Business News Legal Live Business Top Stories

US Congress passes ticket tout bot ban

By | Published on Thursday 8 December 2016

Ticket touts

Most ticket touting regulations considered or implemented in the US have so far happened at a state level, but yesterday Congress approved a bot ban at a US-wide federal level.

According to the Associated Press, the House Of Representatives yesterday approved proposals to define the use of special software by touts to hoover up large quantities of tickets from primary ticketing sites as an “unfair and deceptive practice” under the Federal Trade Commission Act. That would empower the FTC to pursue cases against people using such technology. The Senate has already passed the proposals, meaning the legislation will now go to President Barack Obama for approval.

As previously reported, a similar bot ban is currently being considered in the UK parliament as part of the Digital Economy Bill. Government ministers were initially down on the proposal, mainly because they said they thought that such software might already be illegal under the Computer Misuse Act. But following a fiery select committee in Parliament last month where reps from Ticketmaster and StubHub were grilled, a specific ticket bot ban now has considerable support amongst MPs and the government has indicated it could well back the move too. Officially speaking, the likes of StubHub have also endorsed such a ban.

In the US, some states have already sought to regulate or limit ticket touting, or scalping as they still insist on calling it. New York State has been most prolific on this front of late, and just last month it ramped up its efforts against the bloody bots, with a new law soon to come into effect that will criminalise the use of such software, so that people employing the bots could face jail time as well as fines. North of the border, the Canadian province of Ontario is also expected to outlaw ticket bots next year.

Though, of course, the bot ban is just one step towards limiting the rampant resale of tickets at massive mark ups on the secondary sites. First, someone needs to enforce the ban to make it effective. Mike Andrew of the UK’s National Trading Standards’ e-Crime Unit recently told the BBC that budget cuts make it hard for trading standards officials at a local level to invest time into enforcing rules on things like ticket touting.

Then, of course, bots are not the only way industrial-level touts access tickets. Some have teams of people manually logging onto primary sites buying up tickets as they go on sale, while others get tickets through sources within the music industry, who supply chunks of tickets to touts in return for a cut of the profit, or for upfront cash, or to reduce the risk of having unsold tickets for a show. Or often all three.

Still, most people in the anti-tout lobby see securing a bot ban as a good first step as part of a wider bid to try and regulate and restrict the resale of tickets for profit.