Two ticket touts have been found guilty of fraud in a verdict that could have far-reaching consequences for the secondary ticketing market.
Peter Hunter, aged 51, and David Thomas Smith, aged 66, who traded as Ticket Wiz and BZZ, were convicted of three counts of fraudulent trading and one count of possessing an article for fraud following a landmark trial at Leeds Crown Court. They will be sentenced on February 24.
According to the Guardian, the pair used multiple identities and bots to buy £4 million worth of tickets to events such as concerts by Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Madness, McBusted and Liam Gallagher, which they then sold on for £10.8m on resale sites including Viagogo, StubHub and the now defunct Seatwave and Get Me In!
Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards, which carried out the investigation, said: “Millions of people spend their hard-earned money on tickets such as music concerts and sporting events each year. Buying a ticket in good faith and then discovering it is part of a dishonest fraud can be deeply distressing and can have a considerable financial impact on consumers.
“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. 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.”
Industry figures such as Sheeran's manager Stuart Camp and promoter Stuart Galbraith of Kilimanjaro Live gave evidence during the three-month trial - the first prosecution of its kind in the UK.
BZZ purchased more than 750 Ed Sheeran tickets in 2017 – despite knowing that their purchases had contravened the primary sellers’ terms and conditions – and the defendants knowingly continued to resell hundreds of tickets to consumers at inflated prices.
A spokesman for the FanFair Alliance, which campaigns against industrial-scale online ticket touting, said the verdict shone 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".
"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," said the spokesperson.
"Given the outcome of this case, it is now urgent that National Trading Standards are resourced to increase the scope of their investigations, and for the Competition And Markets Authority [CMA] to apply further scrutiny towards the secondary ticketing market overall."
Jonathan Brown, CEO of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), said: “Today’s verdict sets a hugely significant and useful precedent in the fight against ticket fraud. 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.
“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.”