November 23, 2018

Udall, Blumenthal, Schumer & Tonko Announce Bicameral Bill to Block Cyber Grinches Stealing Christmas

Cyber bots are cutting holiday shopping lines to purchase popular toys & driving toy prices to exorbitant highs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and U.S. Representative Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) today announced introduction of The Stopping Grinch Bots Act of 2018 to crack down on cyber grinches using bot technology to snatch up large batches of hot holiday toys in order to resell to parents at unfair, inflated prices.

Third-party sellers are deploying cyber bot technology to game online sales systems in order to buy out inventory of hot toys. Some toys have become nearly impossible to purchase online or in stores at retail price, in part because third-party sellers have snatched up inventory to resell online at exorbitant prices.

“We can’t let ‘Grinch bots’ steal our hard-earned money—or the holidays. Each holiday season, New Mexicans work day in and day out, saving up and looking for the best deals to surprise friends and family with thoughtful gifts,” said Udall. “But when resellers use automated ‘Grinch bots’ to cheat the system, they can snatch up beloved toys and highly discounted items to sell at outrageously inflated markups—all with a few keystrokes. Holiday shopping can be stressful enough without having to compete with an army of ‘Grinch bots’ that don’t even have to sneak down the chimney to steal presents. Our legislation would help protect consumers from getting squeezed by scammers and ensure these ‘Grinch bots’ don’t spoil the holidays for our loved ones. This year, let’s hope Congress’s heart will grow three sizes so we can come together to stop Grinch bots from stealing the holidays.” 

“Grinch bots are stealing the holidays by snatching up hot toys, driving up prices, and leaving parents empty handed on Christmas morning.  We successfully banned ticket bots and we can use that same strategy to banish toy bots once and for all—putting consumers back in charge,” said Blumenthal

“Grinch bots cannot be allowed to steal Christmas, or dollars, from the wallets of countless consumers,” said Schumer. “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.”  

“The American people should be able to spend the holidays with their loved ones, not forced to camp out at store openings or race against an automated buying algorithm just to get an affordable gift for their kids. Letting these grinch bots continue to rig the retail market and squeeze consumers doesn’t just hurt families during the holidays, it hurts small business owners, entrepreneurs, innovative product creators and all legitimate retailers throughout the year. We have a duty to stand up for these folks, and not allow this kind of market manipulation to go unchecked,” Tonko said.  

Bots are software programs that can automatically spot and snap up inventory offered for sale online. In a matter of seconds, third-party vendors can purchase hundreds of items, squeezing out parents and children. In 2016, President Barack Obama signed into law the Better Online Ticket Sales Act (BOTS Act) to ban “ticket bots” that intentionally bypass security measures on online ticketing websites to unfairly outprice individual fans. The legislation announced by Udall, Blumenthal, Schumer, and Tonko would apply the structure of the BOTs Act to e-commerce sites, to ban bots bypassing security measures on online retail sites.