In the wake of the Taylor Swift “Eras Tour” ticketing debacle, two senators have sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission expressing concern over how the agency has been enforcing a 2016 law meant to keep bots from scooping up tickets.
The letter, shared by Billboard, was addressed to FTC chair Lina Khan and sent by Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn (who hasn’t always had the nicest things to say about Swift, who endorsed her opponent in 2018). The pair highlighted not only the chaotic Swift sale, but also on-sale events for Bob Dylan, Blake Shelton, Adele, and Bruce Springsteen shows. Blumenthal and Blackburn asked Khan to provide “information about the steps” the FTC is taking to “combat the use and operation of bots in the online ticket marketplace.”
The letter reads in part: “Recently, several high profile incidents arose where consumers encountered serious difficulties purchasing tickets through online ticket vendors, including Ticketmaster and AXS. While bots may not be the only reason for these problems, which Congress is evaluating, fighting bots is an important step in reducing consumer costs in the online ticketing industry.”
Part of Blumenthal and Blackburn’s concern stems from the fact that, for the past six years, there’s been a law in place to crack down on bots. Signed in 2016, the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act both “prohibits the circumvention” of security and access measures used by online ticket sellers, and prohibits the selling of any tickets “obtained through a circumvention violation.”
Additionally, the BOTS Act gave the FTC and state attorneys general the “authority to enforce violations as unfair and deceptive practices.” But since the law was signed, the FTC has only taken action under the BOTS Act once, back in January 2021.
“[G]iven the numerous high-profile incidents in the online ticket marketplace, it would be helpful to understand how the FTC intends to act to address such conduct going forward,” Blumenthal and Blackburn wrote.
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The two senators requested several pieces of information from the FTC: Whether there are any “pending enforcement matters” with respect to the BOTS Act; why the FTC has only taken “a single enforcement action to date”; whether there are any obstacles preventing the FTC from doing more; and whether there are any additional solutions Congress can consider to further tackle the issue.
Blumenthal and Blackburn’s letter marks the latest effort from the federal government to try and take some action in the ticketing sphere following the Swift debacle. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have both raised concerns over Live Nation Entertainment’s alleged monopoly, while it was also reported that the Department of Justice’s antitrust division had launched an investigation into Live Nation even before the Swift on-sale.