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."
Ticketmaster said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters that it would welcome the opportunity to talk with the Competition Bureau if it has any concerns.
"Unfortunately, there is a misperception that Ticketmaster is diverting tickets from the primary market to TicketsNow; it is not," the statement said.
"To the contrary, Ticketmaster goes to great lengths to ensure that members of the public have the most fair opportunity possible to buy tickets in the primary market."
The company said some resellers have been posting tickets for sale that they do not yet own on the TicketsNow reselling subsidiary and elsewhere.
It said both Ticketmaster and TicketsNow have been addressing the issue and recently announced a policy to no longer allow the prelisting of concert tickets.
The province of Ontario said on Monday it was looking into Ticketmaster's practices and in particular how tickets found their way to TicketsNow.
Last month an Ontario man filed a C$500 million ($395 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, Randall Palmer and Jeffrey Hodgson; editing by Richard Chang