Business News Legal Live Business Top Stories

Former ticket touts ordered to pay back £6 million

By | Published on Thursday 15 December 2022

Live Music

Two former ticket touts who were jailed in 2020 after being found guilty of fraudulent conduct in connection with their ticket touting business have been ordered to pay back £6,167,522.02 of the money they made from that fraudulent enterprise.

Peter Hunter and David Smith operated as Ticket Wiz and BZZ, buying up and reselling tickets for profit on an industrial scale via the secondary ticketing websites. Their business was investigated by National Trading Standards, which took responsibility for enforcing UK laws that regulate ticket resale following the publication of the government-commissioned Waterson Report in 2016. That report concluded that the rules in place to regulate touting were not being effectively enforced.

After a trial at Leeds Crown Court in 2020, the two men were found guilty of breaching laws that prohibit the use of special software to hoover up tickets from primary ticketing sites, and of failing to meet their legal obligation to warn the buyers of their touted tickets that they were not official sellers, and that the tickets they were selling could actually be cancelled by a show’s promoter. The Court Of Appeal then upheld that ruling the following year.

National Trading Standards then sought the confiscation order that was formally issued yesterday. Confirming that development, the government agency stated: “Today’s landmark 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”.

“Smith and Hunter were found to have benefited from their crimes by a total of £8,750,732.00”, it added. “They have been given three months to pay back the £6,167,522.02 and face an additional eight years’ imprisonment should they fail to pay”.

Commenting on the case further, Ruth Andrews – Regional Investigations And eCrime Manager at National Trading Standards – said: “Today’s 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”, she added. “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”, she concluded. “We hope this sends a message to all those who chose to engage in fraud that there are severe consequences”.

Adam Webb of the anti-touting FanFair Alliance also welcomed this latest development in the case against Hunter and Smith. He said: “Music fans should be delighted with the result of this landmark case. 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”, he added. “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, and the secondary platforms they sell through”.

Reg Walker of The Iridium Consultancy, who works with the live sector to identify and combat illegal practices in the ticket touting domain, echoed Webb’s position that – while the conclusion of the case against Hunter and Smith is to be welcomed – it also demonstrates the scale of the wider ticket touting business, which continues to operate and needs further investigation.

“Whilst the forfeiture order against Hunter and Smith must be welcomed”, he said, “it has taken five years to get from arrest and prosecution to this point, during which time others have operated on a larger scale and remain above the law”.

“A fully funded investigation needs to take place into the relationship between the touts who commit these offences, the ticket resale platforms who benefit from the proceeds of their crimes, and the primary ticket agents who fail to stop touts harvesting tickets in bulk with impunity”, he added.

“Hunter and Smith are the tip of the iceberg and give an indication of the eye watering amounts of money genuine fans are forced to pay over face value for tickets”, he concluded. “This rigged criminal market needs to be investigated thoroughly and stopped once and for all”.