The United Kingdom government is continuing to stay involved with the current console scalping problem. The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy has responded to a recent petition demanding laws to combat scalping.
Scalping refers to when individuals purchase available stock for an item and then resell it for a higher price. This problem has led to scalpers making big profits on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S console launches. Due to a switch towards online-only sales because of the pandemic, casual players are unable to get these devices because of scalper bots snagging all the stock.
A petition by Richard Glover requests that the UK government come up with a way to deal with this problem. This particular petition refers to how pre-order and launch stock for the consoles sold out instantly. But shortly after, thousands of listings appeared on third party resale sites like Ebay for multiple times the normal price. 15,500 signatures later, the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy has an answer. The group merely states that it is looking into the issue of bulk purchasing high demand items by automated bots. It is teaming up with trade associations like Ukie to assist with preventing these actions.
While there is a law which stops bots from buying event tickets, it does not apply to items like consoles. Ukie confirmed that it is working with the UK government to deal with this problem, but suggests that customers remain patient. The two departments are determining the scale of the problem first, and then figuring out how best to approach it. Ukie asserts that by waiting to purchase from a retailer, players can curb scalpers and pay the normal price. UK politicians also called for scalping bans like this, but as of right now the legislation remains in limbo.
It is not unusual for brand new and highly desirable products like next generation consoles to sell out fast. Customers lining up outside of stores on launch day is a recognizable image for many. But in this case, the pandemic has emphasized the struggle due to pushing all sales online. If stores were open with available stock, bots would not be able to abuse pre-orders and release stock. Now that this issue has caused so much trouble, it makes sense that the government should get involved to curtail scalping.
The problem is it does not seem like these groups are making much effort. Telling customers to be patient is pretty unhelpful and not going to do much to solve the problem. Even those who are patient will still end up losing out to bots that use loopholes to grab consoles hitting the digital shelves. Though, at some point in the future these devices will no longer be hot commodities and should be easier to get outside of high scalper prices.
Reportedly, some PS5 scalpers think their negative reputation of buying and reselling the consoles at a higher price is unfair and unjustified, comparing the scalping industry to buying and reselling food produce from farmers.
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