An investigation by CBC/Radio-Canada and the Toronto Star, based in part on documents found in the Paradise Papers, has exposed Julien Lavallée’s multimillion-dollar ticket resale operation that allegedly used bots to buy up tickets and resell them at huge markups. For three Adele concerts in the UK, his business bought up 310 tickets in 25 minutesusing 15 different names in 12 locations (going way past the four-ticket-per customer limit).
The leak of tax haven records known as the Paradise Papers reveals Lavallée had approximately $7.9 million in sales in 2014, allegedly making him one of StubHub’s biggest global sellers.
The article also alleges that StubHub maintains a password-protected site for fans that sell more than $50,000 worth of tickets with “special rates for those who hit sales of $250,000, $500,000 and up to $5 million US per year,” according to the article.
The news that StubHub created incentives for high-volume brokers was surprising to some —Gizmodo’s Rhett Jones said “the idea that a reseller on StubHub could possibly be making $5 million in sales through filling out forms one-by-one on Ticketmaster is a stretch.”
Of course not all brokers — even those who operate at a very high sales volume — use bots. Some have large season ticket holding, others buy and resell tickets only off the secondary. But still, the revelation has many asking how much StubHub polices its top sellers for illegal activity and what percentage of sales come from illegally acquired tickets.
In a statement to the CBC, company officials said “StubHub agrees that the use of bots to procure tickets is unfair and anti-consumer. StubHub has always supported anti-bots legislation and encourages policy-makers to look comprehensively at the host of factors that impact a fan’s ability to fairly access, buy, resell, or even give away tickets in a competitive ticket market.”
The news comes just hours after authorities with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority raided StubHub & Viagogo’s UK Offices and seized information about both companies, according to the Guardian, including info on their relationship with high-volume ticket scalpers.
“The raids are key to an investigation launched last year into whether ticketing companies are giving fans enough information about their tickets, such as who the seller is and whether buyers could be denied entry due to undisclosed restrictions on resale,” the Guardian reports. “Investigators are also looking at whether touts benefit from ‘connections’ at resale websites to gain an advantage over genuine fans trying to get hold of tickets.”
The CMA reportedly also issued an “information notice” to GetMeIn and Seatwave and “according to sources familiar with the investigation, GetMeIn and Seatwave complied but Swiss-based Viagogo and StubHub, which is owned by online auction website eBay, refused to hand over the information voluntarily,” the Guardian reports.