Ontario plans to outlaw computer 'scalper bots'

Posted Oct 21, 2016 by Arthur Weinreb
Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi announced his government will introduce legislation in the spring that will outlaw computer scalper bots that are able to buy up a large number of tickets to concerts and sporting events as soon as they go on sale.
Gord Downie of the Canadian rock band  The Tragically Hip  has brain cancer.
Gord Downie of the Canadian rock band 'The Tragically Hip' has brain cancer.
Photo by Kim Parki from Creative Commons
The announcement of the proposed bill was made by Naqvi yesterday. He told the media he was “bugged” by the fact a lot of Tragically Hip fans were unable to buy tickets for the group’s farewell tour last summer. The final tour was arranged after lead singer Gord Downie announced he was suffering from terminal brain cancer.
Naqvi also said there is no “magic bullet” to stop the practise of bots being used to purchase tickets in bulk but doing nothing is not an option. The sophisticated software is able to override the limitation on the number of tickets that can be purchased online by one person.
CBC reports only about a third of ordinary fans were able to purchase tickets through Ticketmaster, the primary seller of Tragically Hip tickets. The other two thirds of tickets went to brokers who used the automatic software to purchase tickets in bulk and then sell them on the resale market at much higher prices.
Joe Berchtold, the CEO of Live Event that owns Ticketmaster, told CBC the odds are stacked against ordinary fans. Both legitimate ticket brokers and others use the bots to snap up most of the tickets. Berchtold estimates re-sellers made between $25 and $30 million from the Tragically Hip tour.
Last month Sophie Kiwala, the Liberal MPP for Kingston and the Islands, introduced a private members’ bill that passed second reading. Bill 22, The Ticket Speculation Amendment Act, bans the practise of using bots. At the time, Naqi urged all members to support the bill but now he wants to introduce a government bill that will be more comprehensive than Kiwala’s proposed legislation.
The final performance on the tour was held in Kingston on Aug. 20 and many people told the Kiwala they were unable to purchase tickets at prices they could afford. Tickets initially sold for as little as $50 but some people paid hundreds and even thousands of dollars on the secondary market.
The NDP blames the Liberals for causing the problem in the first place. Last year, the Liberal government got rid of a law that prevented event tickets from being sold for more than face value. The Progressive Conservatives also levelled the same criticism at the government.
PC MPP Tom Smith said the legislation should include making the buying and selling of bot software illegal and ticket buyers should be required to pick their tickets up at the event and show the credit card they made the purchase with.
Naqvi understands a solution to the problem will not be easy and he plans to consult with those in New York and London who are encountering similar problems. One difficulty is these bots are becoming more and more sophisticated all the time and are difficult to fight. A report by the Attorney General of New York's Office revealed that 502 tickets to a Beyoncé concert were sold in three minutes. And in 2015, 1,012 tickets for a U2 tour were sold in one minute.
From a report by the NY AG s office about computer scalper bots
From a report by the NY AG's office about computer scalper bots
New York State Attorney General
New York state has introduced legislation that would provide large fines and even prison time for those who use bots to scalp tickets.