Tickets & Touts: FTC Moves Towards Stronger Enforcement With First BOTS Act Case

– FTC Acting Chair Rebecca Kelly Slaughter

Four years after the passage of the BOTS Act, the FTC broke new ground with the first federal enforcement of the Act.

Three ticket brokers in New York – Simon Ebrani, Evan Kohanian, and Steven Ebrani – and their companies were accused of illegally acquiring tens of thousands of tickets and faced $31 million in combined fines. The three agreed to pay a settlement of a combined $3.7 million. According to the FTC the majority of the fines were against Kohanian and Steven Ebrani and their companies, Just In Time Tickets, Inc., and Concert Specials, Inc. 

The milestone was a cause for celebration from many, including brokers who support the elimination of bots from the market. 

“Even though bots are not the main reason why consumers experience frustration when trying to buy tickets when tickets do go on sale, people should not be competing with ticket-hoarding software to make a purchase,” Gary Adler of the National Association of Ticket Brokers told Pollstar, noting that none of those accused were members. “While [this] news shines a light on a few bad actors, it is not reflective of a secondary ticket resale industry comprised of thousands of professionals whose long-term success relies on conducting ticket resale with integrity.”

The move toward enforcement was foreshadowed at a 2019 workshop on ticketing by then FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, who said that enforcement of the BOTS Act was the next “challenge and opportunity” in building a healthier ticketing market. Now FTC Acting Chairwoman, Slaughter wrote after the first federal BOTS Act enforcement: “The settlements our staff negotiated with these alleged BOTS Act violators make clear that serious consequences will befall those who cheat fans out of a fair shot to secure tickets to live events.”
“These first three BOTS Act enforcement actions are only a first step in fixing the broken market for tickets to live events, but they chart a course for continued improvement through enforcement, rulemaking, and legislating.”

This decision to enforce the BOTS Act also comes as the FTC undergoes a regular changing of the guard. FTC chairman Joseph Simons announced his resignation on Jan. 19, effective Jan. 29 and, also of note, Assistant Attorney General and head of the DOJ’s antitrust division Makan Delrahim tendered his resignation on Jan. 13. 

With Slaughter now at the helm, the FTC may indeed see a renewed zeal for enforcement of the BOTS Act and ticketing laws. Also of note, in 2019 she said that the practice of “drip-pricing” or hiding fees until later in the purchasing process, would have to end, putting the entire panel of attendees “on notice.” Although a new milestone, this BOTS Act enforcement may be seen by some as low-hanging fruit, as Steven Ebrani and Kohanian were identified as illegal scalpers by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman during his office’s investigation into illegal ticketing, and both settled separately with Schneiderman’s office in 2016 and 2017. Under the BOTS Act state attorneys general can also deal with bot users. 


Sources told Pollstar that there is still a portion of the secondary industry that does use bots and this kind of enforcement that “makes examples” of bad actors should work as a general deterrent. While this does represent more enforcement, one source told Pollstar that settlements allowing reduced fines and the avoidance of jail time may mean some still see the use of bots as worth the potential risks. 

Ticketmaster is no doubt pleased with this enforcement as the company’s David Marcus previously said that even after the passage of the BOTS Act the company prevented 10 billion attempted bot transactions in 2018. 

Adler said the enforcement of the BOTS Act by the FTC and NY State Attorney General should be celebrated, but believes there should be additional laws to protect consumers by requiring transparency regarding when tickets will be made available and ensuring ticket transferability and the possibility for resale in all instances.