Ticketmaster secret scalper program targeted by class-action lawyers

Ticketmaster secret scalper program targeted by class-action lawyers

A U.S. law firm is seeking to launch a class-action lawsuit on behalf of fans who purchased inflated resale tickets through Ticketmaster, alleging the company runs a professional scalper program that may have violated consumer rights.

The effort by Hagens Berman follows a CBC News/Toronto Star investigation that found Ticketmaster representatives at a Las Vegas convention were recruiting professional scalpers to use a web-based sales tool called TradeDesk to resell millions of dollars in tickets.

Company reps at the convention told undercover reporters posing as ticket brokers that their division turns a blind eye to scalpers who use hundreds of Ticketmaster online accounts to buy up seats — violating Ticketmaster’s ticket-buying limits.

The revelations have provoked angry responses from music and sports fans around the globe, with many taking to social media denouncing Ticketmaster for profiting from fees on both their box office tickets.

Ticketmaster issued a statement Thursday to CBC News, saying it was “categorically untrue that Ticketmaster has any program in place to enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets.”

However, the company did not deny the existence of its program helping industrial-scale scalpers to resell their large inventories.

Ticketmaster also announced it has begun an internal review acknowledging its seller code of conduct prohibits resellers from purchasing tickets that exceed the posted ticket limit for an event. It said its policy also prohibits the “creation of fictitious user accounts for the purpose of circumventing ticket limit detection in order to amass tickets intended for resale.”

In Canada, a lawyer behind a class-action lawsuit already underway against Ticketmaster, and involving allegations of price gouging, says he intends to expand his claim to include damages to fans affected by the company’s scalper program.

Filed in February with the Court of Queen’s Bench for Saskatchewan, Merchant Law Group in Regina notified Ticketmaster and parent company Live Nation that it was preparing to sue on behalf of a Regina resident.

Lawyer Tony Merchant decided to launch the suit after Canada’s Competition Bureau accused the company of price gouging.

Cheats system, lawyer says

Merchant’s suit has yet to be certified as a class action, and none of the claims have been tested in court. But he confirmed to CBC News on Friday that he soon plans to amend his statement of claim to include formal allegations and claims for compensation, tied to the secret scalper program uncovered by the CBC News/Toronto Star investigation.

The scalper program “cheats” the system, said Merchant. Ticketmaster appears to have a public position on scalpers, but then another position internally, he added.

CBC News goes undercover to expose Ticketmaster’s secret scalper program. 1:21

In the U.S., Hagens Berman has set up a website, signing up fans as it prepares its own lawsuit.

The law firm calls it a consumer rights effort, saying “our firm hopes to achieve relief for the many Ticketmaster customers who purchased inflated resale tickets …. and an injunction forcing Live Nation to end its secret scalping scheme.”

It goes on to say the firm “believes that those who unknowingly aid high prices for scalped tickets facilitated by Ticketmaster deserve compensation for the wrongdoing and profiteering of this corporation.”

Ticketmaster has not yet responded to requests for comment.





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Shoppers Drug Mart gets medical pot licence from Health Canada

Shoppers Drug Mart gets medical pot licence from Health Canada

Shoppers Drug Mart has received Health Canada’s approval to be a licensed medical marijuana producer, opening the door for the pharmacy giant to dispense medical cannabis to patients.

This comes after Shoppers applied to Health Canada to become a licensed medical marijuana producer in October 2016.

“As trusted medication experts, we believe pharmacists have an important role to play in the safe and informed use of medical cannabis, and this is the first step in our journey to provide medical cannabis to our patients,” said Loblaw spokesperson Catherine Thomas in an emailed statement. “We will share more information about our plans in the coming weeks.”

Under the current Health Canada regulations for medical marijuana, the only legal distribution method is by mail order from licensed producers direct to patients. A cannabis sales license from Health Canada is also required to dispense medical marijuana to patients.

Deals with pot producers

Shoppers has said that it has no interest in producing medical cannabis.

The pharmacy retail chain had already in recent months signed several supply deals with various licensed medical marijuana producers — including Aurora Cannabis, Aphria Inc., MedReleaf Corp. and Tilray Inc. — subject to Health Canada’s approval of its application.

Shoppers’ parent company, Loblaw Companies Ltd., is also looking to sell recreational pot in Newfoundland and Labrador once it is legalized across the country on Oct. 17. The grocery conglomerate’s applications for several locations were among those on a list of potential licensed cannabis retailers selected by Cannabis NL, the provincial body handling pot sales.

It was also announced in July that Shoppers had partnered with Manulife Financial Corp. to offer enhanced medical marijuana insurance coverage.

Under the program, Manulife customers approved for medical marijuana coverage will be able to consult with Shoppers pharmacists at an Ontario-based patient care centre about different strains of medical marijuana and the different ways to take it.

Industry groups such as the Canadian Pharmacists Association have said that pharmacies should play a leading role in the distribution of medical marijuana.

“Pharmacists have the necessary expertise to mitigate the potential risks associated with medical cannabis, including harmful drug interactions, contraindications, and potential addictive behaviour,” the organization said on its website. “Pharmacists have an existing infrastructure that is already in place to handle controlled substances.”



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Privacy experts say choosing life insurance tied to fitness tracking could have unintended consequences

Privacy experts say choosing life insurance tied to fitness tracking could have unintended consequences

Privacy experts say they’re concerned life-insurance programs that reward customers for behaviours like logging their activity using a fitness tracker could have unintended consequences for the safety of their personal data.

Insurance giant John Hancock, owned by Canadian company Manulife Financial Corp., announced Thursday a switch to “interactive” life-insurance policies only, which offer incentives for things like wearing a Fitbit or other fitness tracker.

Customers in John Hancock’s program — a partnership with Vitality Group — do not have to log their activities to get coverage, but can receive discounts or other perks if they do. The insurer will begin converting existing traditional life insurance policies to interactive versions in 2019, it said.

That concerns privacy advocates who worry these optional programs won’t be optional down the road.

“At this stage, they’re saying it’s voluntary,” says Ann Cavoukian, who served as Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner from 1997 to 2014.

“My gut says overtime it’s not going to be voluntary, or it will be less voluntary, or there will be consequences for not doing it. Like you’ll pay higher premiums because … you’re not willing to share that data. That’s what disturbs me.”

The individual has to be in control of their personal information related to their physical activity and other choices that they make in their life. – Anne Cavoukian, former Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner

Cavoukian says there are some positives about insurance programs that offer incentives for maintaining healthy habits. 

“I do the 10,000 steps. I subscribe to that kind of activity, so I think it’s a plus for those individuals who choose to engage in that kind of behaviour,” she says.

“But that is the key issue here. The individual has to be in control of their personal information related to their physical activity and other choices that they make in their life. And they have to be free not to want to share that kind of data with their insurance company.”

‘The unknown arises’

Although Manulife has not announced a similar move away from traditional insurance policies here in Canada, the Toronto-based company rolled out its own interactive policies in 2016, following successes with similar programs in Africa, Asia and the U.S.

Cavoukian warns Canadians to “be aware of unintended consequences.” She says health information could get into other hands, such as employers who might take a dim view if you fall off the fitness wagon.

“Something I’ve heard again and again during my three terms as privacy commissioner, is that the unknown arises — something you hadn’t anticipated in terms of having your information used for something it was not intended for.”

A man is seen outside the Manulife Financial head office in Toronto in this May 3, 2012 file photo. Manulife has not announced a move away from traditional insurance policies. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

Tandy Thomas, an assistant professor at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business, also has some mixed feelings about this model of insurance. 

She says she’s in favour of interactive policies like the ones offered by John Hancock — and believes they could bring about a positive shift in the insurance industry. But she cautions that consumers don’t know what fitness tracking for insurance purposes could look like in the future.

“We’re at a pivotal point now where the technology is moving faster than our ability to fully think through the moral and ethical implications,” says Thomas. “There always needs to be a level of caution in thinking about how is this going to be used.

“It has huge potential for bringing about consumer good and societal well being, but we need to make sure that it’s actually what’s happening and that it’s not being distorted in a way that could lead to unintended negative eventualities.” 

‘Different outcome?’

Dr. Joshua Tepper, a family physician and University of Toronto associate professor in family medicine, says he sees the John Hancock news as the result of two factors playing out in his practice.

For one, his patients are embracing health tracking and often come into their appointments armed with fitness information and other biometric data — including heart rate and blood pressure. Secondly, insurance companies write to him more than ever to seek information about his patients and their interactions with the health care system.

Tepper says there’s a risk that insurance firms may rely too heavily on things like fitness data when genetic factors, family history and the kind of work people do also play big roles in health and life expectancy.

For example, he questions whether, if you twisted your ankle and couldn’t meet your steps goal for three months, it would be fair for your insurance company to hike your premiums.

“Do we really know that that difference in steps is going to lead to a different outcome?”

With files from Jacqueline Hansen, Meegan Read and Matt Galloway.



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Passenger rights advocate launches complaint, calls Swoop’s baggage fees ‘deceptive’

Passenger rights advocate launches complaint, calls Swoop's baggage fees 'deceptive'

An air passenger rights advocate has filed a regulatory complaint against Swoop Inc. claiming the new low-cost airline is unlawfully charging baggage fees.

In a complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency, Gabor Lukacs says the commercial carrier is flouting Canadian law by failing to offer passengers a basic fare that includes a carry-on and a checked bag.

The Canada Transportation Act requires domestic airlines to offer a basic fare for travel within the country that has no restrictions with “reasonable baggage.”

Airline offers ‘a la carte service’

Karen McIsaac, a spokeswoman for the Calgary-based airline, says Swoop provides travellers with “a la carte service” where they pay a low base fare and add on features such as a checked bag for a fee.

She says the airline has specifically designed the self-booking website and mobile app to be extremely clear around what is provided in the fare and what the optional fees and added features entail.

But Lukacs, the Halifax-based founder of the independent non-profit organization Air Passenger Rights, calls the airline’s approach “deceptive.”



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As legalization looms, pot dispensaries wrestle with whether to close now to go legit later

As legalization looms, pot dispensaries wrestle with whether to close now to go legit later

Justin Loizos is a cannabis convert. After dealing with chronic pain for years as a result of multiple sclerosis, he eventually found the medication he needs in the form of medical marijuana.

He’s such a believer in the drug’s potential that he launched Just Cannabis, a dispensary providing medical marijuana to a small stable of clients in the Toronto area.

He makes sure his clients have a federal license to buy and his supply comes from licensed growers. But even he says he’s operating in the “grey area” between legal and illegal. He’s not obtaining product from black market sources or selling it to recreational users, but he is running afoul of federal regulations that dictate medical marijuana can only be shipped to legitimate customers through the mail.

‘The safest path’

Legalization on Oct. 17 is going to bring big changes to the industry, and people like Loizos are eager to be on the right side of the law when the day they have been waiting for finally comes. But in Ontario, where his store is located, the government has been unequivocal — anyone involved in the illegal side of the business today will be shut out once it’s legal.

“A lot of businesses are a little bit nervous right now,” says Tania Cyalume, a former co-owner of another Toronto-area dispensary which was called Queens of Cannabis.

Loizos says his lawyer “wants me to take the route of least resistance … the safest path,” he says. “I’m trying not to screw myself in the sense of trying to go as legal as possible.” Despite the risks, he’s continuing to give his customers product because they need it and he says some have no other reliable way of obtaining it.

Cyalume also wants to open for business once the legal switch gets flipped, but she’s staying much further away from the edge until then.

About 90 per cent of dispensaries open today are owned by people who want to work in the legal framework, she says, adding that recent raids have moved many dispensaries back underground.

Justin Loizos uses medical marijuana and operates a small dispensary to help members get access to the drug. (Shawn Benjamin/CBC)

Cyalume decided not to reopen her retail store because she doesn’t want to be blacklisted once it becomes legal, but she also fears being left behind. “As it gets closer, it does feel like there’s some pressure to find a location and at least hold that location down as a spot.”

Ontario will sell cannabis exclusively online via the government-owned Ontario Cannabis Store as of next month. Private retailers can apply to sell as of the spring of 2019, once regulations are updated. 

There are big risks of running afoul with the law. Under a mishmash of old municipal rules, people running an illegal pot shop can be fined about $500 in Ontario. Under the new rules, that will jump to half a million dollars.

“It’s open season on black-market dispensaries,” says Jeffrey Lizotte, the CEO of Next Wave Brands and a lobbyist for the cannabis industry. “Yet the quandary we have is that medical patients are allowed to use cannabis already.”

Big business

Lizotte knows some dispensaries that rack up $40,000 a day in sales. “You can imagine that dilemma for a black-market dispensary operator who hears the Ontario government say ‘if you want to participate in the legal market, shut down now,'” he says.

“They have a big question on their hands because they’re making a lot of money right now but it pales in comparison to what they could make in the legal market,” says Lizotte, who works with companies trying to stickhandle their way through legalization. 

Marijuana lobbyist Tyler James says it’s in the government’s best interest to give dispensaries a path to legitimacy once the drug becomes legal. (Shawn Benjamin/CBC)

Lizotte thinks governments and cannabis dispensary owners want the same thing — a safe, regulated industry, out of the hands of criminals. The best way to achieve that is for governments to give grey area players a path out of the wilderness, he says.

“The market is the most effective tool in displacing the black market,” he says. “People aren’t just gonna leave the dealer they been buying pot off of 10 years or the person that they know just to switch to the legal channel.”

‘Inclusive approach’

Marijuana activist Tyler James agrees. The head of lobby group Ontario Cannabis Consumer and Retail Alliance says most dispensaries want to be on the right side of the law, but they worry about leaving their existing customers in the lurch until details can be sorted out.

If the government wants to help users while creating legal jobs and killing off the black market, they “need to take an inclusive approach,” he says.

It’s not hard to imagine what the alternative might be.

“Even after Prohibition, it took decades for the speakeasies to be completely eliminated,” he says, citing the ban on alcohol in the 1920s and early 1930s.



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‘A public relations nightmare’: Ticketmaster recruits pros for secret scalper program

'A public relations nightmare': Ticketmaster recruits pros for secret scalper program

LATEST UPDATES:

  • After publication of this story, Ticketmaster issued a statement to CBC News saying it was “categorically untrue that Ticketmaster has any program in place to enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets.” It also said it had already begun an internal review of professional reseller accounts and employee practices before the CBC News story came out.

Box-office giant Ticketmaster is recruiting professional scalpers who cheat its own system to expand its resale business and squeeze more money out of fans, a CBC News/Toronto Star investigation reveals.

In July, the news outlets sent a pair of reporters undercover to Ticket Summit 2018, a ticketing and live entertainment convention at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Posing as scalpers and equipped with hidden cameras, the journalists were pitched on Ticketmaster’s professional reseller program.

Company representatives told them Ticketmaster’s resale division turns a blind eye to scalpers who use ticket-buying bots and fake identities to snatch up tickets and then resell them on the site for inflated prices. Those pricey resale tickets include extra fees for Ticketmaster.

“I have brokers that have literally a couple of hundred accounts,” one sales representative said. “It’s not something that we look at or report.”

Music journalist Alan Cross suspects Ticketmaster’s recruitment of scalpers might not sit well with the ticket-buying public. (Rachel Houlihan/CBC )

CBC shared its findings with Alan Cross, a veteran music journalist and host of the radio program The Ongoing History of New Music, who suspects the ticket-buying public will be far from impressed: “This is going to be a public relations nightmare.”

He said there have been “whispers of this in the ticket-selling community, but it’s never been outlined quite like this before.”

“It does seem a bit stinky, doesn’t it?”

By partnering with scalpers, Ticketmaster has done an about-face from its position of less than a decade ago when then-CEO Irving Azoff told U.S. legislators: “I believe that scalping and resales should be illegal.”

Two floors above the slot machines and blackjack tables at Caesars, Ticketmaster was one of dozens of vendors and speakers at the convention, which bills itself as a “one-of-a-kind networking event” for industry leaders and small businesses alike.

CBC reporter Dave Seglins signed up as “David Geoffrey,” a small-time scalper from Toronto with a fictitious company, DGS Promotions.

The ticketing convention was held at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters)

With hidden cameras rolling, he mingled with some of the world’s most successful scalpers, documenting candid accounts from players inside this notoriously secretive industry.

Casey Klein, Ticketmaster Resale director, held a session that was closed to the media called “We appreciate your partnership: More brokers are listing with Ticketmaster than ever before.”

The audience heard that Ticketmaster has developed a professional reseller program and within the past year launched TradeDesk, a web-based inventory management system for scalpers. The company touts it as “The most powerful ticket sales tool. Ever.”

A look at the convention floor, where top-level scalpers mingled with representatives from industry leaders such as Ticketmaster. (CBC )

TradeDesk allows scalpers to upload large quantities of tickets purchased from Ticketmaster’s site and quickly list them again for resale. With the click of a button, scalpers can hike or drop prices on reams of tickets on Ticketmaster’s site based on their assessment of fan demand.

Neither TradeDesk nor the professional reseller program are mentioned anywhere on Ticketmaster’s website or in its corporate reports. To access the company’s TradeDesk website, a person must first send in a registration request.

Not building a ‘better mousetrap’

On the trade show floor, a handful of Ticketmaster salespeople handed out cupcakes, and at two cubicle workstations, they provided online demonstrations of TradeDesk.

One of the presenters, who was unaware he was speaking with undercover journalists, insisted that Ticketmaster’s resale division isn’t interested in whether clients use automated software and fake identities to bypass the box office’s ticket-buying limits.

“If you want to get a good show and the ticket limit is six or eight … you’re not going to make a living on six or eight tickets,” he said.

Watch as CBC News goes undercover to expose Ticketmaster’s secret scalper program:

CBC News goes undercover to expose Ticketmaster’s secret scalper program. 1:21

While Ticketmaster has a “buyer abuse” division that looks out for blatantly suspicious online activity, the presenter said the resale division doesn’t police TradeDesk users.

“We don’t share reports, we don’t share names, we don’t share account information with the primary site. Period,” he said when asked whether he cares if scalpers use bots to buy their tickets.

CBC heard the same message from a different Ticketmaster employee during an online video conference demonstration of TradeDesk at an earlier stage of the undercover investigation back in March.

“We’ve spent millions of dollars on this tool. The last thing we’d want to do is get brokers caught up to where they can’t sell inventory with us,” he said when asked whether Ticketmaster will ban scalpers who thwart ticket-buying limits — a direct violation of the company’s terms of use.

“We’re not trying to build a better mousetrap.”

Scalping pays

Ticketmaster, which is owned by Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, has made it clear to shareholders that it plans to expand further into the resale market.

As Part 1 of the CBC News/Toronto Star investigation revealed yesterday, resale tickets are particularly lucrative for Ticketmaster because the company charges fees twice on the same ticket.

So, for example, if Ticketmaster collects $25.75 on a $209.50 ticket on the initial sale, when the owner posts it for resale for $400 on the site, the company stands to collect an additional $76 on the same ticket.

Part 1 of the CBC News/Toronto Star investigation of Ticketmaster published Tuesday revealed how data journalists spent seven months tracking ticket sales for this Saturday’s Bruno Mars concert at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena on the box-office giant’s website. They found three key ways Ticketmaster helps drive up prices for fans. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

CBC News obtained a copy of Ticketmaster’s official reseller handbook, which outlines these fees. It also details Ticketmaster’s reward system for scalpers. As scalpers hit milestones such as $500,000 or $1 million in annual sales, Ticketmaster will knock a percentage point off its fees.

The Ticketmaster employee who gave the video conference demonstration in March said 100 scalpers in North America, including a handful in Canada, are using TradeDesk to move between a few thousand and several million tickets per year.

“I think our biggest broker right now has probably grabbed around five million,” he said.

Cross, who has spent the past two years researching online ticket sales, suspects some fans will read about this and conclude Ticketmaster is colluding with scalpers.

“On one hand, they say, ‘We don’t like bots,’ but on the other hand, ‘We have all these clients who may use bots.'”

Music writer Alan Cross answers readers’ questions about how to avoid paying exorbitant prices for concert tickets:

Imbalance of supply and demand 

Ticketmaster has declined repeated CBC and Toronto Star requests for an interview. CBC and the Toronto Star submitted a list of specific questions about the company’s scalper program. In a statement to CBC News, the company made no mention of the program, nor did it comment on its recruitment effort in Las Vegas.

On Thursday, Ticketmaster issued a statement to CBC News.

“It is categorically untrue that Ticketmaster has any program in place to enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets at the expense of consumers,” the statement said. “Ticketmaster’s seller code of conduct specifically prohibits resellers from purchasing tickets that exceed the posted ticket limit for an event.”

However, the CBC report made no claims about a system to acquire tickets, but rather disclosed TradeDesk, an online tool that helps scalpers resell their inventory by instantly “synching” their Ticketmaster.com accounts to upload already-purchased event seats onto resale websites — including Ticketmaster.

The company also said Thursday that even before the publication of the CBC story, it had already begun an internal review of professional reseller accounts and employee practices.

In an earlier statement to CBC, Ticketmaster did say that as long as there is an imbalance between supply and demand for live events, “there will inevitably be a secondary market.”

“As the world’s leading ticketing platform, representing thousands of teams, artists and venues, we believe it is our job to offer a marketplace that provides a safe and fair place for fans to shop, buy and sell tickets in both the primary and secondary markets,” wrote Catherine Martin, senior vice-president of communications, based in Los Angeles.

But Richard Powers, associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, says what Ticketmaster is doing is unethical.

With its near monopoly on box-office tickets, Ticketmaster should not also be allowed to profit from the scalping of those same tickets, he says.

“Helping to create a secondary market where purchasers are duped into paying higher prices and securing themselves a second commission should be illegal.”

For Alan Cross, the program raises a series of ethical questions:

  • Is this a legitimate form of commerce?
  • Does it violate any consumer protection laws?
  • Is it transparent and fair to consumers?

“It is probably going to trigger some questions,” he said, “and if not from governments, certainly from the general public.”

With files from the Toronto Star’s Robert Cribb and Marco Chown Oved



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Torstar signs agreement to purchase political website iPolitics

Torstar signs agreement to purchase political website iPolitics

Torstar Corp. announced Thursday that it has signed an agreement to acquire iPolitics Inc., a digital political website based in Ottawa.

The deal is expected to close on or around Oct. 1. 

In a written statement, Torstar president and CEO John Boynton praised iPolitics for its “proven record of providing extensive online coverage of federal and provincial politics and government policies across Canada.”

The plan is to expand the Toronto Star’s coverage of politics with select iPolitics content while maintaining and extending offerings on iPolitics.ca, said Boynton, also publisher of the Star.

“This unique opportunity will allow us to provide critical in-depth policy coverage from iPolitics along with the highly recognized reporting and opinion columns from the Star’s Ottawa team,” he said.

The two organizations will maintain separate Ottawa bureaus. 

Founded in 2010 by editor James Baxter, iPolitics Inc. runs a network of digital and social media sites offering, including through subscriptions, daily political news, a quarterly magazine, podcasts and parliamentary monitoring services.

Bob Hepburn, director of communications for Torstar, said the deal includes all assets of iPolitics Inc. He declined to share the sale price. 

“By teaming with the Toronto Star and Torstar’s other outlets, the iPolitics team will be able to reach more Canadians and work within an organization that has principles of public-service journalism at its core,” said Baxter in a statement about the sale.

Torstar already runs QP Briefing, a subscription-based digital and mobile news source covering Ontario politics and legislative news.

Christopher Waddell, a professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communications, says he wasn’t surprised to hear about the sale agreement.

“I know there’s been discussions underway for quite awhile that stretch back probably a couple of years, back and forth,” he said.

Waddell said the deal with a subscription-based specialty publisher fits with the direction of the paper under Boynton’s leadership. 

“They’re moving in a direction where they’re putting all their information behind pay walls — the regular Star as well,” he said. “I think where they’re headed in part is where lots of news organizations are headed in thinking that people will pay for specified content, particularly if you can provide that content in more depth and more detail.”



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Rural Canada Post carriers may see 25% wage hike after pay equity dispute

Rural Canada Post carriers may see 25% wage hike after pay equity dispute

An arbitrator has released a ruling in a long-standing pay equity dispute at Canada Post that gives rural carriers a hefty pay increase.

A spokesman for the Crown agency says a preliminary review of the ruling indicates rural and suburban postal workers, known as RSMCs, could see a 25-per-cent hike in their wages, plus increases in other benefits.

Arbitrator Maureen Flynn issued the ruling to Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Thursday after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on their own by an Aug. 30 deadline.

The union had argued that Canada Post’s 8,000 rural carriers — most of whom are women — were being paid substantially less than their majority-male urban co-workers.

An arbitrator has released a ruling in a long-standing pay equity dispute at Canada Post that gives rural carriers a hefty pay increase. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The ruling comes as CUPW and the post office continue to negotiate new contracts under a midnight Sept. 25 deadline for a strike or lockout.

Canada Post indicated in its second-quarter financial results that settling the pay-equity dispute could cost the corporation upwards of one-quarter billion dollars.

Pay disparity ‘wholly unacceptable’

It said Thursday that a full accounting of the cost will be included in its third-quarter results.

The chair of Canada Post’s board of directors and interim president and CEO, Jessica McDonald, calls Flynn’s ruling “thoughtful and detailed” and is pledging to move quickly to implement the changes.

“This is an incredibly important ruling for our rural and suburban carriers,” McDonald said in a statement.

“Pay equity is a basic human right and therefore pay disparity on the basis of gender is wholly unacceptable for Canada Post.”



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Grocery retailers try new bag of tricks to slow sales decline

Grocery retailers try new bag of tricks to slow sales decline

Supermarket sales in Canada decreased by 2.9 per cent year over year between May 2017 and 2018, according to Statistics Canada, and traditional supermarkets are trying new tactics to attract business.

Toronto resident C.J. Hall shops at the Loblaws near him for convenience and the social aspect. But he also shops at specialty shops in Kensington Market for meats and other items and turns to online delivery services for his produce.

“I do some produce like vegetables and stuff like that [online] because it forces me to eat them when they show up at my door,” said Hall.

Diverse shopping habits like Hall’s are fueling changes in the industry and forcing companies to try new approaches to attract customers.

Walmart recently teamed with Instacart, an American same-day grocery delivery service, to offer food delivery in as little as one hour. The pilot project is already underway in Toronto and launches in Winnipeg on September 27.

T & T Supermarket, a Canadian supermarket chain that sells primarily Asian foods, recently opened a new store in Richmond, BC that features a savoury crepe station. It also has a seafood bar, where you select, cook and eat your food in-store. For T & T, eating a freshly made meal in-store is part of the overall experience.

In Kitchener, Zehrs opened a new location that offers a “neighbourhood format.” It sells more local products that reflect the area and an old-fashioned butcher counter, where everything is prepared fresh before your eyes.

T & T Supermarket and Zehrs are both owned and operated by their parent company, Loblaw Companies Limited.

‘Grocery stores are now becoming general merchandisers’

David Lewis is a professor of consumer behaviour who works at a behavioural economics consulting firm called BEworks. He says grocery stores are doing whatever it takes to stand out in the crowded grocery market.

Toronto resident C.J. Hall shops at the Loblaws near him for convenience and the social aspect. (Jason Osler/CBC)

“If you’re throwing a dinner party and suddenly realize you didn’t buy any food, then perhaps you need groceries in an hour. But, for most of us, that afternoon or that day would be enough, which tells me that [Walmart is] using this really as a point of differentiation,” said Lewis.

He believes the shift for grocery stores started when businesses like Superstore began selling absolutely everything.

“They’ve had to fundamentally reinvent themselves to the point that grocery stores are now becoming general merchandisers,” said Lewis. “The lines between, say, what Walmart was and what a grocery store was are now blurred, and both of them are very, very similar. You now buy pots and pans and shoes and groceries all in one store.”

Specialty food store sales on the rise

Lewis foresees a shift away from big box stores, similar to what happened with department clothing stores.

“You’ll see a migration away from these big, very expensive grocery stores, towards an efficient delivery mechanism on one side—where there is no store—and highly specialized providers like a butcher, a fishmonger, a bakery, on the other side,” said Lewis. “That’s what happened to Sears—the middle ground disappeared.”

The stats seem to back this up. While Statistics Canada found supermarket sales were down year over year, specialty food stores saw a ten per cent increase in sales and convenience stores sales climbed nearly 7 per cent.

For customers like C.J. Hall, expertise and efficiency is the biggest draw.

“If you just specialize in doing something, you’re probably a lot better at it than a place that’s trying to do a lot of things,” said Hall.



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Hackers steal $60 million US in cryptocurrency from Japan exchange

Hackers steal $60 million US in cryptocurrency from Japan exchange

Hackers have stolen $60 million US worth of cryptocurrencies from a Japanese digital currency exchange, the operators said Thursday.

Tech Bureau Corp. said a server for its Zaif exchange was hacked for two hours last week, and some digital currencies got unlawfully relayed from what’s called a “hot wallet” — the place where virtual coins are stored at such exchanges.

The exchange was taken offline until details of the damage could be confirmed, and efforts were underway to get it back working, Tech Bureau said.

Japan has been bullish on virtual money and has set up a system requiring exchanges to be licensed to help protect consumers. The system is also meant to make Japan a global leader in the technology. Bitcoin has been a legal form of payment in Japan since April 2017, and a handful of major retailers here already accept bitcoin payments.

But the recurrence of cryptocurrency heists shows problems persist.

Bithumb — South Korea’s second-largest exchange, pictured here — said June 20 that $31 million worth of virtual currencies had been stolen by hackers. (Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press)

Earlier this year, the Tokyo-based exchange Coincheck reported a $547 million loss of a cryptocurrency called NEM from suspected criminal hacking.

Coincheck, in operation since 2012, had been applying for a government license but had not yet gotten one. That led to industry-wide soul-searching, led by government financial regulators, to prevent such problems.

Stolen currencies include bitcoin and monacoin

Zaif got registered with the government last year.

The company said Thursday it had accepted a $45 million offer from Fisco, a Tokyo-based investment company, for a majority stake in Tech Bureau, headquartered in Osaka.

The cryptocurrencies stolen in last week’s hack included bitcoin and monacoin. Of the stolen money, $20 million belonged to the company, and the rest were customers’ assets, according to Tech Bureau.

Earlier this year, a glitch at Zaif allowed some people to buy cryptocurrencies for zero yen.



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