Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Battle Grinch Bots

Craig Ruttle/AP

Bots can nab the hot gifts you're trying to buy.

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch! Some lawmakers are tired of scalpers stealing Christmas, so they've introduced a new bill to take away a key tool often used by scalpers: bots. 

The bill, known as the Stopping Grinch Bots Act, was introduced by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y. 

The proposed law would make it illegal to shop online using bots as well as resell merchandise that was bought using bots.

During the Christmas shopping season, scalpers will often buy up popular toys using bots, and then resell them at a highly inflated price. In some cases, they will buy out entire inventories in minutes, which leaves normal shoppers in the lurch.

The lawmakers announced the bill on Black Friday, one of the busiest, most lucrative shopping day of the year.

“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," Tonko said. "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."

But while the legislation is focused on Christmas toy shopping, it would apply throughout the year to all kinds of retailers. The sneakers and electronics markets also suffer from this kind of bot-based inflation.

This isn't the first time Congress has tried to do battle with bots. Introduced in 2016, The Better Online Ticket Sales Act blocked bots from buying up concert tickets and jacking up the prices.