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Democrats introduce legislation to prohibit BOTS from purchasing online goods

Image: PCMag

A group of Democratic lawmakers is resurrecting legislation that would make it illegal for automated bots to purchase retail products from websites, such as video game consoles and graphics cards.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), as well as US Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), announced a new effort for the Stopping Grinch Bots Act on Monday.

“The bicameral bill will tackle cyber Grinches who use ‘bot’ technology to quickly buy large amounts of popular holiday goods and resell them to parents at higher prices,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

Tonko, Blumenthal, and Schumer first proposed the bill in November 2019 to prevent scalper-run bots from grabbing up in-demand holiday goods from customers. Since then, the problem has grown exponentially, as stores increasingly sell the latest video game consoles and computer graphics cards online.

“The average holiday shopper is unable to compete with the light speed of the all-too-common Grinch bot and are then held at ransom by scalpers and third-party resellers when trying to buy holiday presents,” Schumer said in the announcement.

“After a particularly trying year, no parent or American should have to fork over hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars to buy Christmas and holiday gifts for their children and loved ones.”

The proposed regulation builds on a rule passed in 2016 that made it illegal for automated bots to buy up ticket sales for public events such as concerts and sporting events by circumventing control procedures.

Additionally, the regulation prohibited scalpers from reselling tickets obtained through the bot.

All online retail sites would be subject to the same rules under the Stopping Grinch Bots Act. Enforcement would be handled by the US Federal Trade Commission.

“Our Grinch Bots Act works to level the playing field and prevent scalpers from sucking hardworking parents dry this holiday season,” Tonko added. “I urge my colleagues to join me in passing this legislation immediately to stop these Grinch bots from stealing the holidays.”

The bill’s most recent attempt to pass Congress appears to have stagnated in committees. When Democrats narrowly control both chambers of Congress, however, persistent supply chain problems in the United States may spur further support for the plan.

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