Ontario to tackle scalper bots, real estate rules in broad consumer protection bill

Ontario is taking aim at scalper bots and proposing tighter rules around the secondary ticket market. The move comes after many fans were shut out of tickets during last year's Tragically Hip farewell tour.

The province could lay fines against violators if legislation is passed

The legislation would make it illegal to knowingly resell a ticket acquired by a bot. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Ontario is set to introduce broad consumer protection legislation today that covers home warranties, ticket sales, real estate practices, and travel services.

The bill would separate the provider of the new home warranty program from the body regulating new home builders.

The government says it would also make the dispute resolution process easier for homeowners who discover a problem in their new home's construction.

A 2015 review found fault with Tarion Warranty Corp.'s complex structure and over-arching mandate — it has overseen nearly all facets of the home building sector for the past 40 years — with both builders and homeowners questioning Tarion's objectivity.

Changes to ticket sale rules would ban so-called scalper bots, limit ticket resale prices to 50 per cent above the face value and require the original price to be displayed.

Primary ticket sellers would have to tell buyers the capacity of the venue as well as how many tickets would be available through the general on-sale.

An outcry from fans shut out of buying tickets to the Tragically Hip's farewell tour last year prompted the Ontario government to take a look at the issue.

Scalper bots are designed to purchase a large number of tickets online for a concert, show, or other event, enabling the person running the software to sell those tickets at a profit, and it would be illegal to knowingly resell a ticket originally purchased by a bot.

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, however, has previously admitted enforcing a ban on scalper bots, which are not unique to Ontario, would be difficult.

Under the new legislation, Ministry of Government and Consumer Services agents would get the power to do inspections and lay fines against violators of the act. Companies themselves would also get the power to sue other companies for losses resulting from the use of bots.

Ticket resale site StubHub has previously said it supports efforts to tackle bots, but that it values the ability of users to buy and sell tickets at prices fans deem appropriate, free from regulatory interference. It told the government during consultations that more regulatory burdens on the ticket market will drive sales off mainstream platforms that provide certain protections.

The bill would also tackle the issue of double ending, in which a real estate agent represents both a buyer and a seller in a transaction, though specifics are being left to regulations. The government has previously proposed banning the practice, with some limited exceptions.

Real estate sellers, brokers and brokerages would also be subject to stiffer fines if they violate a code of ethics.

In the travel industry, the bill would create new rules for out-of-province travel sellers and set new registration requirements for travel salespeople.