BOTS Act: That’s the ticket!

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It used to be a rite of passage: spending the night in a line outside the box office to score tickets to the Stones, Springsteen, or [insert your favorite group here]. The convenience of internet ticket sales ended the sleeping-on-the-sidewalk ritual. But online ticket sales raised another concern: Were prospective buyers losing out to computer programs that scooped up the best seats only to resell them at inflated prices? Congress responded to that issue by passing the Better Online Ticket Sales Act of 2016.

It’s no coincidence that it’s called the BOTS Act because the law outlaws the use of computer software like bots that game the ticket system. Specifically, the BOTS Act makes it illegal to “circumvent a security measure, access control system, or other technological control or measure on an Internet website or online service that is used by the ticket issuer to enforce posted event ticket purchasing limits or to maintain the integrity of posted online ticket purchasing order rules.”

The BOTS Act addresses more than just buying tickets illegally. Congress also made it illegal to sell tickets obtained in violation of the statute if the seller participated in the illegal purchase or knew or should have known that the tickets were acquired in violation of the law.

The law applies to public concerts, theater performances, sporting events, and similar events at venues with seating capacity of over 200. The State AGs and the FTC have enforcement authority.

That’s a brief recap that could fit on the back of a ticket. If you have clients interested in this issue, you’ll want to read the BOTS Act in its entirety. And remember that many states also have laws relating to ticket sales.
 

Comments

Does the BOTS Act also apply to online ticket sales for travel as I have experienced a similar escalation of ticket cost each time I revisited bus, train and airline ticket searches ?

According to the wording of the law, Nancy, the BOTS Act applies only to a "concert, theatrical, performance, sporting event, show, or similarly scheduled activity" that's open to the public in a venue with seating for more than 200 people.

How do you report a violation of the BOTS act? I have had two instances recently where I waited in an online queue for a ticket for a concert to go on sale. The moment the sales opened I was able to request a ticket only to find it had sold out in seconds... however, within minutes, hundreds of available seats were available on vivdseats or stubhub for more than twice the price. It is obvious these sites used a program to buy up all the seats... this needs to stop!

You can file a complaint with the FTC Complaint Assistant.  There isn't a particular category for BOTS Act complaints, so feel free just to describe what happened and mentions the BOTS Act.  The state Attorneys General also have enforcement authority under the new BOTS Act, so you could file a complaint with your state AG, too. Thanks!

What action is the FTC currently taking to promulgate rules and guidance regarding the BOTS Act?

The BOTS Act didn't direct the FTC to issue rules, but we're working on educational materials for consumers and hope to have them available soon. If you spot a possible BOTS Act violation, please file a complaint with the FTC or your State Attorney General.  Thank you.

I and many other Phil Lesh fans where shut out of buying tickets today only ONE MINUTE after tickets went on sale. The tickets are for Feb 2 and 3 at Portland Oregon's Crystal Ballroom, and the ticket seller was ETIX.COM. After a little research, I found that ticketbots.net sells software specifically designed to bypass CAPTCHA. I have an image saved of an online chat w/ their customer service where they admit that this is the purpose of their software. How can I send you this image? Can you do anything from a legal perspective? Can you help me get tickets for these shows, please? FYI, within minutes, tickets were on stubhub.com for hundreds more.

ETIX is selling tickets for a show for $75. It sold out in under 1 minute and now VIVID SEATS and STUB HUB are re-selling the same tickets for upwards of $300. This is WRONG.

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