How the bots stole Christmas: Legislation aims to fight against ‘grinch bots’ that buy up video game console inventory

Regional News

LATHAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As the holiday shopping season continues, some items at the top of many Christmas lists are still nearly impossible to find, especially at market price. But new proposed federal legislation hopes to curb online scalping of video game consoles.

Finding a new PlayStation 5 or Xbox X/S under the tree this year is still unlikely.

“We need an equalizer that evens the playing field,” said Chris Lee, the co-owner of Vortex Video Games in Latham.

Since the consoles hit the market last year, third-party sellers have been utilizing online bot technology to quickly buy up the inventory and sell them at steep prices. This makes it nearly impossible for consumers or local retailers to get their hands on them.

“I can’t tell you the number of phone calls a day I get, do you guys have PS5’s, do you guys have Xbox Series X’s, not only do we not have them, we can’t even get them,” Lee explained.

To find out how much some of the consoles are going for, News10 did a quick search online. We found that a PlayStation 5, which normally sells for $399 or $499 depending on the model, was going for as much as $2,000.

Lee is urging shoppers to stay away, “These people are making thousands of dollars off the grief of other people. There’s families that just want one. Let them get one. If you see someone scalping a system, or scalping sneakers, or scalping a graphics card, do not reward them.”

Washington is also looking to fight back against the practice. Rep. Paul Tonko visited Vortex Monday morning to outline his newly proposed “Stopping Grinch Bots Act”.

“It’s so important to be able to have access to some of these top priority on the list type of items, and to make certain that they are indeed affordable,” the congressman said during his remarks.

The legislation aims to combat bots by eliminating work arounds they use, making it illegal to sell or offer the sale of products obtained by the practice and gives the Federal Trade Commission authority to take action against these actors.

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