In an open letter to ticket buyers, StubHub's Jeff Poirier says the new Ticket Sales Act, stripped of its transparency provision, is a "disappointment for fans like you".
StubHub’s general manager for concerts and theatre in North America, Jeff Poirier, has penned an “open letter to fans” criticising Ontario’s abandonment of the planned ticket transparency provisions in its new Ticket Sales Act, which passed into law yesterday.
In its current form, the Ticket Sales Act caps the price of resold tickets at 150% of face value, bans ticket bots and requires business selling or reselling tickets to disclose certain information, including the capacity of the venue, the number of tickets on general on-sale and the original face-value ticket price.
It also originally required ticket sellers to disclose how many tickets are available to the public for a given event seven days before they go on sale – a provision abandoned last month following reported opposition from the concert industry. Among those believed to have pushed back against the transparency clause were Live Nation/Ticketmaster Canada and industry association Music Canada Live; according to local media, Ticketmaster’s Canadian COO, Patti-Anne Tarlton, told Ontarian parliamentarians that revealing total ticket numbers “could enable [touts] to better use bots to buy bulk tickets where they’re known to be scarce”.
Poirier disagrees, and in the open letter, published yesterday, says the stripped-back legislation will be remembered for its “unintended consequences” on ordinary ticket buyers – and push the secondary market underground.
“Today, the Ontario Liberals passed their Ticket Sales Act,” he writes. “Consultations were initially approached with the best of intentions: increase transparency on availability of tickets on the marketand level the playing field so you have better access and more insight into the ticket buying process. In the end, this legislation will be known more for its unintended consequences than its protection of fans like you.
“In its original form, the Ticket Sales Act banned the use of bots to procure tickets, required ticket businesses to disclose more information to consumers and capped the resale price of tickets. Yet the government has maintained proposals that set fans back and stripped important transparency requirements that could have truly benefited you.”
While he reiterates StubHub’s previously expressed support for banning ticket bots, Poirier cites the January 2016 study by New York attorney-general Eric Schneiderman – which found that up to 75% of tickets are being held back from the general public – as evidence that “the issues impacting ticket access are broader than just bots”, which many consider to be only a small part of wider structural issues affecting the ticketing sector. This shortage of publicly available tickets, he continues, “is one of the reasons why you see popular shows ‘sell out’ so quickly”.
“The original legislation required ticket sellers to disclose how many tickets were actually being made available for sale – a simple concept that would provide you better insight into the actual availability of tickets,” writes Poirier. “This is the very issue the proposed legislation was trying to solve. Yet, the government chose to remove this critical provision from the legislation, citing pressure from the live entertainment industry as a prevailing reason over establishing transparency for Ontario fans like you.
“At StubHub, we understand transparency is important across the entire ticket industry, not just in the resale market. You should be able to know how many tickets are available for an event, what your seats will look like and how much you’re going to pay for them. Only in that circumstance can you make a purchase that you truly feel good about.”
“YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO KNOW HOW MANY TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE FOR AN EVENT, WHAT YOUR SEATS WILL LOOK LIKE AND HOW MUCH YOU’RE GOING TO PAY FOR THEM”
“When it comes to price caps,” he continues, “StubHub joins the industry in opposing this measure. This proposal stands to negatively impact Ontario fans like you and Ontario-based businesses like StubHub as ticket resales are driven off platforms that have robust consumer protections. Ticket resale prices will continue to be driven by supply and demand, not by arbitrarily set price caps. The fact is, if a venue holds 20,000 fans, but 100,000 fans want to attend the performance, ticket prices will reflect that demand. If the established market rate exceeds the 50% cap established by government, those sales won’t stop or adapt to reflect the price caps – they’ll just occur at their true value through channels the government cannot regulate. It will happen on street corners where the risk of counterfeit and fraud is significant, and no guarantees are in place; or it will happen on ticket resale websites located outside of jurisdiction of the Ontario government. Either way, you and businesses that have invested in the province will be hurt.
“Consumers benefit from a competitive ticket market where transactions occur through secure channels that prioritise fans. At the same time, it is important to incentivise and encourage this ecommerce to remain right here, in Ontario.
“We have said from the onset that we believe there is a better way for the industry and for you. It’s our mission at StubHub to connect you to incredible live event experiences, and to do so safely and securely by including money back guarantees and fraud prevention measures. This legislation is a disappointment for the ticketing industry, and a disappointment for fans like you.”
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