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Convicted touts sentenced to 6.5 years in prison

A pair of internet ticket touts have been sentenced to a combined six-and-a-half years in prison, in the first case of its kind in the UK against fraudulent resellers.

Peter Hunter and David Smith, who operated as the company BZZ Limited, received four years and 30 months in jail respectively, following an investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, and trail at Leeds Crown Court.

Earlier this month, jurors found Hunter and Smith guilty of fraudulent trading – for the resale of tickets that were invalid, at risk of being refused or that they did not own, and reducing the number of tickets available to consumers at face value – as well as of possessing an article for use in fraud – for using ticket bots and credit or debit cards under different names.

The pair committed offences between May 2010 and December 2017, making a net profit of £3.5 million in the last two years of fraud alone, buying and reselling tickets to concerts by artists including Ed Sheeran, McBusted, Taylor Swift and Coldplay, as well as to shows including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

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, as well as using specialist software including bots, Insomniac Browser, Omni Checker and Roboform and taking steps to circumvent captchas or IP address detection.

“This is an important milestone in the fight to tackle online ticket touts who fraudulently buy and resell tickets to thousands of victims to line their own pockets,” comments Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards.

“It’s a fantastic result for music lovers across the UK, and should also send shockwaves through the likes of Viagogo and StubHub”

“Today’s sentences send a strong message to similar online ticket touts: these are criminal offences that can lead to prison sentences. I hope this leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.”

Adam Webb, campaign manager for anti-tout group FanFair Alliance, says that the sentences “a major blow to online ticket touts who break the law and rip off the public.

“It’s a fantastic result for National Trading Standards and for music lovers across the UK, and should also send shockwaves through the likes of Viagogo and StubHub whose businesses are dependent upon large-scale resellers.

“By facilitating the activities of online touts, there must be concerns that the platforms themselves are profiting from the sale of tickets unlawfully acquired by their biggest suppliers.

“This should be investigated as a matter of urgency, and lead to action against those platforms if they have benefitted from the proceeds of criminality.”

Viagogo last week announced it had ‘completed’ its US$4 billion all-cash acquisition of StubHub, although the merger still needs approving by regulatory bodies, including the UK’s CMA, before they can operate as one entity.

Photo: Markus Hillgärtner/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)


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