U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal called on the Federal Trade Commission to explain its plan to combat online bots in light of the fiasco involving Ticketmaster's presale of tickets for Taylor Swift's upcoming tour.
Ticketmaster blamed online bots for briefly crashing its website and causing the company to ultimately cancel its general public ticket sale for Swift's tour. Bots in this instance are specialized computer software used by ticket scalpers.
Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Blummenthal, D-Conn., in 2016 co-sponsored the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, or BOTS Act, which prohibits the use of bots to buy tickets in droves on places like Ticketmaster or other online retailers for the purpose of reselling them at inflated prices.
Blackburn co-sponsored the bill when she was in the U.S. House of Representatives, and it was signed into law by former President Barack Obama with bipartisan support.
On Tuesday, Blackburn and Blumenthal sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan asking for an explanation on how the commission is combating the use of bots and enforcing the BOTS Act.
“The recent difficulties consumers have faced while attempting to purchase tickets is a serious concern and reflective of anti-competitive conduct in the online ticket marketplace,” Blackburn said in a statement. “Fortunately, a solution is already in place that would go a long way in reducing ticket costs and protecting consumers and artists from scammers."
The BOTS Act has proved difficult to enforce. The U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission brought the first case under the law last year, issuing $31.2 million in civil penalties against three people who used Ticketmaster to purchase thousands of tickets.
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“The Better Online Ticket Sales Act gave the FTC and state attorneys general the tools they need to crack down on parasitic online ticket bots — now they need to use them," Blumenthal said. "Regular fans are still being unfairly priced out of seeing their favorite singer or hometown sports team."
The Swift tickets problem is the latest public scrutiny faced by Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation Entertainment. The New York Times reported that the Department of Justice is investigating the company for violating anti-trust laws.
Live Nation Entertainment was created after the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation in 2010. The company has significant power in the booking, promotion and ticket selling for concerts and other live events.
The U.S. Department of Justice allowed the merger, but the company signed a 10-year agreement stating it wouldn't retaliate against concert venues for using another ticketing company besides Ticketmaster.
But the justice department found in 2019 the company violated this agreement and extended it an additional five years.
Tennessee's attorney general has also expressed concerns about Ticketmaster and possible violations of consumer protection laws.
"We have received complaints, we are concerned about this very dominant market player, and we want to make sure that they're treating consumers right and people are receiving a fair opportunity to purchase the tickets that clearly matter a great deal to them," Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said.
So far, no actual misconduct allegations have been made against the company.
Mariah Timms contributed to this report.
Adam Friedman covers state government and politics for The Tennessean. Reach him by email at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Senator calls on FTC to act after Taylor Swift, Ticketmaster debacle