B.C. moves against ticket bots, proposes fines for scalpers caught buying in bulk

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The B.C. government's effort to ban ticket bots was partly prompted by fans' frustration with the rapid sell-out of the Tragically Hip's July 2016 show in Vancouver.
The B.C. government’s effort to ban ticket bots was partly prompted by fans’ frustration with the rapid sell-out of the Tragically Hip’s July 2016 show in Vancouver.TRAVIS LUPICK

In 2019, every music fan knows what it feels like to log onto Ticketmaster or LiveNation at exactly 10 a.m., only to find that your favourite band’s stadium show is somehow already sold out.

It’s disappointing, frustrating, and just plain sucks.

Now the B.C. government says it’s going to level the playing field. Today (April 9), the province announced a plan to tackle online bots and software that scalpers use to purchase event tickets in bulk.

“The new laws will make the ticket buying process more transparent and equitable for consumers, so that everyone in our province will have a fair chance of getting tickets for their favourite acts and events,” Mike Farnworth, B.C. minister of public safety and solicitor general, said in a media release.

Ticket scalping facilitated by bulk purchasing is something that Spencer Chandra-Herbert, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End, has talked about for years.

“British Columbians have been waiting a long time for action against those who game the system to raise ticket prices through the roof,” he said in the government’s release. “This legislation is going to help fans get a fair shot to buy tickets to their favourite shows, and make sure they don’t have to compete against bots that buy them all when they first go on sale.”

The proposed legislation includes fines of $10,000 for individuals who are busted violating the ban on bots and penalties of as much as $100,000 for companies caught in the act. The government’s release notes the new rules were not designed to be used against individuals reselling a pair of tickets that they legitimately can no longer use.

Today’s announcement follows an August 2018 report on event ticketing and resales that found that 97 percent of B.C. respondents to a government survey were in favour of banning bots and bulk-purchasing software.

The report notes that tickets purchased in bulk are often posted for sale on secondary-market websites like StubHub almost immediately after they’re acquired and that they’re resold at amounts far above their original prices.

According to the survey results included there, 83 percent of responds said they were in favour of B.C. placing caps on secondary-market prices.

Today’s provincial announcement made no mention of resale price caps because, you know, capitalism.