While live events are still on hold due to the global pandemic, the United States government has taken an important step forward in the fight against online ticket scalping. On Friday, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission announced that it has fined three Long Island companies, and their founders, with manipulating online ticket auctions in the first-ever implementation of the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act.
Signed under President Barack Obama back in 2016, the BOTS Act attempted to strike at the heart of online ticket scalping. The act made it illegal for brokers to buy large numbers of tickets online and sell them via secondary markets like StubHub for inflated prices. Additionally, the BOTS Act outlawed using various software to circumvent Ticketmaster and other services’ safeguards to prevent a user from holding multiple accounts in order to buy large numbers of tickets for the same event at once. The companies—Just In Time Tickets Inc., owned by Evan Kohanian; Concert Specials, owned by Steven Ebrani; and Cartisim Corp., owned by Simon Ebrani—were fined a total of $3.7 million between them.
In court documents released on Friday, the government agency stated that these companies purchased thousands of tickets from Ticketmaster that they then resold, often at inflated prices, while earning millions on their return. The companies achieved this by holding multiple accounts in the names of friends, family members, and even fictitious characters along with hundreds of credit cards. These brokers also used ticket bots to fool websites designed to block automatic purchasing technology. Finally, the companies also utilized software to conceal their true IP addresses and instead log purchases from all over the country.
“These defendants are alleged to have cheated the system to the detriment of consumers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Today’s filing serves notice that the Department of Justice will enforce the Better Online Ticket Sales Act in appropriate cases. We are pleased to work with our partners at the Federal Trade Commission on this and other matters important to consumers.”
The court originally ordered civil penalties of $31 million against the organizations—$11.2 million against Just in Time Tickets Inc. and Kohanian, $16 million against Concert Specials Inc. and Steven Ebrani, and $4.4 million against Cartisim Corp. and Simon Ebrani. However, given the defendants’ inability to pay such amounts, the DOJ and FTC allowed a suspension of a portion of the civil penalties, provided the guilty parties meet certain requirements.
The defendants are still on the hook for some of the penalties, with payments ranging from $1.64 million to $499,000. They must also meet certain non-financial terms including not using ticketing bots to circumvent prevention technology, not concealing the IP addresses of computers used to make purchases, and not making purchases in the names of anybody except themselves or their corporate officers and employees. The companies are also required to maintain records and provide compliance reports to the government.