Bot crackdown after Taylor Swift’s Ticketmaster fiasco?

After Ticketmaster botched its ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s Eras Stadium tours earlier this month, the company blamed “bot attacks” and fans for the collapse.

Now members of Congress are asking the Federal Trade Commission whether it plans to enforce a 2016 law designed to combat such “attacks.”

Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), ranking member and chairman, respectively, of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, wrote a letter to the FTC on Monday asking whether the commission would invoke the Better Online Ticket Sales Act or BOTS Act.

Signed into law in 2016, the BOTS Act gives the government the authority to crack down on those who misuse bots – software applications that are programmed to perform automated tasks online – to buy large quantities of tickets for profit. These brokers often run ticket bots that automatically absorb huge amounts of tickets as soon as they go on sale.

These tickets are then sold on third-party sites, often at much higher prices. The law prohibits the resale of tickets purchased using bots, and people who sell tickets illegally face a $16,000 fine.

“While bots may not be the only reason for these problems, which Congress is evaluating, the fight against bots is an important step in reducing costs for consumers in the online ticketing industry,” Blackburn and Blumenthal wrote.

Peter Kaplan, a spokesman for the FTC, said the agency had received the letter but declined to comment further.

When Ticketmaster announced it was canceling sales of Swift concert tickets to the public after a series of presales, it blamed the “staggering number of bot attacks, as well as fans who didn’t have invite codes,” saying it “generated unprecedented traffic to our site, resulting in a total of 3.5 billion system requests – 4 times our previous peak.”

While the letter looked specifically at Ticketmaster’s Swift debacle, the senators also pointed to other recent examples, such as consumers trying to buy tickets to see Bob Dylan in Nashville last March, only to be told says the tickets in their shopping cart no longer exist. The letter also mentioned a separate incident where 22,000 fans signed up to buy tickets for Blake Shelton, but only a few hundred people left with them.

The letter goes on to point out wild markups on third-party sites, with some listings as high as $1,000 for a Bruce Springsteen concert and $40,000 to see Adele.

“Preventing this type of consumer harm is exactly why Congress chose to pass the BOTS Act six years ago, and why we both chose to sponsor that bill,” the letter states.

In the past, the FTC has cracked down on people using bots. Last January, the FTC announced plans to issue a $31 million penalty against three New York-based ticket brokers that the commission accused of using bots to buy tens of thousands of concert and sporting event tickets. then making millions by reselling it. fans at higher prices.

The letter acknowledged the January case, which was the first use of the BOTS Act, but asked the FTC why it hasn’t done more to enforce other potential bot use cases.

The Swift fiasco has also fueled criticism of Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, the world’s largest concert promoter. The two companies merged in 2010, sparking fears that the resulting company would have control over ticket sales and other parts of the music business.

Ticketmaster has long faced criticism for the fees it charges consumers, and there has been political pressure for antitrust officials to get involved.

Last week, other members of Congress — Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a longtime critic of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) — announced they would hold a hearing on the impact Ticketmaster’s dominant control over the ticketing industry and “how consolidation in the live entertainment and ticketing industry is hurting both customers and artists.”

“When there’s no competition to drive better service and fair prices, we all suffer the consequences,” Klobuchar said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) he posted on Twitter earlier this month, she believes the company should be dissolved.

A Justice Department antitrust investigation into Live Nation Entertainment was made public earlier this month. It seeks to determine whether Live Nation abused its power over the live music industry.

In 2019, the Justice Department was preparing for a lengthy legal battle against Live Nation over allegations that it forced concert venues to work with its Ticketmaster division.

Live Nation agreed to extend certain terms of its 2010 merger, which were supposed to ensure fair competition in the ticket market and prohibit Live Nation from retaliating against venue owners who decided to drop competitors.

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