Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ticketing Ticketmaster?

The Government of Ontario yesterday introduced legislation to create an offence when related primary and secondary sellers make available for sale in Ontario tickets for admission to the same event.

This would presumably deal with the type of situations that gave rise to controversy earlier this year involving some of the Leonard Cohen concerts. It was alleged in some cases that “primary” market tickets were never effectively available to the public and that virtually immediately upon the release of the primary market tickets, or even allegedly beforehand, tickets were only actually available on the resale market through a related seller at drastically increased prices. Here's a news story.

Bill 172 was tabled yesterday by the Hon. Chris Bentley and is available here. It is short, sweet and even elegant in its conception. My concern, however, is that the maximum fine for a corporation is only $50,000. That's a large amount and would be a substantial deterrent if it applies per ticket, but certainly not in many cases if it applies only per event.

If that is the case, the maximum fine could be nothing more than a license fee - and a very small one at that - in many instances. For example, the Air Canada Centre in Toronto has a capacity of 19,800 seats in “full concert” mode. If only half of those seats were illegally resold at an average illegal markup of $200, that would be an illegal profit of $1,980,000 - i.e. almost $2 million. The reseller would presumably make even more from service charges. In such a case, a $50,000 fine would be barely noticeable and less than the cost of a one page ad in the Globe and Mail promoting the event in the first place.

A much higher fine may be needed, if this bill is to accomplish it purpose. Other Ontario statutes, such as the Consumer Protection Act, provide for corporate fines up to $250,000.

Ticketmaster doesn't seem too thrilled with with the Bill.

Another critical issue, moreover, is what the Competition Bureau is going to do about this. They didn’t even see an issue until their Minister Tony Clement told them to look at it. An update from the Bureau would be useful.


No comments:

Post a Comment