House and Senate Democrats reintroduce the 'Stopping Grinch Bots Act' to crack down on scalper-run bots.

computers & electronics, gaming

A group of Democratic lawmakers are reintroducing legislation to outlaw the use of automated bots to buy up retail goods, such as video game consoles and graphics cards, from websites. 

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

“The bicameral bill will crack down on cyber Grinches using ‘bot’ technology to quickly buy up whole inventories of popular holiday toys and resell them to parents at higher prices,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

Tonko, Blumenthal, and Schumer originally introduced the legislation in November 2019 to stop scalper-run bots from snatching up in-demand holiday toys from consumers. Since then, the problem has exploded since retailers are largely selling the newest video game consoles and PC 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 legislation expands on an earlier law passed in 2016 that outlawed automated bots from circumventing control measures to buy up ticket sales for public events, such as music concerts and sporting events. In addition, the law made it illegal for scalpers to resell the tickets obtained through the bot. 

The Stopping Grinch Bots Act would apply the same principles to all online retail sites. The US Federal Trade Commission would be tasked with enforcement.  

“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 lawmaker’s last attempt to pass the bill seems to have stalled in Congressional committees. However, the ongoing supply chain troubles facing the US may spark more support for the bill when Democrats narrowly control both chambers of Congress.

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