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Bots-B-Gone? Congress Bans Ticket-Scalpers' Tool Blamed For Quick Sell-Outs

The BOTS Act of 2016 is now on its way to President Obama's desk, after both houses of Congress approved the legislation that seeks to widen access to online ticket sales and foil scalpers who try to corner the market.

The ban applies to ticket sales for any public event that can be attended by 200 or more people; it targets software that routinely defeats attempts by venues to try to limit the number of tickets one buyer can purchase.

The full name of the legislation is the Better Online Ticket Sales Act of 2016. It makes it illegal to circumvent limits on ticket sales — and also makes it illegal for anyone to sell tickets obtained by defeating online ticket sellers' access controls. The law extends to anyone who "knew or should have known that the event tickets were acquired in violation" of the federal rule.

Enforcement of the new law would be handled by the Federal Trade Commission, under its unfair or deceptive practices laws. It also allows state attorneys general to continue to pursue civil actions against resellers who run afoul of the law.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., along with their co-sponsors.

Passage of the pending new law comes after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called the current ticketing system "a fixed game," in a report on abusive practices by ticket resellers.

As NPR's Jim Zarroli reported for the Two-Way:

"In one case, a single vendor was able to buy 1,012 tickets to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden just one minute after they went on sale, even though the venue supposedly limited sales to four tickets per customer."

The New York attorney general's report also noted that even tickets to free events — which are limited in order to ensure the safety and access of attendees — are often snapped up by scalpers' bots, only to appear online at a steep markup.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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