Canada to investigate Ticketmaster complaints

Wed Mar 4, 2009 5:23pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government has asked the Competition Bureau to investigate complaints that Ticketmaster diverts tickets to its reselling subsidiary, which then sells them for far higher prices.

"The government will not stand idly by when there is potential that companies are engaging in uncompetitive practices that are hurting consumers," Industry Minister Tony Clement told Parliament on Wednesday.

"And that's why I am referring this matter directly to the Competition Bureau for their review."

The province of Ontario said on Monday it was looking into Ticketmaster's practices and in particular how tickets found their way to the TicketsNow reselling subsidiary.

Last month an Ontario man filed a $500 million lawsuit against Ticketmaster, claiming the company broke the law by reselling tickets at inflated prices.

That same month, Ticketmaster settled with the state of New Jersey to resolve more than 2,000 complaints over how it had handled ticket sales for Bruce Springsteen concerts, and Canadians are now complaining about inflated prices to hear Leonard Cohen.

"I want an investigation to determine whether Ticketmaster is abusing its position as a ticket seller by bumping people off their site to another site which sells the tickets at a multiple of many times higher than the original price," Clement said.

"So that deserves investigation and I'm not going to prejudge that investigation but I think it's worthy of investigation."

He said the power to refer such cases to the Competition Bureau had "been used sparingly in the past but I think it's time that we start using it a little bit more often."

(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson)