Industry News

Australian senate passes anti-ticket bots bill

Ticket bots could be banned in Australia after the country’s senate passed a motion proposed by the prominent campaigning politician Nick Xenophon.

The independent senator said he wanted to follow the lead of the US by combating ticket scalping at a federal level by cracking down on the use of automated software to purchase bulk tickets. He said he wants “to better protect customers from ticket scalpers, following the example of the US … and other measures under consideration by the UK government”.

The use of software was outlawed late last year in the US by the BOTS Act, while recent amendments to the UK’s Digital Economy Bill are set to make it illegal to use bots to bypass limits on the maximum number of tickets that can be bought.

The motion was not supported by the Australian government, but passed the senate with the support of a broad coalition. Xenophon’s motion and the rest of the bill now returns to the House of Representatives before progressing to potentially become law.

At present, legislation relating to ticketing in Australia is handled at a state level, but Xenophon believes a federal law would be preferable.

In his motion, Xenophon added: “Legislators aren’t keeping up with technology. Ticket scalpers are no longer the shadowy figures with long overcoats and tickets attached to the inside of their coats saying, ‘Wanna buy a ticket?’”

The motion acknowledged that, “while there is a benefit in having a secondary marketplace for consumers to on-sell tickets when they have a legitimate reason to do so, many consumers are not aware that they are buying from a secondary market site … resulting in consumers purchasing tickets that are not genuine, or at a vastly inflated price”.

Fines for scalping in Australia range from A$5,000 (£3,000/€3,500/$3,800) in Australia to just $600 in Queensland, while New South Wales only bans the practice around major venues.

Xenophon’s motion is not universally popular, with Liberal senator James McGrath contending that legislation to protect consumers already exists.

“There are also a number of state laws and regulations that cover this issue,” McGrath argued. “The ACCC is aware of the issues and will continue to monitor them.

“Senator Xenophon’s minority recommendation in the Senate Economics References Committee report that there ought to be Federal laws amending the Australian Consumer Law to outlaw ticket scalping was not supported as there was no basis for considering a regulatory response at that time.”

Consumer organisation Choice recently published an investigation that found ticket sellers were inflating prices by up to 500 per cent. It referred its findings to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).