House Subcommittee OKs Online Ticket Bot Bill

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By Alexis Kramer

June 9 — A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee approved June 9 by voice vote legislation that would stop ticket brokers from using illegal software called “bots” to snatch up large amounts of event tickets and sell them at marked-up prices.

The Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act (H.R. 5104), introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), would declare the use of ticket bots an unfair business practice under the Federal Trade Commission Act (21 ECLR 661, 5/4/16). H.R. 5104 would also prohibit the sale of tickets knowingly obtained through the software.

The legislation, if passed, would enable entertainers to combat the use of bots, which have restricted consumers' opportunities to buy tickets for the events they seek to attend, Commerce Committee Vice Chair Blackburn said.

The House Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee adopted a substitute amendment that would permit states' attorneys general to bring civil actions on behalf of residents who have been adversely affected by ticket bot use.

Music streaming platform Pandora Media Inc, which last fall acquired ticket seller Ticketfly Inc., hailed the subcommittee's vote. “We applaud the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade for moving the BOTS Act to build a fairer music ecosystem that keeps money in the pockets of artists, fans, venues and promoters,” a Pandora spokesman told Bloomberg BNA June 9.

Disclosure Requirements Rejected

The committee rejected two amendments proposed by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.). The first would have required primary ticket sellers to disclose the number of tickets available for sale and the full price of each ticket.

But the proposed disclosure requirements would be more beneficial to ticket scalpers than to the fans, Subcommittee Chair Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said. They “do no more to protect consumers against the use of ticket bots than they dive deep into the business practices of legitimate ticket sellers,” he said.

The second proposed amendment would have directed the U.S. Government Accountability Office to conduct a study of the ticket market to determine who is buying tickets from primary sellers, how many tickets are resold and the extent to which bots are used.

Blackburn said that a federal study would be a waste of time and money, as these issues have already been studied extensively at the state level by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman released a report on the use of ticket bots in January (21 ECLR 137, 2/3/16).

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joseph Wright at