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More regulatory action is needed to end Ticketmaster’s unsavoury business practices

By Kayle Van’tklooster, February 7 2018 —

Many university students have experienced the frustrations that come with purchasing event tickets from Ticketmaster. The company is a middleman between event hosts and attendees that inflates prices to a ludicrous degree while only providing a limited service. Despite Pearl Jam leading a campaign against them in the ‘90s, their business practices seem to have only gotten worse. Throughout the years, their added fees and surcharges have artificially raised prices of concerts and other event tickets beyond the rate of inflation. This means going to a concert or sports game has become a luxury that fewer can enjoy.

If Ticketmaster is allowed to continue their current business practices, these trends will only worsen. A recent lawsuit against Ticketmaster brought forward by the Competition Bureau, is long overdue. Since Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010, the company has effectively built a monopoly and used its iron grip on the industry to gouge their customers. Ticketmaster’s extra service fees often raise advertised ticket prices by 20 to 65 per cent. This practice is known as drip pricing and regulators have labeled it deceptive. It’s what led the Competition Bureau to file its suit against Ticketmaster. However, this case does not nearly go far enough to address the full extent of the problem.

Many major venues in Canada and the United States have exclusive deals with Ticketmaster. They are the exclusive ticket seller for 27 NHL teams and 28 NBA teams. This allows them to levy any fees they want on tickets, because if someone wants to attend an event, they have no choice but to pay Ticketmaster’s price or miss out. This lack of competition means they never face repercussions since consumers can’t use their purchasing power effectively.

However, this is only the case if you purchase tickets directly from Ticketmaster, which is easier said than done. The industry is plagued by “scalper bots” that buy large amounts of tickets — as many as possible until they’re sold out — only to put them on ticket resale sites for even higher prices. This problem came into the national spotlight during the Tragically Hip’s final tour and left fans outraged. Unsurprisingly, Ticketmaster has not taken any steps to prevent this practice and has even dipped into the reselling market themselves. In one case they allegedly allowed tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert to be bought up and immediately placed on the resale site TicketsNow, which Ticketmaster owns as a subsidiary. This shows just how comprehensive their monopoly on ticket sales has become.

While the recent suit from the Competition Bureau is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done. Across Canada, there has been little regulatory action on these issues outside of Ontario, where the provincial government’s passage of the Ticket Sales Act banned the use of scalper bots. If the Competition Bureau wants to effectively protect consumers from Ticketmaster’s predatory practices, all of the issues within the ticketing industry must be addressed, not just drip pricing. Anyone who enjoys going to events like concerts or hockey games should put pressure on our elected officials to address this unfairness.

Articles published in the Gauntlet‘s opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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