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PS5 restocks are now so bad that the US government is stepping in

PS5 restock
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

There's no denying that the current state of PS5 restocks is nothing short of disastrous. Right now, buying Sony’s next-gen console is a process that requires obsessively tracking stock drops at retailers for weeks, if not months in some cases. However, U.S. lawmakers are looking to eradicate one of the biggest sources of frustration during restocks.  

A group of Democratic representatives are planning to introduce a “Stopping Grinch Bots Act” that will aim to ban scalper bots from bulk buying in-demand products in order to resell them at a significant markup (via Gizmodo). These so-called “Grinch Bots” are automated tools programmed to buy up a store’s online inventory and are able to checkout at a speed that an average consumer can’t match. 

Most retailers have put up defensive mechanisms to ensure that consoles are sold to real customers; however, these systems are usually pretty flimsy and easy to bypass. Most scalper bots can easily circumvent basic identity-verification systems and can even checkout using multiple accounts at once to get around retailers that place limits of one person customer on coveted items like the PS5. 

The “Stopping Grinch Bots Act” aims to make automated buying in bulk a punishable offense by law. This would allow the Federal Trade Commission to take “action against bad actors” presumably dolling out significant fines to offending parties. Although, scalpers having their holidays ruined by spending it behind bars would feel like quite an apt punishment. 

International retailers from outside of the U.S. have been a little more successful at preventing scalper bots without resorting to enforced legislation. UK retailers including Currys and Box have implemented a lottery-style system that assigns consoles to customers on a random basis. 

While a scalper could conceivably win one of these lotteries, they’d be unable to buy the console in bulk which fixes the real crux of the problem. As of yet, US retailers have seemed reluctant to resolve the problem themselves by introducing similar systems, hence why lawmakers have felt the need to get involved.  

PS5 restock scalper bot ban — will it actually happen? 

U.S. lawmakers banning scalper bots and ensuring that PS5 restocks go to actual gamers rather than nefarious resellers sounds like a dream come true, but don’t get your hopes up just yet. 

The “Stopping Grinch Bots Act” is not the first time that Congress has attempted to introduce legislation that tackles the problem. There were similar bills floated in both 2018 and 2019, both of which never got far enough to make it into law. Although, perhaps it will be third time lucky? 

The retail landscape has dramatically changed over the last 18 months which could give this third attempt the best shot yet of success. Due to the ongoing global chip crisis causing regular stock shortages and the Covid-19 pandemic increasing the number of customers shopping online, scalping in-demand products has become more prevalent than ever. It’s a problem that is becoming harder to ignore. 

The main House sponsor of the bill, Paul Tonko, said: “Allowing grinch bots to rig prices and squeeze consumers during the holiday season hurts American families, small business owners, product makers and entrepreneurs. We will not allow this market manipulation to go unchecked.”

While we wait to see if this bill can progress further than its predecessors, make sure to bookmark our PS5 restock hub. It contains all the latest restock information and updates. We can’t guarantee it’ll get you a console before the holidays, but it’ll certainly make the task a little less daunting. 

PS5 restock tracker — stores to check

Rory is a staff writer at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics including tech news, deals, gaming, streaming and more. When he’s not writing hot takes on the latest gaming hardware and streaming shows, he can be found watching a borderline unhealthy amount of movies and being thoroughly disappointed by his terrible football team.