A Fife MP has launched a bid to ban the bulk buying of gaming consoles which are then resold at inflated prices.
Douglas Chapman, SNP MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, has presented a Bill to the UK Parliament aimed at stamping out the practice of ‘scalping’, which sees individuals buying consoles and computer components using bots and selling them online for extortionate profit.
Hundreds of people across Tayside and Fife will have become all too aware of the practice in the frantic search for PlayStation 5 consoles prior to Christmas, but the Gaming Hardware (Automated Purchase and Resale) Bill 2019-21 – if passed – would prohibit the automated purchase and resale of games consoles and computer components.
“Banning the bots that ‘scalp’ console prices will make a huge impact on bad cyber practice and consumer rights,” he explained.
“The secondary resale market, where automated bots swoop in and bulk buy coveted items online for resale at hugely inflated prices, is worth billions in revenue to these unscrupulous practitioners.
“In this online Wild West, it is the consumer who suffers and is made to pay over the odds for their desired goods.
“Scalpers hold all the cards and can currently act with impunity – making huge profits in the process.”
The Dunfermline and West Fife MP proposes that the UK government adopts similar legislation to that brought in to tackle ticket touting.
The successful legislation prohibited resale at amounts that far exceed the original price.
Similar laws could be put in place to ensure gaming consoles and computer components are sold at no more than the Manufacturer’s Recommended Price, and ban the resale of goods purchased by automated bots.
It’s been suggested that PS5 and Xbox Series X/S shortages are being partly driven by scalper groups using software to automatically buy consoles as they come in stock.
Mr Chapman says it is clear bot activity has increased during the pandemic, and a rise in online shopping combined with disruption to the supply chain has created the “perfect storm” for scalpers.
“Scalping is not some niche issue,” he concluded.
“According to cyber experts, scalping is only going to get worse across a wide range of goods and services.
“It is time for the UK government to stand up for consumers and their rights, and ban this cyber malpractice.”
In its response, the UK government said: “The Government is committed to maintaining one of the world’s strongest consumer protection regimes and ensuring consumers’ interests are safeguarded in our economy.
“The Government introduced legislation that prevents the use of automated software (‘bots’) to purchase event tickets which are sold on at an inflated price in 2018.
“We are discussing the issue of bulk purchasing of high demand items like graphics cards and games consoles through automated bots with trade associations such as Ukie, the trade association for the video games industry.
“We understand they are currently examining further actions they can take to prevent these behaviours and are working with their retailers to improve experiences for customers purchasing their products.”