Toronto

'Scalper bots' that scoop up concert tickets to be outlawed in Ontario

Ontario plans to introduce legislation next spring to outlaw computer "scalper bots" that scoop up huge blocks of tickets to concerts and major sporting events, forcing many customers to the more expensive resale market.

Provincial government to introduce legislation next spring

Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip performs on stage during the Man Machine Poem tour in Toronto in August. The tour prompted a discussion about scalpers when many fans were shut out from getting tickets. (GP Images/WireImage)

Ontario plans to introduce legislation next spring to outlaw computer "scalper bots" that scoop up huge blocks of tickets to concerts and major sporting events, forcing many customers to the more expensive resale market.

CBC's Marketplace launches its new season Friday night with an in-depth look at why so many fans get shut out of buying tickets at face value to popular events, including this summer's landmark Tragically Hip Man Machine Poem tour.

"We don't often see that kind of emotion," Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi told Marketplace's David Common. "But what happened with fans wanting to go and pay their last respects to the band they love so much and wanted to get tickets and were not able to do so really bugged me."

Naqvi says taking on bots is only one way he wants to strengthen consumer protection for ticket buyers.

"We want to look at transparency around ticket prices on the tickets, also talk about how many tickets are for sale, you know, when a concert comes out, so consumers have sufficient information and can make an informed decision" he said.

Why you still might pay more 

Naqvi admits Ontario is unlikely to crack down on brokers and resellers making money on marked-up tickets.

"We know that people are buying tickets online. We know people are selling tickets online. I don't think we can move away from that reality because that's just the practical reality of our lives," he said.

"​You know there is no silver bullet, but we can't just not do anything either."

Naqvi plans to consult with consumer groups, entertainers and attorneys general in other jurisdictions like New York, who have also struggled to deal with ticket scalping and bots.

Naqvi says the government's legislation will build on Liberal MPP Sophie Kiwala's private member's bill, which also sought to ban scalper bots.

"I want to see what kind of solutions we can put in place," he said. "New York and London are bigger markets than us, and they're struggling with the same thing."

Since many bots operate from outside Canada, it's not clear how effective the law would be at shutting them down.

With files from The Canadian Press

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