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Touts given jail sentences in ground-breaking prosecution

10 March 2020

TICKET TOUTS who resold hundreds of fraudulently obtained concert tickets at inflated prices have been jailed for a total of six-and-a-half years, marking the first successful prosecution against a resale business.

Peter Hunter was sentenced to four years in prison, and David Smith to 30 months, after jurors at Leeds Crown Court found the pair guilty of fraudulently and dishonestly buying and reselling tickets for concerts by artistes such as Ed Sheeran, Madness and McBusted through their company BZZ Ltd.

Following an investigation by National Trading Standards’ eCrime Team, the judge found that Hunter and Smith made a net profit of £3.5 million in the last two years of the fraud, committed between May 2010 and December 2017.

“These sentences represent a major blow to online ticket touts who break the law and rip-off the public,” says Adam Webb, campaign manager at anti-ticket touting organisation Fan Fair Alliance, which is funded by artiste managers.

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.

Long-time campaigner against secondary ticketing Sharon Hodgson MP says, “Today’s sentence is a victory, but there is much more to be done, with websites such as Viagogo and StubHub still operating and other ticket touts using similar fraudulent techniques to illegally acquire tickets.

“To truly tackle this issue, we need more funding for National Trading Standards and the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate suspected touts, and for brands such as Google to stop sponsored advertising for Viagogo and StubHub.”

National Trading Standards chair Lord Toby Harris says, “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. 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.”

The investigation by National Trading Standards found that the defendants used several dishonest and fraudulent tactics to purchase multiple tickets from primary ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster, Eventim and AXS, which breached the platforms’ terms and conditions, and circumvented their automated systems to block multiple purchases.

This saw them use fake names and addresses to bulk-buy tickets to the Ed Sheeran’s Teenage Cancer Trust show at London’s Royal Albert Hall (cap. 5,200) in March 2017 and sell them for almost four times face value (see LIVE UK issue 240).

The pair also involved a number of other people in their fraud, making them liable to arrest and prosecution. This includes those who allowed their credit and debit cards, names, addresses and other details to be used to misrepresent the identity and nature of the purchaser.

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