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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state Sen. Marko Liias suspects that ticket bots are creating skyrocketing prices for the July 26 Adele concert at Seattle’s Key Arena — and he is asking the state Attorney General’s Office to investigate the matter.

markoliias
Marko Liias

The Washington Legislature overwhelmingly passed a law in 2015 to outlaw the use of ticket bots at Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s request. “Recent press reports of widespread inflation for the Adele concert suggest that bots may have been used in this instance,” Liias wrote to Ferguson on Tuesday.

“The use of ticket bots is profiteering, plain and simple. It’s unfair, it’s exploitative, and it’s illegal,” Liias, D-Lynnwood, said in a press release. “Last year, the Legislature passed a law prohibiting this practice. If bots have been used to purchase Adele tickets, this should be prosecuted.”

Adele tickets are running from $35 to $145 on Ticketmaster. The Ticketmaster site for the Adele concert has a box to mark as an anti-bot measure.

“Ticket bot” or “bot” are slang terms for Internet robot or ticket robot. This software can order tickets thousands of times faster than a human can do so with fingers. And those buyers can then resell the tickets, driving up prices.

Lurking computer software can scarf up 40 percent of the tickets for a concert or show before you have a chance to go on the Internet to buy your own, according to 2015 testimony in Olympia on the bill by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, which the Legislature passed. Van De Wege’s law declared this as an unfair or deceptive practice under the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

Bots also have legitimate purposes, and account for 56 percent of all traffic on the Internet, according to a Wired magazine story in December 2014. The Wired story estimated roughly 20 percent of the bots on the Internet could be classified as “malicious,” but those bots could account for up to 80 percent of the traffic on some websites.

Regulating ticket bots is relatively uncharted territory. At least 13 states have laws similar to what Washington’s Legislature approved, including Oregon and California.

In 2013, the New York Times wrote that Ticketmaster had filed a federal lawsuit in Los Angeles against 21 people, accusing them of using bots to buy up to 200,000 tickets a day prior to the tickets becoming available to the general public and then reselling the tickets at a profit. The lawsuit alleged that the practice violated Ticketmaster’s sales terms, and damaged the corporation’s reputation.

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