Ticketmaster in North America is blocking five billion ticket bots each year, according to the chief operating officer of the company’s Canadian division, Patti-Anne Tarlton.

In an interview with Toronto’s City News, Tarlton outlined the scale of the scalping problem, suggesting that Ticketmaster prevents bots accessing tickets 10,000 times every minute in the US and Canada alone.

Tarlton was defending Ticketmaster’s sales schedule for Ed Sheeran’s forthcoming tour, with many Canadian fans left disappointed after the sold-out signs went up just minutes after tickets became available.

“The technology can … sell out stadiums in seconds so the speed of technology today is phenomenal,” Tarlton told City News.

“The challenge that we have is to use that for good. Our investment will be ongoing in getting technology that protects fans, protects consumers, to get tickets in the hands of those fans.

“It’s an ongoing arms race. Last year alone we blocked five billion – that’s with a ‘B’ – bots in North America alone.”

Ticketmaster recently introduced its Verified Fan platform, through which buyers can pre-register for sales after proving they are a real person. The response to Verified Fan from the music industry has been positive, with the managers of Ed Sheeran and Twenty One Pilots hailing its impact.

Ontario’s Attorney General is currently reviewing the rules around buying and selling tickets online. New York recently criminalised the use of bots by scalpers under new laws targeting both touts and reselling sites that profit from the use of ticket purchasing software. Each offence could now lead to a custodial sentence of one year or fine of up to US$1,500 (£1,200/€1,400).

The new UK Digital Economy Bill, which became law last Friday, also aims to contain scalping by the criminalisation of the misuse of bots – or “electronic communications network” or “electronic communications service” – to bulk-buy tickets.