Ontario is finally taking action against pesky scalper bots

The Ontario government is trying to do something about the fiendish cyber villains stealing tickets from Canada’s most loyal fans: scalper bots. It’s about time.

Last month, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi announced the Ontario government is planning to implement new legislation to better regulate online ticket sales, specifically ticket scalping. The province has launched an online consultation so consumers can give their ideas for the new law.

The push for new legislation comes from fans’ disappointment over the sold-out Tragically Hip shows. Fans were denied as many as two-thirds of tickets, all thanks to scalper bots, according to CBC News.

Ontario would be smart to follow New York’s lead on how to reduce scalper bots.

Scalper bots are essentially software programs designed to purchase online tickets, allowing the person using the bots to buy up to thousands of tickets, mark up and resell to highest bidder. Scalper bots prevent fans from being able to buy tickets. If fans want tickets, they usually have to pay significantly more than the original listed price.

In an online article on News 1130, Mario Canseco of Insights West, a Canadian marketing company says about three in 10 Canadians who go to concerts reported being unable to buy tickets to a specific show.

Scalper bots are thought to have originated not long after the creation of online ticket-selling king Ticketmaster, according the New York Times.

Ticketmaster sold its first online ticket in 1996 and unintentionally created a secondary ticket industry. Online Ticket sales which made it easier for scalpers to buy tickets. No more waiting in line, just the click of a button. Using Scalper bots made making money easier.

The global secondary ticket industry has been reported as worth more than $8 billion (U.S.) according to the Globe and Mail.

Scalper bots can buy tickets in batches. The Toronto Star says within minutes of The Tragically Hip tickets going on sale, more than 60 per cent of tickets were already listed as sold, only to show up on second-hand websites like StubHub minutes later.

Resellers could have made anywhere from $25 million to $30 million off Tragically Hip tickets, says CBC News.

One of the worst things about this situation is it was caused by the Ontario Government, at least in part.

Back in July of 2015, the government made it legal to sell scalper tickets as long as they were authenticated with the Ticket Speculation Act. The law says people who sell unauthenticated tickets face fines up to $5,000, and companies are fined up to $50,000.

So how do we dig ourselves out of this backwards mess? We could follow New York’s lead.

New York had an acute problem with bots, according to The New York Times.

Last year, New York fined six large brokers who used scalper bots, a rare move according to The Toronto Star. The state also added a new law that requires resale companies display the original prices of tickets so consumers can see the price mark up. New York officially made the use scalper bots a criminal offence last June.

“Eighty-seven per cent would like to see a law similar to the one the state of New York is thinking about, which would [see] either severe fines or jail time for scalpers who are caught using bots,” said Mario Canseco in an interview with News 1130. “It’s essentially taking the way technology works to benefit yourself. It’s one of the things that’s really making people really unhappy with the state of affairs.”

It’s about time Ontario listens to the disappointed, yet loyal fans who have had tickets stolen from them. The new developments put forth by Yasir Naqvi are good, but Ontario needs to go farther and follow New York’s examples and system.

Ontario should recycle the Ticket Speculation Act. Keep the fines but make it illegal to use scalper bots at all. Resale companies should be required to display the original ticket price and there should be a mark-up price cap.

Fans deserve better. It’s time the Ontario Government gives the boot to bots.