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UK ticket touts convicted in ‘landmark’ £6.5m case

Two people have been convicted of fraudulently and dishonestly buying and reselling tickets for high-profile concerts by acts including Ed Sheeran.

Mark Woods, 60, and Lynda Chenery, 51, both from Dickleburgh in Norfolk, were unanimously found guilty of fraudulent trading offences today (13 March) at Leeds Crown Court. Maria Chenery-Woods, 54, and Paul Douglas, 56, entered guilty pleas earlier in the process.

The four defendants ran multi-million-pound limited company TQ Tickets, which they used to purchase hundreds of tickets for events and concerts by the likes of Lady Gaga, Gary Barlow, Liam Gallagher, Paul Weller and Little Mix, before reselling them, often at hugely inflated prices.

The trial heard the firm sold tickets worth more than £6.5 million (€7.6m) over the course of two-and-a-half years.

An investigation led by National Trading Standards’ eCrime Team found that the defendants used several dishonest and fraudulent tactics to purchase multiple tickets from primary ticket sites, circumventing the platforms’ automated systems to block multiple purchases.

“I hope this prosecution supports progress towards a step-change in the secondary ticketing market”

The defendants then used false identities to resell the tickets – in some cases at 500% more than face value – on secondary ticketing websites.

The court heard they also engaged in fraudulent trading by “spec selling” – listing tickets for sale on secondary ticketing websites that they had not purchased and did not own. Where ticket purchases could not be met, the defendants tried to make it appear that tickets had been sent by giving fake postal trackers and sending empty or torn envelopes.

“This is a landmark case for National Trading Standards and I hope this prosecution supports progress towards a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future,” says Lord Michael Bichard, chair of National Trading Standards.

Stuart Galbraith, CEO of promoter Kilimanjaro Live, which co-promoted Ed Sheeran’s 2018 UK Tour, was one of the witnesses in the case, and describes the verdict as “good news for live music fans, who are too often ripped off and exploited by greedy ticket touts”.

“We welcome today’s prosecution and the strong message it sends to greedy ticket touts looking to exploit genuine live music fans,” says Galbraith.

“We want to keep ticket prices accessible for as many people as possible and hope to get everyone a good seat at a fair price”

Statements were also read out at the trial by Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp of Grumpy Old Management.

“We want to keep ticket prices accessible for as many people as possible and hope to get everyone a good seat at a fair price,” says Camp following the verdict. “Today’s prosecution will help protect music fans and sets an important precedent in the live entertainment industry that I hope will be celebrated by live music fans.”

Chenery-Woods is Woods’ wife and Chenery sister, while Douglas is Chenery’s ex-husband. All four defendants will be sentenced at a later date.

The hearing is the latest in a series of prosecutions against ticket touts led by investigators at the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, which have resulted in prosecutions, jail terms and millions of pounds in proceeds of crime returned to the exchequer.

 


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Appeals court backs Lizzo over $5m festival fee

A US appeals court has upheld a ruling that Lizzo can keep her US$5 million booking fee for a cancelled 2020 festival in Los Angeles.

Promoter VFLA Eventco LLC filed a lawsuit against WME in July 2020, as well as artists Lizzo, Ellie Goulding and Kali Uchis, saying the parties had agreed to return monies they had been advanced in the event of cancellation of Virgin Fest due to “an uncontrollable factor”.

The acts had been scheduled to play the debut edition – which was funded by commercial real estate magnates Marc and Sharon Hagle, and run by Jason Felts, CEO of the Virgin Group’s festival arm – at the Banc of California Stadium (22,000-cap.) and Exposition Park in LA on 6-7 June 2020, before it was axed due to the pandemic.

WME insisted that Lizzo be paid 100% of the fee prior to the festival announcing her as a headliner and that Uchis and Goulding be paid 50% upon signing and the remaining 50% paid 90 days prior to their performances, emails produced for the lawsuit showed.

“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and in compliance with the government restrictions meant to mitigate the pandemic, VFLA cancelled the festival and demanded the return of the deposits from WME, who negotiated the performance contracts and held the deposits as the artists’ agent,” reads the court filing.

“VFLA claimed its right to the deposits under the force majeure provision in the parties’ performance contracts, which determined the parties’ rights to the deposits in the event of a force majeure cancellation. The artists refused VFLA’s demand, claiming VFLA bore the risk of a cancellation due to the pandemic.”

“Since VFLA conceded that, if the artists prevailed, WME should prevail as well, we affirm the judgement in its entirety”

VFLA sued the acts for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, plus WME for conversion, money had and received, unfair business practices and declaratory relief.

Following an initial two-year legal battle, LA Superior Court judge Mark Epstein ruled in September 2022 that clauses added by attorneys for WME to its clients’ performance contracts shifted the financial risk of cancellation onto the festival. That ruling has now been backed by a California court of appeal.

“The trial court granted summary judgement in favour of the artists and WME, finding VFLA bore the risk of the festival’s cancellation, and that WME could not be held liable as an agent for the actions of its principals,” it concludes.

“We hold the trial court properly granted summary judgement in favour of the artists and WME. The force majeure provision is not reasonably susceptible to VFLA’s interpretation, and, in any event, the parol evidence favours the artists.

“Further, we also hold the artists’ interpretation does not work an invalid forfeiture or make the performance contracts unlawful. Since VFLA conceded that, if the artists prevailed, WME should prevail as well, we affirm the judgement in its entirety.”

 


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Canadian venue’s damages appeal rejected

A Canadian appeal court has upheld a C$175,000 (€120,000) damages award against an Ontario venue after a concertgoer suffered a serious knee injury following a Toby Keith gig.

The court heard that the main exit of Toronto’s Ontario Place was unexpectedly blocked on the evening of 14 June 2016, leading plaintiff Patrick Lyng, then aged 21, and a friend to leave via a grassy hill that was “devoid of barricades or warnings”.

Canadian Underwriter reports that Lyng, who had consumed alcohol, tore his ACL after jumping from the hill – which was slippery due to heavy rain – in his flip-flops and landing awkwardly.

Lyng sued Ontario Place for compensation under the Occupier’s Liability Act in relation to the incident, with a court subsequently finding the venue 75% negligent compared to the concertgoer’s 25% in a 2022 ruling.

The 15,000-cap appealed the decision, claiming the injured fan was “the author of his own misfortune” by jumping from the hill.  However, Ontario’s Court of Appeal rejected the argument.

“Ontario Place failed in its duty to take care that persons were reasonably safe while on its premises”

“The trial judge specifically found that [by] blocking the pedestrian bridge and making no reasonable effort from preventing the crowd, a number who have been drinking alcohol, from going onto that wet hazardous hill, Ontario Place failed in its duty to take care that persons were reasonably safe while on its premises,” it ruled last month.

“It is important to note that the trial judge did not find that Ontario Place had an obligation to prevent patrons from entering onto all patches of wet grass, everywhere on the premises, but pinpointed what he viewed as Ontario Place’s negligent decision to not place ‘barriers to prevent people from going down [the] slippery hill’. He concluded that it would have been a ‘simple matter to warn people to avoid that hill as it was a slip-and-fall hazard after a heavy rain’.

“The trial judge did what [the Occupiers’ Liability Act] directs him to do – he carefully considered what would have been reasonable in the circumstances. In the end he found two clear breaches: 1) the failure to erect barriers at the location where people would proceed down the hill in question, and 2) the failure to warn the crowd (i.e., by a sign) to avoid the hill.”

 


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Court backs Rammstein on secondary ticketing

Rammstein and European promoter MCT Agentur have won a further court ruling in Germany, compelling resale sites to abide by legal rules in the marketplace.

CTS Eventim is the exclusive authorised ticket provider for the rock band’s German shows, with tickets permitted to be resold only via its fanSALE platform, which caps prices at 10% above face value.

The group and MCT previously obtained an interim injunction against Viagogo regarding the band’s 2023 European stadium tour. Although the ruling was contested by the platform, it has since been upheld by the Hamburg Regional Court.

The judgement was delivered last month, and obliges Viagogo to comply with the relevant legal rules “when distributing all concert tickets in Germany”. The company was also fined €20,000 by the court, along with an additional €250 per day if it fails to pay up. The court adds that Viagogo appears to have “not taken any notice of the preliminary injunction” so far.

The case marked the second time the Hamburg Regional Court had legally prohibited the Switzerland-headquartered company from reselling Rammstein tickets, following an identical injunction in 2019.

The most recent court order, which is not yet legally binding, is based on consumer protection regulations that were newly defined in May 2022. Rammstein and MCT also obtained interim injunctions against secondary ticketing companies StubHub and Gigsberg in November 2023.

“All decisions confirm the opinion of Rammstein and the MCT Agency”

“All decisions confirm the opinion of Rammstein and the MCT Agency, the tour promoter of the European shows, that Viagogo AG, StubHub, Inc. and Gigsberg Services OÜ are violating consumer protection regulations,” says a statement from Berlin-based MCT.

Rammstein are celebrating their 30th anniversary with a 2024 European stadium tour, launching in Prague, Czechia on 11 May and wrapping up with five nights at Gelsenkirchen’s Veltins-Arena in the group’s native Germany from 26-31 July. Ticket prices for the German gigs range between €70-131.

In an effort to clamp down on the excesses of the resale market, tickets for the concerts will have the full name of the buyer printed on them. The ticket holder will be required to present their ID to gain access entry to the stadium, along with the rest of their party.

“There are strict entry controls at all concerts,” stresses MCT. “If a ticket is not personalised to the person requesting entry, they will not be allowed entry. Any returns of tickets (e.g. due to prevention, illness, etc.) in accordance with the general terms and conditions of the tour operator MCT Agency can only be processed via the CTS Eventim platform ‘fanSALE’.

“All other providers who offer Rammstein tickets are unauthorised dealers. Rammstein tickets purchased there do not entitle you to enter a show. This applies in particular to all Rammstein tickets that are offered through providers of the so-called secondary ticket market.”

 


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Man jailed for six years for K-pop ticketing scam

A 30-year-old man has been jailed for six years after swindling K-pop fans out of 595 million won (€413,000) in a concert ticketing scam.

The defendant, identified only by his surname of Kim, was convicted of multiple counts of fraud in South Korea.

Seoul Central District Court heard that Kim pocketed profits from the sale of non-existent tickets for concerts by acts such as Blackpink, Lim Young-woong and IU.

The Korea Herald reports that Kim also obtained loans using the credit cards of his victims based on the information he gathered via the scam.

“The defendant continued to go on scamming his victims even while he was being tried for fraud, and used the profits for gambling and making cryptocurrency investments,” the court was told.

The South Korean music business has been targeted by a number of scams

Kim has appealed the ruling.

A recent survey by the Record Label Industry Association of Korea revealed that 32.8% of 19 to 29-year-olds admitted to buying a ticket from tout at least once, with 20% saying they had spent more than 500,000 won (€347) on a ticket.

The South Korean music business has been targeted by a number of scams. Last year, K-pop giants SM Entertainment and HYBE warned fans about a fake event called Fest World Tour, which falsely advertised that acts such as Enhypen, Mirae, WayV, NCT Dream and Seventeen would be performing at stadiums across Asia.

In addition, the agency representing Young-woong said it cancelled 118 ticket sales for his 19-21 January 2024 shows after discovering that some were being resold at more than 6x face value.

Elsewhere, singer Jang Beom-june voided all tickets bought for his January and February concerts due to touting, opting to hold an online ballot instead.

 


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Fines levied over Hong Kong video screen collapse

Three companies have been fined in connection with the incident in which a giant video screen fell on two dancers during a concert in Hong Kong.

One dancer was critically injured in the incident, which took place during a show by Cantopop boy band Mirror at Hong Kong Coliseum on 28 July 2022. A second dancer was also hospitalised but not seriously injured.

An investigation also found that another dancer suffered injuries to his chest, knee and neck after falling up to three metres during a rehearsal for the first concert on 25 July after an elevating platform failed to ascend to the stage.

The South China Morning Post reports that contractor Hip Hing Loong Stage Engineering Company (HHLSEC) was fined HK$420,000 (€49.350) by a magistrate at Kowloon City Court last week after admitting six counts of failing to ensure the safety of their employees, failing to ensure that devices were safe and failing to notify authorities of accidents.

Two other firms, main contractor Engineering Impact and the Studiodanz Company, were fined $220,000 and $132,000, respectively, last November.

In mitigation for HHLSEC, Kelvin Lai Kin-wah told the court the accident was “extremely unfortunate” and the company, which had worked on thousands of events, expressed “extreme remorse”.

However, acting principal magistrate David Ko Wai-hung said Hip Hing Loong was critical of the firm’s practice of only carrying out visual inspections of suspended stage installations, stressing that it  had an “unshirkable responsibility” to ensure the system could bear the weight of the LED screen.

“As stage designs become more innovative and complicated, the greater the need for professionals to supervise and manage the equipment”

“I would call this an industry loophole,” he said. “Just because it has not happened before, does not mean it will not happen in the future. As stage designs become more innovative and complicated, the greater the need for professionals to supervise and manage the equipment, instead of just relying on experience.”

In its official report released last year, a government task force concluded a wire rope tied to the LED panel snapped due to “metal fatigue”.

It stated: “The causes include (1) inferior conditions of the rope, with the breaking strength of the wire rope being lower than the lowest breaking strength of a normal one; (2) the actual weight of the LED panel being much heavier than what was reported; (3) a problematic winch installation system making the rope guard difficult to rotate, causing damage to the rope surface and inducing extra load on the rope, leading to plastic deformation; and (4) poor workmanship on the assembly and installation of the LED panel suspension system.”

Engineering Impact pleaded guilty last year to four offences, including failing to ensure that devices were safe, failing to notify the occupational safety officer of a serious accident within 24 hours and failing to give notice of an accident. Studiodanz admitted five offences, including failing to ensure the health and safety of employees, failing to give notice of accidents to employees and failing to provide them insurance coverage.

The performance by Mirror was part of a planned 12-concert run by the 12-member group. The remaining shows in the series were cancelled.

Mirror, who formed in 2018, launched their Feel The Passion Tour last week, starting off 16 shows at Hong Kong’s AsiaWorld Arena between 15 January and 3 February. They will then visit the UK in March for shows at The O2 in London and Manchester’s AO Arena, with dates to follow in Macau, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Toronto.

 


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LN & Jeezy not responsible for US concert shooting

Live Nation and rapper Young Jeezy were not liable for a fatal shooting backstage at a concert in California, an appeals court has ruled.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of event promoter Eric Johnson, Jr, who died in hospital following the incident at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View in August 2014.

The suit claimed that Live Nation had been legally negligent because it had insufficient security measures in place to prevent the shooting, but a subsequent trial ruled in the defendants’ favour.

Billboard reports the California Court of Appeal has now upheld the ruling on the basis that the attack was not “foreseeable”.

“A violent attack by and between artists and their guests in the backstage area of a performance is not a foreseeable occurrence”

“A violent attack by and between artists and their guests in the backstage area of a performance is not a foreseeable occurrence against which Live Nation should have provided preventative measures of the nature plaintiffs suggest,” writes Justice Stuart R. Pollak.

“The reports did not … indicate that any of the artists or their entourages engaged in or posed any danger of violence during the tour. The head of security also indicated that in her more than 10 years at the amphitheatre, there had not been any violent incidents backstage.”

Live Nation faces a similar suit over the backstage stabbing of Drakeo the Ruler at 2021’s Once Upon a Time in LA festival. Drakeo, real name Darrell Caldwell, was attacked by a group of masked assailants prior to his scheduled performance at the event, and later died in hospital from his injuries.

Organisers are accused of providing insufficient security in the lead up to the attack. Live Nation failed in its first attempt to have the case dismissed earlier this month.

 


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Australian court dismisses Viagogo appeal

Australia’s full federal court has dismissed an appeal by Viagogo against a ruling that the secondary ticketing platform had made misleading claims on its website relating to the reselling of concert and sports tickets.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) instigated legal proceedings against the company in 2017, alleging it had “made false or misleading representations, and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, regarding the price of tickets on its online platform by failing to disclose substantial fees”.

The federal court ruled in favour of the watchdog’s allegations in 2019, finding Viagogo in breach of consumer law, with Justice Stephen Burley noting its conduct was deliberate and that some of its misleading claims were made “on an industrial scale”.

The full court has now upheld the findings along with the AUS$7 million penalty imposed for the breaches of the Australian Consumer Law.

“This case was about bad behaviour by an international ticket reseller”

“This case was about bad behaviour by an international ticket reseller that deliberately misled thousands of Australian consumers about the price they would have to pay for tickets and falsely represented that those consumers were purchasing tickets from an official site,” says ACCC commissioner Liza Carver.

The full court upheld the finding made in 2019 that Viagogo had falsely represented that it was the ‘official’ seller of tickets to particular events. It also upheld the finding made by the primary judge that from 1 May 2017 to 26 June 2017, Viagogo’s website drew consumers in with a headline price but failed to sufficiently disclose additional fees or specify a single price for tickets, including a 27.6% booking fee which applied to most tickets.

“Businesses must clearly disclose if they charge additional, unavoidable fees on top of the advertised price”

“Viagogo misled music lovers, sporting fans and other consumers who were hoping to get tickets to a special event. Consumers were drawn in by a headline price and were often unaware of the significant fees charged by Viagogo until very late in the booking process when they were already invested in attending the event,” says Carver.

The full federal court stated that “had Viagogo made it clear that it was operating a ticket resale site, then there would have been no misapprehension by consumers”.

“Businesses must clearly disclose if they charge additional, unavoidable fees on top of the advertised price,” adds Carver.

The court also upheld previous orders made against Viagogo in relation to a compliance programme, publication orders and an injunction.

A spokesperson for Viagogo says: “Viagogo is disappointed with the federal court’s ruling, but we remain committed to continuing to provide choice for consumers to access tickets and attend events.

“The ruling concerns language used in some advertisements and the form of the Viagogo website around five years ago. It does not reflect our current ticketing platform and the many changes we have made to provide greater transparency for our customers.”

 


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