A group of US Democrats have come together to introduce a new bill they’re calling the Stopping Grinch Bots Act. The bill would crack down on bots that scalp in-demand items so the user may sell them for a higher price.
Just in time for Christmas, the US has its eyes on stopping Grinches in their tracks. Named after the famed Dr Seuss work, Democrats hope their legislation would keep parents from paying astronomically high prices for top toys and tech due to scalping practices.
Scalping, in the context of the internet, refers to the practice of buying a finite resource—concert tickets, a PlayStation, etc.—for the purpose of reselling at a hiked price, thus making a profit. Many scalpers use specific software to bypass website security and automate the process, ensuring they can get their hands on something in limited supply.
The practice can leave parents and other consumers stuck buying the newest toy, tech, or console at a significantly and needlessly increased price.
The Stopping Grinch Bots Act would make the automated, software-driven aspect of scalping illegal under the Federal Trade Commission Act. Scalpers could no longer rely on bots to get their hands on in-demand items.
If passed into law, breaches could result in legal action from the FTC.
The Act was introduced by Representative Paul Tonko, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Senator Ben Ray Luján, and Senator Richard Blumenthal.
“Allowing grinch bots to rig prices and squeeze consumers during the holiday season hurts American families, small business owners, product makers, and entrepreneurs. We will not allow this market manipulation to go unchecked,” said Mr Tonko.
“Our Grinch Bots Act works to level the playing field and prevent scalpers from sucking hard-working parents dry this holiday season.”
Senator Blumenthal said the bill would “stop cyber grinch greed from ruining kids’ holidays”.
“New tools are needed to block cyber scammers who snap up supplies of popular toys and resell them at astronomic prices. Price gouging hot toys by Grinch bots should have zero tolerance,” said Mr Blumenthal.
The legislation is backed by consumer organisations such as Consumer Reports, Consumer Federation of America, and the National Consumer League.
The bill echoes aspects of the 2016 Better Online Ticket Sales Act (BOTS Act), which banned the use of automated bots to scalp concert tickets.