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UK ticket touts ordered to repay over £6m

Two UK-based ticket touts, who were jailed after fraudulently reselling event tickets, have been ordered to pay back more than £6 million (€6.96m) or face a further eight years in prison.

Peter Hunter and David Smith, who operated as the company BZZ Limited, were jailed in February 2020 for four years and 30 months, respectively, following an investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team and trial at Leeds Crown Court.

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, Madness, McBusted, Taylor Swift and Coldplay, as well as to shows including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Yesterday’s (14 December) confiscation order follows a lengthy investigation by National Trading Standards and a complex and extensive financial investigation conducted by the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Economic Crime Unit (RECU). Smith and Hunter were found to have benefited from their crimes by a total of £8,750,732.00. They have been given three months to pay back £6,167,522.02 and face an additional eight years’ imprisonment should they fail to pay.

“We hope this sends a message to all those who choose to engage in fraud that there are severe consequences”

Ruth Andrews, regional investigations and eCrime manager for National Trading Standards, says the result “concludes a landmark case that demonstrates once and for all that dishonestly buying large quantities of tickets and reselling them at inflated prices is an unacceptable, illegal and fraudulent practice”.

“All too often fans looking to buy tickets to sport events, music concerts and other high-profile events find that official tickets sell out in minutes before reappearing on secondary ticketing sites at vastly inflated prices,” says Andrews. “This can have a significant financial impact on consumers and I hope this ground-breaking case helps drive long-term changes in the secondary ticketing market.

“The defendants have learnt again today that crime does not pay and their futures have been irrevocably damaged by their criminal behaviour as a result. We hope this sends a message to all those who choose to engage in fraud that there are severe consequences.”

Hunter and Smith, used dishonest and fraudulent tactics to purchase multiple tickets from primary ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster, Eventim and AXS, circumventing the platforms’ terms and conditions and their automated systems to block multiple purchases. They also engaged in “speculative selling” by listing tickets for sale on secondary ticketing websites that they had not purchased and did not own.

“Yesterday’s developments should be a trigger for wider investigations to tackle the excesses in this market”

The duo’s appeals against their convictions were rejected by the Court of Appeal in November 2021.

“Music fans should be delighted with the result of this landmark case,” says Adam Webb, campaign manager for anti-touting organisation the FanFair Alliance. “The sums involved are staggering, and give an indication on the massive harm being inflicted on consumers. However, Hunter and Smith are only the tip of the iceberg. They are not outliers by any stretch of the imagination, and many others still operate outside of the law.

“Yesterday’s developments should be a trigger for wider investigations to tackle the excesses in this market – whether that’s the activities of touts, their methods of acquiring tickets in bulk from primary agents, or the secondary platforms they sell through.”

 


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