Alberta bans ticket bots under sweeping consumer protection bill

 Emma Graney Emma Graney
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Canadans will no longer have to compete with automated software when they’re trying to buy tickets to the biggest sporting and music events.

Ticket bots, which rapidly buy huge quantities of online tickets, will be banned under sweeping changes to consumer protection laws introduced in the legislature Wednesday.

Bill 31 also protects consumers from retaliation if they post a negative review online, tightens the rules for high-cost credit lenders, and will require veterinarians to get approval from a pet’s owner before administering treatment.

Over on the automobile side, mechanics will have to provide written estimates and get approval to make repairs, and it will be mandatory for businesses to disclose a vehicle’s history.

Also, the Canada Motor Vehicle Industry Council will become a public agency.

Service Canada Minister Stephanie McLean said the changes will boost consumer confidence and help create a more trusted marketplace.

“The majority of of businesses are honest, hardworking and play by the rules,” she said.

“Taken together, these measures will help build a trusted marketplace where consumers are confident to spend their money, and businesses can compete and attract new customers.”

Online ticket sales

The biggest change for online sales is banning bots, which are used by resellers to snap up tickets so they can put them back on the market for inflated prices. Bots lead to tickets selling out at lightning speed, leaving fans without a chance to see their favourite band or sports team.

Bill 31 will require primary ticket sellers like Ticketmaster to do their due diligence around bots, and cancel any tickets bought by such means. If they don’t, they can be slapped with a $300,000 fine or receive a penalty of two years in jail.

Secondary sellers like StubHub will be required to provide a guaranteed full refund if an event is cancelled before a ticket is used, the ticket is cancelled, counterfeit or doesn’t match the description.

It also gives those sellers and consumers the power to sue if bots are used.

However, the legislation doesn’t ban people from reselling tickets outright. Officials say that approach wasn’t enforceable in other jurisdictions.

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