Schumer battles toy-shopping bots

Echoing 2016 legislation that outlawed use of bots that gobble up concert and theater tickets, Sen. Charles E. Schumer this week is proposing a ban on bots that collect the hottest toys, causing both a shortage and a market for outrageously marked-up playthings.

Citing research by Consumer Reports, Schumer said spikes of bot activity has been detected in online holiday shopping, allowing high-tech shoppers to corner the market on such toys as Wow Wee Fingerlings, L.O.L. Surprise Dolls, Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition, and the Barbie Hello Dreamhouse. The toys, which can sell for as little as $10 in retail stores, are offered at resale sites for tens, hundreds and even thousands more than their original prices.

Fingerlings, by Wow Wee, are one of the hot collectible toys bots are seeking out, according to Sen. Charles E. Schumer. Photo supplied by Wow Wee
Fingerlings, by Wow Wee, are one of the hot collectible toys that bots are seeking out, according to Sen. Charles E. Schumer. Photo supplied by Wow Wee

“The average New York holiday shopper is unable to compete with the light speed of the all-too-common Grinch bot, and are then held at ransom by scalpers and third-party resellers when trying to buy holiday presents. No New Yorker should have to fork over hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars to buy Christmas and holiday gifts for their children and loved ones,” Schumer said.

Previously, Schumer was successful in getting the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act passed into law. The Stopping Grinch Bots Act of 2018 and would ban toy market practices similar to the ones that had forced theater and concert fans to buy overpriced tickets on the resale market.   

“These cyber-scalpers use Grinch bots—the same technology ticket scalpers employed—to purchase at lightning speed the hottest Christmas toys en masse, create a false shortage and then resell them to desperate parents and grandparents—at obscene mark-ups” Schumer said. “It is a cynical rip-off pure and simple, and we should put the clamp-down on these predatory scammers ASAP.”

Schumer and colleagues Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), introduced The Stopping Grinch Bots Act of 2018 the day after Thanksgiving. The legislation would use a framework similar to the BOTS act but apply it to sales of popular consumer items.

Schumer said bots can detect sales even before consumers know about them and fill out online orders in fractions of seconds, allowing them to purchase mass quantities before consumers even have a chance to shop.

“When it comes to speed-of-purchase of hot holiday gifts, your average consumer is bringing a knife to a gun fight,” said Schumer.  

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Schumer joins opposition to trash-burning plant in Romulus

U.S. Sen Charles E. Schumer has joined the lengthy list of those opposed to building a trash-burning power plant at the former Seneca Army Depot in Romulus, Seneca County.

Schumer announced his opposition Friday afternoon at the Ventosa Winery in Geneva, Ontario County, several miles from the proposed site.

“Simply put, this incinerator is wrong for the Finger Lakes and I will fight tooth and nail to ensure that this trash incinerator is snuffed out in its tracks,” said Schumer. “Not only would this incinerator spell disaster for the region’s economy, it would also have a negative impact on the environment. Even more, this plan could spoil the Finger Lakes’ natural beauty and put at risk the region’s hundreds of family vineyards, wineries, craft beverage and other businesses that contribute to tourism and support 60,000 local Finger Lakes jobs.”

Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took a similar stance. Many local and regional officials have already gone on record as opposing the plant proposed by Circular EnerG. Proponents of the plant argue that using the power plant to dispose of waste instead of burying it untreated in landfills would actually be better for the environment.

Alan J. Knauf, an attorney for the project, has said that redevelopment of the former Army base has been stalled for lack of power.

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