Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Jan 23 2015

Scalpers use software to unfairly drive up event ticket prices, often quintupling face value

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson has proposed legislation with bipartisan support to outlaw 'ticket bot' software used to inflate online ticket prices, often by four times or more their face value.

Ticket bots — short for robots — are computer programs used by scalpers to buy large quantities of tickets online to popular concerts and sporting events. Bots often target the most desirable seats.

Scalpers then sell those same tickets on a re-sale website minutes later at inflated prices.

This process allows scalpers to control the secondary market, denying people access to ticket sales, forcing them to pay far more than face value and ensuring a hefty profit for the scalpers.

Ticket bots simulate the action of human beings buying tickets for events, avoiding website security measures and controls meant to limit the number of tickets any individual can purchase.

“My office is dedicated to the principle that consumers deserve a fair deal,” said Ferguson. “Outlawing ticket bots will keep the hard-earned money of fans in their pockets, instead of fattening the wallets of scalpers who use electronic trickery to game the system.”

The Attorney General request legislation Senate Bill 5456 is sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D—Seattle. The companion bill, House Bill 1091, is sponsored by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D—Sequim.

Current law does not prohibit the use of ticket bots in Washington.

The proposed legislation bans ticket bot use and makes it a violation of the state Consumer Protection Act to sell software to circumvent, interfere with or evade any security measure or access-control system on a ticket seller’s website.

“It is unfair that people who work hard all day and save their money to attend a show or concert they are excited about or root for their favorite team at the stadium can’t attend the event because some large ticket reseller has purchased all the tickets and then raised the cost to an outrageous price,” said Kohl-Welles. “This bill will level the playing field and ensure that the cost of a ticket remains at the rate set by the vendor.”

“Companies shouldn’t be allowed to operate in the shadows, using computer software to artificially inflate the prices of popular concerts and sporting events,” said Van De Wege. “This is a question about fairness. When these questionable business practices interfere with a fair market, it’s time for a change.”

According to Ticketmaster, the nation’s largest authorized ticket reseller, bots are often used to buy more than 60 percent of the most desirable tickets for shows.

Seattle Theatre Group’s Executive Director Josh LaBelle finds 35–40 percent of tickets for hot shows are often purchased by bots.

Thirteen states have banned ticket bots: California, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

Alison Dempsey-Hall, Deputy Communications Director