Sun, Jul 16, 2017 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Scalping must be stamped out

Lawmakers and a prominent singer on Wednesday called for increased fines for ticket scalping, an illegal act they say hurts the entertainment industry and the rights of concert-goers.

This is not the first time scalping has been discussed by lawmakers in the past year — harsher penalties, including jail time, for the scalping of train tickets were introduced in October last year through an amendment to the Railway Act (鐵路法).

At the time, lawmakers cited concerns over the violation of passengers’ rights and the inability of some people to return home by train during long holidays as tickets are unavailable or only available at exorbitant prices.

Concert ticket scalping not only violates the public’s rights, but also those of the proprietors and entertainers whose services and performances become unavailable to those for whom they were intended.

Not only do the proprietors not receive the additional profit generated by scalpers’ inflated prices, but they also lose the confidence of consumers who will seek alternatives.

While scalpers always have the option of moving on to different products or tickets, proprietors cannot regain consumer trust as easily.

The government is planning upgrades to transportation infrastructure as part of the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program, but if scalping is not reigned in, no amount of trains and tracks could solve transportation inadequacies, particularly in the east where the need is the greatest and scalpers are most active.

Part of the challenge in enforcing such regulations is that legislation is confusing and law enforcement does not view the crime as a major concern.

The government should implement a single law that bans scalping. To prevent circumvention of the law, it could be further stipulated that tickets may not be “given away” as part of a package of items that is being sold for profit.

This would be simpler and more easily enforced than the separate laws that regulate the sale of railway and concert tickets, with different penalties for each.

There is also no law prohibiting the scalping of manufactured or agricultural products, which sometimes occurs when environmental anomalies or long holidays affect supply and demand.

A common argument is that scalping is a normal part of a capitalist economy that takes advantage of fluctuations in supply and demand, but scalping artificially creates or exacerbates these fluctuations without benefiting the state as individuals reap untaxed profits at the expense of the public.

The lack of consensus over whether scalping is a moral or a legal issue has caused great variance in its regulation worldwide.

For example, in the US, where lawmakers have struggled to define scalping as illegal, the Better Online Ticket Sales Act that was introduced last year makes it illegal to circumvent security measures used by electronic ticketing systems. It also makes it illegal for people to purchase tickets they know to have been acquired through circumvention of ticketing systems’ security measures.

However, if scalping can be viewed as a legitimate capitalist practice, then why is cornering the market illegal?

In one case called “Silver Thursday,” two brothers on March 27, 1980, attempted to corner the silver commodity market. They were later ordered to pay US$134 million in compensation to a Peruvian mine.

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