Peter Hunter and David Smith used multiple identities and bots to buy £4m worth of tickets to major music gigs and West End shows before selling them on secondary ticketing sites for £10.8m.
Trading as Ticket Wiz and BZZ, the married couple from London was found guilty in a case that will have significant rippling effects for others who buy and sell tickets for a profit. This is the first prosecution of its kind since the National Trading Standards (NTS) began investigating online ticket-selling.
The National Trading Standards
A spokesperson from the NTS said: “The landmark case at Leeds Crown Court marks the first successful prosecution against a company fraudulently reselling tickets on a large scale. It follows an investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, which is hosted by North Yorkshire County Council and City of York Council.
Chair of the NTS, Lord Toby Harris, commented: “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.”
The campaign manager for FanFair Alliance, Adam Webb, has called for more resources be given to the NTS so that it can “increase the scope of their investigations.”
Secondary ticketing sites
Two of the secondary ticketing sites that the pair used, GetMeIn and Seatwave, have since been closed by owner, Ticketmaster.
StubHub and Viagogo are still operating despite both facing complaints from authorities, MPs and consumers.
Adam Webb also described the need for the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) to apply further scrutiny towards the secondary ticketing market as “urgent”.
He said: “If the likes of Viagogo and StubHub and other secondary sites operate without due diligence, then their directors must be held to account.”
What were they found guilty of?
The NTS stated the pair was found guilty on four counts:
- Fraudulent trading – namely by knowingly enabling BZZ Limited to purchase event tickets for resale and/or fraudulently reducing the number of event tickets available for consumers to purchase at face value
- Possession or control of an article for use in fraud – including the use of bots and debit/credit card payments held in the names of people other than BZZ Limited
- Fraudulent trading – based on continuing the business of BZZ Limited for a fraudulent purpose between 19 May 2010 and 13 December 2017, namely by offering for resale tickets which were at risk of being refused entry and/or falsely representing that said event tickets offered for resale were valid
- Fraudulent trading – by listing and offering event tickets on secondary ticket websites that they did not own, and/or falsely representing that BZZ Limited did own the said event tickets.
The pair will be sentenced on 24th February.