U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Charles Schumer of New York joined their New Mexico colleague Tom Udall in calling on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to address the issue of “Grinch Bots” and their impact on e-commerce toy retailing.
Grinch Bots are algorithms and software that can rapidly buy toys and child-related merchandise from e-commerce retailers and then resell those items at much higher prices on eBay and other websites. The senators, who are planning to create legislation designed to combat Grinch Bots, cited a recent New York Times report that blamed this digital chicanery on shortages of popular toys including Fingerlings, the Barbie Hello Dreamhouse and the Vampirina Scare B&B.
“We respectfully request that the Federal Trade Commission convene a workshop on the use of bots that usurp technology and purchase large quantities of a particular product, including in-demand toys, with the intent to resell them,” the senators wrote in a letter to the FTC.
“We request that you and your staff work with retailers, both online and traditional, to determine ways to protect consumers from high-speed purchases made by bots designed to game the system and take advantage and deprive consumers of online discounts. The commission should also collaborate with the nation’s 51 attorneys general to share information and best practices about how to protect consumers from these unfair practices. Such a workshop can help bring much needed attention to this issue, and help retailers and consumers assess the full extent of damage caused by these bad actors.”