Ticket resellers support attempts to widen sales, but oppose price caps

Posted in: , ,

Cleve Dheensaw / Times Colonist April 19, 2018

Officials from StubHub say they support the B.C. government’s attempts to assure more sports and concert tickets are available to the general public during the initial sale through methods that could include the banning of automated bots.

But the company says it does not favour price caps on tickets once they reach the secondary-sales marketplace.

Three officials from StubHub, one of the leading outlets for ticket reselling, are in Victoria this week from New York to meet with B.C. government officials.

The province is expected to enact legislation in the fall, aimed at limiting high-priced ticket scalping for sports events and concerts.

The B.C. government conducted an online public survey regarding the issue, which ran March 5-22. It will make the results public this spring.

Many Island sports fans go through resale websites such as StubHub to buy tickets for sold-out events such as Seattle Seahawks NFL games and Vancouver Canucks NHL games.

The issue came to a head when many frustrated concert fans complained scalpers scooped up many of the tickets for the late Gord Downie’s 2016 farewell tour with the Tragically Hip, which began at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria on July 22.

“Live events should be an enjoyable experience for British Columbians, not a windfall for scalpers,” said Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, in launching the online survey last month.

“The action we’re taking is aimed at protecting people from unscrupulous scalpers and unfair practices that shut average people out from events in B.C.”

The issue, however, was on Vancouver West End NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert’s radar long before that when he introduced a private member’s bill to clamp down on ticket scalping in 2007. He is supportive of the current initiative to bring in legislation.

“British Columbians are frustrated by ticket price gouging, and want action,” he said.

StubHub and others in the industry are having their input before legislation is enacted.

“If someone buys a ticket, they should have the right to resell that ticket,” said Cameron Papp, communications manager for StubHub, during an interview in Victoria.

“We have no idea what the B.C. government will pass. Obviously, we have a business objective.”

A chief issue is looking at banning the use of automated online bots, which are used by scalpers to circumvent security controls, to hoover up large amounts of tickets when primary sales begin.

“Bots are an issue. We would push for legislation against bots,” Papp said.

Ontario banned bots in December as part of its new Ticket Sales Act.

Papp, however, noted promoters sometimes withhold large amounts of tickets for sponsors and others during primary sales.

He said StubHub is not supportive of the kind of price cap also passed by the Ontario government in December. It limits the secondary-market resale of tickets to 50 per cent above face value.

The question being asked is whether it is the government’s job to decide how important it is personally for someone to be in the building for a game or concert? Let the market-place decide, is StubHub’s message.

Yet even the company realizes not all for-resale ducats are a mom and pop pair of Seahawks season tickets put up because the holders can’t make it that Sunday due to a nephew’s wedding.

“It’s supply and demand. Competition is good. We don’t discourage professionals [scalpers on their site], to be frank,” Papp said.

“The reality is, people have access to tickets. The secondary market will exist, whether there is a price cap or not.”

Papp estimates 10 to 20 per cent of fans attending major-league pro sports games bought after-market tickets to get into the stadium or arena. The secondary resale market for sports and concert tickets is estimated as an $8-billion industry annually in North America.

It is so big that StubHub has deals with most MLB teams and begins a partnership with the NFL next season, even though most pro teams also encourage season-ticket holders to resell their tickets through the teams’ in-house resale system.

“It’s not unusual for the secondary ticket market to have deals with pro teams,” Papp said.

He said the highest-demand after-market ticket annually is for the Super Bowl.

“You might get a one-off Game 7, like the Chicago Cubs in baseball, that will match that, but it’s the Super Bowl that remains the most sought-after resale ticket in North American sports,” Papp said.