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Impact of proposed ticket sale legislation remains to be seen

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

A representative from Oshawa’s largest entertainment venue views proposed changes to Ontario’s ticket sale laws as a promising start, but believes more details are needed to shed light on how ticket buyers will ultimately be protected.

William Balfour, director of marketing and groups sales for Spectra Venue Management, which runs the Tribute Communities Centre, told The Oshawa Express details regarding the potential legalisation released in June “are not overly specific” in his view and he thinks questions remain on how it would play out if passed.

Balfour says Spectra has focused on educating customers so they do not become victims of ticket scams, something he says happens all too often.

“At any large scale event, whether it’s Elton John, Selena Gomez or KISS, we always get a ton of fraudulent tickets,” Balfour says. “I hate seeing fans being turned away.”

Balfour says they encourage customers to purchase tickets for events through the centre’s official website or at the box office.

With ticket reselling websites growing in numbers, Balfour says it’s important for the public to know where they are going for their purchases.

He says such websites will employ tactics such as using the Tribute Communities Centre logo to confuse ticket buyers and noted even if someone does a Google search for the venue’s name, customers may end up at a different site due to reselling companies buying Google Ad spaces.

“It’s just about improving customer knowledge,” Balfour says.

Balfour was pleased to see 34,700 respondents to a provincial survey regarding ticket-buying software and ticket price markups, with almost 90 per cent of respondents indicating they wanted the Ontario government to address those issues.

“It’s pretty amazing they had that many respondents,” he says. “It’s a pretty good sample size.”

The survey came as a result of public outcry after many fans were unable to purchase tickets to The Tragically Hip’s 2016 farewell tour.

And while he was unhappy to see so many people disappointed, Balfour says it forced the province to take action.

“It put a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths…with The Hip being Canadian icons, I think it put a spotlight on what happened to fans,” Balfour says.

Among the proposed changes the province brought forward aimed at protecting ticket purchasers include banning the use of ticket bots, forbidding the sale of tickets that are not owned or possessed by the seller (speculative tickets) and restrictions on reselling tickets unless they are verified by the primary seller or the reseller offers a money-back guarantee, all things Balfour says, if passed, would be positive steps.

Primary ticket sellers would also be required to disclose the number of tickets that will be available through general on-sales, as well as the capacity of a particular venue and resellers/online resale platforms would be required to disclose the original face value of a ticket and the precise location, as well as the identity of a commercial reseller.

All ticket selling businesses, such as the Tribute Communities Centre, would be required to indicate the all-in price of a ticket up front, something Balfour says “could be the trickiest part”.

He explained that because there are different charges for purchasing online as opposed to in-person, promotional material for events would likely have to potentially list a number of different prices.

If passed, the proposed legislation would give the government and police authority to investigate and charge violators and would see the establishment of new provincial offences and fines.

Balfour says the legislation could “create a regime of government officials” to keep an eye on the ticket sale industry, however, he points out the changes will be judged by how well they are implemented.

“It’s great to have laws, but if they are not enforced it will be for nothing,” he says.