Guest Post by Dave Brooks on Amplify
President Barack Obama has signed the Better Online Tickets Sales (BOTS) Act into law, making it illegal to use software to jump to the front of the line during a ticket on sale and buy up inventory.
Banning bots is a step in the right direction, but it’s premature to think the legislation will have any real impact on the ticket buying experience, especially for fast-selling shows like Adele, Beyonce and the Hamilton musical. Saturday morning on sales are still going to be frustrating, tickets are still going to sell out in seconds and eventually make their way to secondary market sites like StubHub where they’ll continue to be marked up two or three times the original price.
Yes, we need to reign in the bots, but telling consumers that this legislation will result in an improved consumer experience is short-sided and could leave fans disappointed when they still can’t purchase tickets at face value.
The other big question is whether the legislation will stop people from using BOTS and what a successful prosecution would look like. The bill gives enforcement power to the Federal Trade Commission, who could take civil action against bot users. The law also allows state attorney generals to take civil action against scalpers using bot software.
There’s a big question mark about whether or not the FTC or the various state attorney generals will allocate any resources to actually enforce the law. Many in the ticketing space doubt the FTC will launch a costly investigation to nab ticket scalpers — if you look at the FTC’s website, they seem to prefer to go after big companies like CarMax, Devry Online College and AshleyMadison.com. Even in New York State, where AG Eric Schneiderman kicked off the latest debate with a high profile report and investigation, there has been zero civil actions brought in New York, where bots are already illegal.
Here’s what I think is gonna happen — either next summer or the summer after, some superstar artist is going to announce a big tour and immediately sell out all of the dates. Fans who aren’t sophisticated ticket buyers will see tickets with huge markups on StubHub, cry foul and demand an investigation.
From there, state attorney generals may launch investigations and work with ticketing companies to identify scalpers who were dumb enough to use bots to buy up concert tickets, despite the obvious scrutiny doing so would generate. We’ll see a few high profile lawsuits of ticket brokers and maybe some criminal prosecutions if fraud can be proven.
That’s why most in the ticketing space support passage of the BOTS act, but there’s a big question mark about its efficacy. In the meantime, Ticketmaster will continue to develop technology to prevent scalpers from buying up big blocks of tickets. Long term a solution will be found through innovation and cooperation from the big ticketing companies and resellers and not through some federal agency that’s got bigger things to worry about.