Soon only Ticketmaster will rip you off: Concert scalper bots face US ban

Senate, House pass law against automated tix snatch-and-resell

The US Senate has unanimously passed a bill that will make it illegal to grab large quantities of online tickets with an automated bot.

The Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act prohibits both circumventing website controls that try to impose purchase limits and the sale of a ticket if it has been obtained through such a method.

The goal is to prevent what has become an all-too-common occurrence: the sell-out of tickets for an event within minutes of them going live, with the ticket then sold with a markup by whoever managed to grab them.

Ticket scalping is not exactly new, but the online sale of tickets has meant the problem has become significantly larger and the BOTS Act hopes to nip it in the bud.

The law treats any such effort to game the system as an "unfair or deceptive act or practice," which brings it into the purview of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). That means the FTC will be able to investigate any offences and approve fines and other legal constraints.

The new law will apply to any event that has a capacity of over 200 people, which is open to the general public, and for which tickets are made available beyond the state in which the event is being held.

Fortunately, the Senate has demonstrated some understanding of how the internet works and included a clause that notes it will not be illegal to create or use software that investigates any such efforts, or software that tests ticket-selling systems for vulnerabilities.

The hope, of course, is that the law will bring an end to consumers being ripped off by mass-purchase ticket scalpers. A version of the proposed legislation has already been passed by the House of Reps; now it's up to both the Senate and the House to agree on the final wording and pass it all over to the President to sign off. Only then will the ban come into effect.

The real rip-off

There is no word yet, however, on whether Congress is also considering a bill to make it illegal for companies like Ticketmaster to charge ludicrous additional fees for doing absolutely nothing.

There is the "service fee," which the ticket company charges for it going to the trouble of selling you the ticket. That can be anything from $15 to $50. Then there's the "processing fee," which supposedly covers the cost of the purchasing platform. That is often around $2.50 per ticket.

Then the "delivery fee" if you choose anything but an e-ticket. Also typically $2.50 a ticket. Plus sometimes you get a "convenience fee," which is a charge for letting you use your credit card in the online ticket system that you have already paid for, even though you don't have any other option but to use a credit card.

And then there is often a "facility fee" that the venue can add on whenever it fancies because presumably they forgot to include the cost of actually running an event in the ticket price.

In short, all the fees will often add up to half or more of the actual ticket price.

Of course, that rip-off percentage drops if you're forced to buy your ticket from a third party because the system you paid extra for fails to prevent scalpers from grabbing all the tickets seconds after they were made available.

We'll see if this law helps with that last part. ®

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