(The Center Square) – Grinch bots moved one step closer to tougher penalties in Pennsylvania after state House lawmakers passed legislation to widen the pool of consumers who can take legal action.
House Bill 1378 cleared the lower chamber 193-10 and will now advance to the Senate for consideration.
Grinch bots are software programs that gobble up tickets and other in-demand items to profit off exorbitant resale prices. HB1378 expands the pool of those able to pursue legal action to include venues, artists, and other rights holders and allows for civil action to include damages, legal fees, and up to $1,000 per ticket.
“This marks a step forward in protecting Pennsylvania consumers from automated scalpers looking to exploit the online market,” said Rep. Steve Malagari, D-Lansdale. “With huge numbers of tickets and services being sold online and the boost to our economy these experiences provide, it’s important to ensure a fair marketplace for our consumers.”
Grinch bots circumvent security measures created to ensure human beings are at the other end of a purchase. This makes their work distinct from the inflated prices generated by the supply and demand of a typical market.
Addressing what some legislators view as a significant gap in federal law, supporters hope to close some areas of opportunity left in legislation passed 13 years ago prohibiting the use of ticket-purchasing software and leveling a fine of up to $5,000 for violations.
The original act signed by former Gov. Ed Rendell was a first of its kind, but consumer advocates say it’s insufficient to combat the current ticket sales market. At the federal level, the Stopping Grinch Bots Act introduced in the Senate in 2021 did not progress.
The problem isn’t reserved to concerts, either, despite ticket snafus for Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen performances that captured national attention in recent months. The bots also target popular toys and can bring about much darker consequences, warned Howard Waltzman, an attorney testifying to the House Consumer Protection, Technology and Utilities Committee.
During his testimony, he described the software as “a scourge that undermines consumers’ use and enjoyment of the internet.”
Bots can also buy up and hoard essentials, straining already taxed supply chains and endangering those most vulnerable during a crisis, circumstances seen in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.