’s face value shall provide one of the following guarantees or confirmations to the ticket purchaser.

1. A guarantee issued by a secondary seller or operator of a secondary ticketing platform of a full refund for the ticket purchaser if,

i. the event that the ticket provides admission to is cancelled before the ticket can be used,

ii. the ticket does not grant the ticket purchaser admission to the event for which it was issued, unless this failure is due to an action taken by the primary seller or venue after the ticket is sold,

iii. the ticket is counterfeit, or

iv. the ticket does not match its description as advertised or as represented to the ticket purchaser.

2. A confirmation from the primary seller that the ticket is valid, provided directly or indirectly through a service that offers to confirm for any person in Ontario, for free or for a single, standard fee, whether or not a ticket that was originally made available for sale by the primary seller is valid.

3. Any other prescribed guarantee or confirmation.

So far, so good. But hold on. What’s this?

Note: Subsection 2 (2) comes into force on a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor.

Maximum amount

(2) Despite subsection (1), no person shall make a ticket available for sale on the secondary market or facilitate the sale of a ticket on the secondary market for an amount, including any applicable fees or service charges but excluding any applicable taxes, that exceeds the ticket’s face value by more than 50 per cent of the ticket’s face value.

So it’s a deferral, eh? But to when?

Let’s take a look at transcripts from question period in the Ontario Legislature on Monday.

Mr Tom Rakocevic (NDP): My question is for the Minister of Government and Consumer Services. Now that John Tavares is on the Leafs’ roster, we all know—


Mr Tom Rakocevic (NDP): Thank you. We all know there will be a Stanley Cup parade here in Toronto next year. You heard it here first. But—there is a but—after reading ongoing investigative reports that have shocked sports and music fans, not only in Canada but in the United States as well, it’s clear that most hockey fans in my riding won’t be able to afford Maple Leafs tickets. This is because of unethical ticket scalping practices that have been not only tolerated but enabled by Ticketmaster. What is the minister doing about these unethical and unfair sales practices?

Hon. Todd Smith (Progressive Conservative): Thanks very much to the member opposite for the question. Finally, we found something that we can agree on with the NDP, and that is that the Leafs are going to win the Stanley Cup this year. I couldn’t be happier. I couldn’t be happier that John Tavares is a member of the Buds here in Toronto this year as we commence on our Stanley Cup parade.

I can tell you that what was happening previously with the Liberal government on the ticket sale issue wasn’t actually helping those who wanted to attend sporting events and concerts and other big events that were happening. This first came to light, actually, when the unfortunate diagnosis of Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip occurred, and the government made some changes to the Ticket Speculation Act during that summer.

I can tell you that our government is committed to working with the Ministry of the Attorney General, our Attorney General here in Ontario, and making sure that we bring in some legislation that has some teeth so we can keep ticket prices low for those who want to attend these events.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr Tom Rakocevic (NDP): One of the very first things this government did when it assumed office was to block legislation that would have stopped scalpers from selling tickets for more than 50% of the face value. I don’t remember the Premier telling anyone before the election that he would do this.

Why was it suddenly the government’s top priority after the election to help Ticketmaster and the scalpers, while hurting music fans and hockey fans?

Hon. Todd Smith (Progressive Conservative): Speaker, I should acknowledge as well that this is the first question from my critic, and I appreciate the question in the Legislature here this morning.

But I should say that what the Liberals used to do when they were the government of Ontario was they would bring in pieces of legislation that actually were just all about fluff. They made you feel like the government was actually doing something when clearly the legislation didn’t do anything to attack the problem at hand, and that was ensuring that ticket prices remained affordable for the average person across the province.

What we’ve done is we’ve paused the implementation until we can actually bring in legislation that’s going to take these scalpers off the streets, that’s going to take these scalpers off-line. It’s not just simply putting it down on a piece of paper that you’re going to bring in legislation; you actually have to have legislation that’s enforceable. We’re bringing in meaningful legislation for the people of Ontario—

Here again are my arguments against a price cap:

Here are my objections to that:

  • What’s so special about the price of a concert ticket? I want a limit on the price of a limit of gas, but that’s a commodity regulated by market forces. I don’t like paying $700 to fly to see my folks in Winnipeg, a distance of 1,507 km from my home airport in Toronto. Meanwhile, I regularly get price alerts about fares to Singapore, a frequent destination for me that’s 15,003 km away, that run less than $600, taxes in. The same supply and demand rules apply to concert tickets.
  • Whenever you have a distortion of market forces, grey and black markets are created. The new rules will just push transactions deeper underground where there are ZERO consumer protections.
  • Price caps will only make it cheaper for those who can already afford to buy tickets on the secondary market.
  • Price caps do nothing to help with the issue of inventory. When it comes to hot shows, there are always going to be more bums than seats.
  • There are plenty of ways to outfox scalpers and resellers. Credit card front-of-the-line access. Join the band’s fan club for early access to tickets. Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program has its advantages.
  • The vast secondary market in concert tickets just proves that face values are too low to begin with. The best thing to do is follow the pricing on the secondary market right up until the last 24-48 hours before a show. That’s when the vast majority of purchases are made–and it’s a true reflection of what the actual market value of a ticket is. And people remember the gigs were tickets are higher than face value. No one talks about the shows where secondary sellers take a loss because there’s no demand.
  • Who’s going to police the price of concert tickets in Ontario? The government hasn’t made it clear. And they certainly didn’t create a new department to look after this situation.
  • What’s the complaint mechanism? Call the cops? 911? The guy down the street with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch? It’s not clear.

So it this stupid part of the legislation back?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38321 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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