Why Ontario’s New Ticket Sales Act Won’t Work

Today, a bill called The Ticket Sales Act is coming up for final reading in the Ontario Legislature. If passed, which given that the current Liberal government has a majority in the Legislature seems certain, it’s purpose is to do the following:

  • Banning ticket “bots” and the sale of tickets that were purchased using bots
  • Capping the resale price of tickets at 50 per cent above face value
  • Requiring businesses selling tickets to disclose more information to consumers
  • Establishing new enforcement measures to help make sure that ticket selling and reselling businesses are following the rules

All of that sounds great on paper. After all, it’s impossible to get a ticket for a big name concert or sporting event at the moment. Thus it should shift the balance of power back into the hands of consumers like you and I. Right?

Not so fast.

They reason why this act will fail centers around the banning of “bots” which are software programs that are designed to by tickets by the hundreds the second they become available for sale. Now, how do you enforce that ban precisely? Sure someone like a Ticketmaster could trace where a transaction was launched from over the Internet. That’s not hard. But how do they tie it to an individual in Ontario or elsewhere?

They can’t. And that’s part of the problem.

On top of that, you can rent what are called “bot farms” to do everything from take down websites to pwn IoT devices. And I know for a fact that you can rent “bot farms” to buy tickets in bulk for resale. Because the “bot farm” is owned by a third party, the actual ticket broker has plausible deniability if the cops knock on their door. Assuming of course the cops can even find them. Which they won’t. Thus this act is doomed to failure. Simply saying that “bots” are illegal doesn’t stop their use. At best, it modifies how they’re used so the users are less likely to get caught. Unless the Ontario Government is willing to set up enforcement in the form of some sort of team of computer nerds that will hunt down these operations and take them down, this is a futile exercise. And I think it’s safe to say that the Ontario Government isn’t going to do that. Besides, if were truly as simple as hiring a bunch of nerds to take down bots, Ticketmaster would have done it already and we would not be talking about this now.

The bottom line is that the Ontario Government will get to tick off a check box a few months out from an election, but nothing will change for consumers. You still won’t be able to get tickets for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the next U2 concert, or anything else. Because this act does nothing to change the fact that because these “bots” exist, you have no chance. Zip, zero, nada. The real solution is found in making the use of bots ineffective. That requires technology and not legislation.


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