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Ticket touts found guilty of fraud in UK court

A pair of touts who made upwards of £10m reselling concert tickets have been found guilty of fraudulent trading in a "landmark case" at Leeds Crown Court, UK

By Anna Grace on 13 Feb 2020

Ticket touts found guilty of fraud in UK court

The touts resold tickets to shows by artists including Coldplay

image © Raph_PH/Flickr

Internet ticket touts Peter Hunter and David Smith, who reportedly made almost £11 million from reselling tickets through secondary sites, have been found guilty of fraud today (13 February).

Following a three-month trial at Leeds Crown Court – the first of its kind regarding secondary ticketing in the UK – the pair, who traded as Ticket Wizz and BZZ, were found guilty of fraudulent trading and possessing an article for fraud. Both men had denied all charges.

The touts are believed to have spent over £4m between 2015 and 2017 buying tickets from primary sellers with automated buying software, including 750 Ed Sheeran tickets in 2017 alone. They then sold the tickets on secondary platforms including Viagogo and now-shuttered platforms, GetMeIn and Seatwave, for substantial profit.

According to the National Trading Standards, Hunter and Smith used almost 100 different names, 88 postal addresses and more than 290 emails to evade detection. The touts also engaged in ‘speculative selling’, listing tickets for sale that they did not own.

The pair are also thought to have flogged tickets to shows by artists such as Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Liam Gallagher. Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp, was among those to testify at the trial, taking action against the resellers after spotting £75 tickets for a Teenage Cancer Trust gig being sold on for almost 1,000 times the price.

“I hope this prosecution leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market”

“This is a landmark case for National Trading Standards and should reassure consumers that the fraudulent practices of secondary ticket sellers will no longer be tolerated,” comments Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards.

“I hope this prosecution leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.”

The verdict is the second victory for anti-tout campaigners this week, after UK watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) put the brakes on the Stubhub/Viagogo merger on Monday, leading to a further push for more in depth investigations into secondary ticketing practices.

“Today’s verdict shines further light on the murky world of secondary ticketing, and the dependency of websites such as Viagogo and StubHub upon large-scale commercial ticket resellers,” comments Adam Webb, campaign manager of anti-tout organisation FanFair Alliance.

“We strongly suspect Peter Hunter and David Smith are not exceptional, and that other suppliers to these sites may also acquire tickets by unlawful means – no questions asked.”

“Today’s verdict shines further light on the murky world of secondary ticketing”

Webb adds that the National Trading Standards now must “urgently increase the scope of their investigations”, while calling for the CMA “to apply further scrutiny towards the secondary ticketing market overall.”

“If the likes of Viagogo, StubHub and other secondary sites operate without due diligence, then their directors must be held to account,” says Webb.

When contacted by IQ, a Viagogo spokesperson condemned the use of “software to gain an unfair advantage when buying tickets” and stated the site removed the two sellers “as soon as we became aware of their fraudulent activity”.

The Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (Feat) similarly welcomes the verdict, which campaign lead Katie O’Leary says is “wholly appropriate given the significance and scope” of the pair’s actions.

O’Leary states that the problem is not limited to “a couple of rogue actors”, stressing that the secondary market is “rife with consumer exploitation”.

“This is a clear example of the lengths that people go to in order to harvest tickets and sell them on at extortionate prices”

“This case is a clear example of the great lengths that people go to in order to harvest tickets and sell them on at extortionate prices to satisfy their personal greed,” continues O’Leary.

“We hope today’s ruling sets a precedent for action against scalpers, both in the UK and across Europe, and encourages more consistent policing and sanctioning of both exploitative traders and the marketplaces which profit from their actions.”

According to Jonathan Brown, chief executive of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers, the verdict does set “a hugely significant and useful precedent”.

“Our members worked closely with National Trading Standards to compile the evidence used to secure the conviction and we are pleased they were able to play a role in protecting ticket buyers,” says Brown.

“STAR will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that ticket buying is safe for consumers. Our advice is to buy from STAR members who are authorised to sell tickets for events and comply with a strict code of practice including an approved dispute resolution service in the unlikely event of something going wrong.”

Photo: Raph_PH/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)

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