Sen. Schumer warns that 'Grinch' bots are buying up popular holiday toys and reselling them at inflated prices
Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 5:43 am

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, is warning that bots similar to those used to buy up concert tickets are being used to buy large quantities of popular holiday toys, which are then sold at hugely inflated prices.

For instance, Schumer says popular Fingerlings, which typically sell for $14.99, are now being sold on secondary websites for as much as $1,000.

Schumer explained that, in years past, bots were used by “nefarious scalpers” to primarily purchase popular concert tickets. As a result, Congress passed Schumer’s BOTS Act in order to increase fairness for consumers in the ticket-purchasing industry. However, the law does not apply to other consumer products. Schumer’s office says the senator is now calling on the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association to block the bots and lead the charge against future efforts to prevent customers from buying toys at fair retail prices.

“Grinch bots cannot be allowed to steal Christmas, or dollars, from the wallets of New Yorkers,” Schumer said in a prepared statement. “Middle class folks save up—a little here, a little there—working to afford the hottest gifts of the season for their kids but ever-changing technology and its challenges are making that very difficult. It’s time we help restore an even playing field by blocking the bots. When it comes to purchasing products online, major retailers should put forth policies that will help prevent future Grinch bots from stealing the season’s hottest toys.”

Bots are “sophisticated computer programs often used by nefarious scalpers and brokers that plague the online sale of many items,” according to Schumer’s office. In years past, cyber scalpers primarily used bots to snatch up popular tickets to concerts and live theater productions, leaving fans with no choice but to buy tickets through secondary resale sites at much higher prices. Artists, musicians, theater owners and concert promoters alike led the charge against bots used by online hackers and scalpers in an attempt to improve the ticket-buying experience for customers and guarantee increased transparency for fans, Schumer said.

Last year, Congress passed the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, co-sponsored by Schumer, which prohibits the unfair and deceptive act of using mechanisms such as bots in order to scoop up tickets before consumers are given a fair chance to buy them. However, the legislation does not include items beyond tickets.

Schumer said there is no fair way for consumers to purchase their holiday gifts online if they have to compete with bots that are capable of navigating through websites in a matter of seconds, leaving an unfair playing field for those looking to purchase popular gifts at the face value price. Schumer said major retailers must step in and help stop bots from controlling the platform and inventory.