NSW law attempts to put scalpers to the sword

New South Wales has passed landmark legislation to become the first Australian state to ban ticket scalping bots.

Scalping has long plagued live entertainment and sports events. Scalpers use the bots to bulk-buy tickets they then resell – sometimes within minutes – at inflated prices. The advanced computer software programs automate buying, skipping online queues and verification checkpoints to secure the best seats, denying punters a fair chance.

The technology can be extremely difficult to track. Ticketek says 70 per cent of bookings on its website come from bots, but the company is powerless to block them.

Many high-profile events have been bought out by scalpers using bots. In the past year fans keen to hear Midnight Oil, Justin Bieber, Adele and Drake have been left without tickets after bots snapped up most of the tickets at the original offer prices. NRL and AFL fans trying to buy grand final tickets were also affected.

Rubbing salt in their wounds, the tickets they’d missed out on were put back on sale almost immediately – for as much as triple the original price. Sold out no longer means fans have bought every ticket; instead, it suggests scalpers are having a field day getting rich by ripping off fans.

Reform a big win

The amendments to the Fair Trading Act attempt to stamp out scalping in NSW, making the use of bots illegal and limiting the maximum resale price of tickets to a 10 per cent increase over original cost. Those caught reselling tickets above the allowed range face fines up to $22,000, while corporations in breach could be fined $110,000.

Other regulations ban advertisements promoting illegal resale and could force promoters to say how many tickets were made available to the public. Fair Trading NSW will have jurisdiction to investigate complaints.

Trishanth Chandrahasan, CEO of popular live music discovery app Whatslively, said the reforms are a big win for performance industries.

“Banning bots will go a long way in our fight against overpriced and unfair ticket scalping that is so rampant in New South Wales,” he told Hatch.

“This legislation hits the resellers where it hurts them the most; ie the way they buy tickets. Without the bots they have little alternative to bulk buy tickets, so their business – if you can even call it that – will cease to be.”

‘Bots have taken the fun away from buying tickets.’

Fan Gemma Massey

Sydney musician Yibeltal Campbell expressed his support for the Government’s decision and agreed that the prohibition will be extremely advantageous for live entertainers.

“I’m for the ban. Scalping is immoral and devalues the art, the time and effort that goes into making quality music and putting on entertaining shows,” he said.

“The whole transaction becomes more meaningful [now bots are banned]. Fans are essentially buying straight from an artist rather than from a scalper.”

Fans would also have more money left to buy an act’s music and merchandise if the law works, he said.

The news has been welcomed by punters. South Coast music fan Gemma Massey, 19, a victim of ticket-snatching bots earlier this year, believes the decision will bring the excitement back to live events.

“Bots have taken the fun away from buying tickets. It can be a pretty stressful experience; constantly having to refresh the page for 45 minutes on end only to not get tickets anyway,” she said.

Sports fans also benefit

“I’ve had times where I’ve had to buy a ticket off a random seller for well over the original price – hundreds of dollars more – and not get into the event anyway because the ticket was fake or already used.”

Scalpers had denied Australian fans the chance to see big acts that rarely toured. “It can be really devastating to miss out,” she told Hatch.

Musos aren’t the only people who will benefit. Dragons league fanatic Tom Declauzel, 18, says the law will also be positive for sports crowds.

“I’m definitely glad that bots have been banned. I’d be heartbroken to miss out on seeing my footy team play in the semi-finals or grand final next year if they happen to make it, so it’s good knowing there will be a level playing field when it comes to purchasing tickets for big games.

“At least if I miss out it’ll be to a [fan] rather than a computer that’s just making someone else money.”

However, not everyone’s a fan of the new laws. Some people have commented on Facebook that the change will simply put more money in ticketing corporations’ pockets by making their own branded reselling sites one of the few legal resale options.

There’s also a technical argument – that large-scale scalpers hiding behind sophisticated software will manage to evade prosecution.

Despite the potential for failure, other states are expected to follow NSW’s lead. Independent senator Nick Xenophon has also pushed for the Federal Government to introduce legislation to block the practice. – Troy Whittaker

Top image from Eva Rinaldi  of Flickr under Creative Commons licence.

About Troy Whittaker 19 Articles
Rugby league journalist who also loves cricket. Bylines include – Cronulla Sharks, NSWRL, Inside Sport, The Women's Game, Punter Problems, Sportskeeda. Email: twhittaker@mymacleay.edu.au