Steven Joyce, the Economic Development Minister, has made it clear that he is unhappy tickets for the Super 15 final in Wellington are fetching up to $1500 online. He is not alone. It is never pleasant to watch scalpers cash in on the desperation of genuine fans who missed out during regular ticket sales. But Mr Joyce does not favour changing the law. That, he says, would be an over-reaction. Rather, event promoters should be thinking more about how to ensure tickets reach the public.
He is being hard on those promoters. Fears of the very difficulties now afflicting ticketing for Saturday's match occasioned the passing of the Major Events Management Act in 2007, which made it illegal to onsell a tournament ticket for profit in New Zealand, and dictated that scalpers could be fined up to $5000. But it was restricted to major international events, namely the 2011 Rugby World Cup and this year's Cricket World Cup. It does not apply to one-off matches or entertainment events, such as a rock concert. The Act's only nod in that direction is the right of promoters to apply to the Government to have their event included under the major events law.
The promoter of the Super 15 final made no such application. Indeed, in a practical sense, it would have been very difficult to do so: it was not until last Saturday night that the identity of the finalists was known. The option has not been used by other promoters, either. Consequently, ticket scalpers have been active at a number of popular events, including rugby league's Auckland Nines and The Big Day Out in its heyday. Invariably, the promoters threaten consequences, not least by cancelling tickets they believe to have been scalped.
The Super 15 promoters have also done this. But they know that, in reality, they are essentially powerless. Under the present law, tickets for these events can be onsold for any sum on auction websites. Trade Me has confirmed as much, while seeking to portray the activity as a transaction between a willing buyer and a willing seller. In essence, it suggests this is a victimless activity that meets demand which exists after the supply of tickets has been exhausted.
That is not quite the full story. The scalpers who swooped on some of the 30,000 tickets that the Super 15 promoter had, by necessity, to sell in a very short period, increased the chances of genuine fans having to pay more than the official value. They also inhibited the promoter's ability to sell the tickets to true fans at the price they wanted them to pay. Scalpers seize on occasions such as this when tickets are sold for much less than they might otherwise fetch. The promoters have little room to move. The most obvious step, that of lifting prices to reduce scalpers' ability to profit, means only that tickets become unaffordable to genuine fans.
This suggests there is good reason for the Government to act. If scalping is deemed to be out of bounds for World Cup tickets, why should it be allowed to flourish at all? In all cases, it makes it difficult for promoters to keep faith with longstanding fans.