The Australian Senate has passed an amended motion tabled by Independent senator Nick Xenophon for the Australian government to introduce new legislation to help combat ticket scalping at a federal level by cracking down on the use of automated software to purchase bulk tickets.

Tabled at a sitting yesterday, 20 March, Xenophon's motion is designed "to better protect customers from ticket scalpers, following the example of the USA … and other measures under consideration by the UK government".

In calling on the government to introduce the new laws, Xenophon's motion requested that the Senate note the ongoing damage caused to genuine fans who lose out on legitimate tickets to those using bots to purchase large numbers of tickets to highly sought-after shows.

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It referred to the passing, in the United States Congress, of the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act 2016 in December last year — which "makes it illegal to use software to purchase tickets to popular events" — and explained that the UK government "is also considering measures that would criminalise the misuse of 'bot' technology" to buy tickets.

The motion acknowledged that, "while there is a benefit in having a secondary marketplace for consumers to on-sell tickets when they have a legitimate reason to do so, many consumers are not aware that they are buying from a secondary market site … resulting in consumers purchasing tickets that are not genuine, or at a vastly inflated price".

Xenophon described the persistent issue of scalping as a "vexed" one in a statement, expressing "the need for a new approach — a national approach — in respect of it".

The key amendment to the document was the introduction of language to specifically reference UK legislation (the Consumer Rights Act) following discussions with the opposition. "It was their approach that the motion be amended in those terms to make reference to the United Kingdom and to make reference to the need for legislation along the UK and the US lines," Xenophon said.

The motion, as amended, was ultimately agreed to by the senate despite the dissent of Liberal Party senator James McGrath, who advised that "Australian Consumer Law already extends to purchasing and onselling tickets".

"There are also a number of state laws and regulations that cover this issue," McGrath said. "The ACCC is aware of the issues and will continue to monitor them."

"Senator Xenophon's minority recommendation in the Senate Economics References Committee report that there ought be federal laws amending the Australian Consumer Law to outlaw ticket scalping was not supported as there was no basis for considering a regulatory response at that time." 

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