With the Ontario government consulting fans for their input on expensive ticket reselling, an Ottawa tech expert believes hard restrictions need to be in place to make ticket buying for concerts and other events more fair for fans.
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi announced this week that the province wants to hear from fans about ticket affordability and accessibility through an online survey, with the goal of introducing new legislation in the spring.
"Professional resellers or ticket brokers — what we used to think of as scalpers — they've gone high tech, and it's a massive business," said Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud research at Ottawa company Trend Micro, on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.
The problem is "bots" — automated online technology that scoops up big blocks of tickets before fans can buy them, that are then resold for inflated prices on the secondary market.
"It does happen all over the world, and that's sort of the challenge that we're facing, is that it's not just someone local — it's not someone here in Ottawa buying out all the tickets for Ottawa shows," Nunnikhoven said.
"It's very easy with the internet to buy them from around the world, because it's a massive market. It's estimated about $8 billion a year for secondary ticket sales."
The issue made headlines last summer when tickets for the Tragically Hip's tour seemingly sold out immediately, only to reappear on websites like StubHub for much more than face value, leaving fans out in the cold and outraged.
While Nunnikhoven believes secondary websites are legitimate ways for fans to buy or sell tickets on their own, there need to be regulations in place to curb scalping.
"I think transparency is really key here — letting fans know how many tickets are available, how many were held back, but also capping what you can resell online for. So it's nice that we can go to these authenticated markets so that we don't get ripped off, but there needs to be a hard limit on how much they can mark these up," he said.
His suggestion for fans filling out the province's survey?
"One of the comments that I would suggest leaving is to put a cap on what the resell can be. And that's going to be I think at least a reasonable balance of ticket prices staying low, and us still being able to acquire them."