Inflated online ticket sales a focus for Alberta consumer law review

Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean speaking at Londonderry Mall about the plan to gather consumer feedback on predators in the marketplace and unfair competition on July 27, 2017
Shaughn Butts / Postmedia

Price caps and regulating online ticket sales are on the table as the province wrestles with Alberta’s consumer protection laws.

Over the next two months, the government wants to hear from Albertan consumers about what they think is unfair — whether it’s grossly inflated online ticket resale prices for artists like The Tragically Hip, or the selling tactics of specific brick-and-mortar stores.

Announcing consultations Thursday, Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean said businesses also deserve to be protected against unfair practices.

The Service Alberta call centre has heard from myriad Albertans unsatisfied with purchases or interactions in the consumer world, McLean said, from online ticket sales to renovations gone awry or rogue contractors not following the rules and leaving families on the hook for thousands of dollars of repairs.

“Scammers hurt consumers, and they hurt honest businesses too,” she said. 

To figure out exactly what changes consumers need, and ensure the rules are relevant to today’s rapidly changing marketplace, the province has launched an online survey and will soon hold a series of open houses in communities around Alberta. 

Scalpers beware

Ticket prices for sports games or gigs selling for four or five times the face value has been a sticking point for consumers ever since online resale sites became common.

Ontario has recently tackled the issue of ticket bots, which rapidly buy huge quantities of online tickets that resellers put back on the market for inflated prices. McLean says Alberta is closely watching how that pans out.

“My understanding is that’s just one part of it (so) I want to hear from Albertans about their preference, and from vendors,” McLean said.

There are a plethora ways to regulate ticket sales, McLean said, and feedback will help figure out the right way for Alberta to proceed.

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