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FTC fines three ticket scalping companies for illegally using bots

The three will pay a total of $3.7 million

Elton John Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour - Auckland Photo by Dave Simpson/WireImage

The Federal Trade Commission issued multimillion-dollar fines against three bot-powered ticket scalping operations. The FTC says these organizations bought over 150,000 event tickets over the past four years, nabbing them with automated tools that evaded online purchasing limits. After reselling these tickets for an estimated $26.1 million, they’ve been accused of breaking a 2016 anti-bot law — the first time this law has been applied.

Regulators reached a proposed settlement with the ticket selling groups, including $31.6 million in fines. However, most of these fines were suspended because of an inability to pay. The three groups will pay a total of $3.7 million instead, and they’ll have to maintain records demonstrating their future compliance with the law. The settlement must still be approved by a judge.

The Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act bans using software to circumvent ticket purchase limits — a practice that lets resellers buy tickets in bulk and resell them at a steep markup. “Not only does this deprive loyal fans of the chance to see their favorite performers and shows, it is against the law,” said FTC consumer protection bureau director Andrew Smith in a statement.

While the complaints don’t specify which shows the scalpers were targeting, they note that the list includes many sporting events and other performances, including Elton John concerts.