Ticketmaster fights anti-scalping law in Manitoba

Ticketmaster wants the Manitoba government to abolish its ticket-scalping law, saying it’s unenforceable.

WINNIPEG — Ticketmaster wants the Manitoba government to abolish its ticket-scalping law, saying it’s unenforceable.

Joe Freeman, the company’s senior vice-president for legal affairs, said making it illegal to resell a ticket to a concert or sporting event defies logic in the age of the Internet.

Freeman said if tickets to an event are sold out and individuals are determined to buy a ticket, they will find a seller.

There are hundreds of resellers selling tickets on the Internet, Freeman said, and they are beyond the reach of the laws of Manitoba.

Freeman said that despite allegations to the contrary, his company does not hold back tickets from events only to sell them at inflated prices on its controversial online reseller TicketsNow.

“That’s an urban myth,” Freeman said. “It’s false, it’s not true.

“Every single, solitary ticket that (a venue) gives us to sell is sold according to their instructions.”

Freeman said Ticketmaster has met with the Manitoba government to discuss the issue and, in the past, has urged the province to abandon its anti-scalping law, adding that Alberta appears ready to do just that.

The government of Premier Gary Doer said recently that it’s observing the controversy surrounding Ticketmaster and the issue of online ticket sales but will wait for the outcome of court decisions before taking any action on its own.

The decision by Ticketmaster, which has a virtual monopoly on ticket sales at most venues in almost every major city in North America, to buy TicketsNow last year was controversial and has brought the California-based firm nothing but grief.

The public backlash has been flamed by Ticketmaster’s past practice of redirecting online customers to TicketsNow when tickets to an event were sold out.

That drew complaints — never proven — that Ticketmaster was deliberately holding back tickets and selling them at inflated prices on TicketsNow.

Consumers also complained about the fees and charges imposed by Ticketmaster, driving up the price of a ticket.

Ticketmaster’s practices have generated two class-action lawsuits in Canada and investigations by the state of New Jersey, the Consumers Bureau in Ottawa and the Ontario government.

Freeman said that last October, Ticketmaster blocked ticket sales from its TicketsNow site to residents of Manitoba and Alberta, provinces that prohibit tickets from being sold at a price higher that the advertised price.

Freeman said TicketsNow doesn’t buy tickets but acts as a clearing board where others post tickets for sale.

Some performers have taken steps to prevent tickets being sold to or bought by resellers.