Council chiefs in North Yorkshire have failed to act on a court ruling ordering them to change their ticket reselling enforcement policies more than two months after they lost a case they brought against a group of self-confessed touts.
North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) Trading Standards has failed to change its blanket fines of £5,000 for a final notice of enforcement activity under the secondary ticketing provisions of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which was enforced in a court order in April.
Judge Alison McKenna ruled the level of the fines were the result of an “unfair process” when she found in favour of the sellers two months ago after NYCC officials had failed to follow procedural rules. However, the NYCC’s published Secondary Ticketing Enforcement Policy remains unchanged on its website.
“In deciding the financial penalty for a breach of the secondary ticketing provisions of the Consumer Rights Act, NYCC will set a standard amount of £5,000 per breach,” the document says.
Matters have become worse for the body after it this week lost its appeal against being ordered to pay the vendors’ costs. NYCC has been approached for comment.
It is estimated that, after this week’s court defeat, legal costs and costs for bringing this enforcement action will now exceed £100,000.
In the original case, NYCC requested a maximum of a £5,000 (€5,800/$6,500) fine for each tout for the breach of the relevant legal provisions, as shown in “test purchases” conducted in August 2017 by an officer of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
While each of the resellers accepted they had breached the secondary ticketing rules in one way or another, they all challenged the imposition of the financial penalties on procedural fairness grounds and said that the financial penalties imposed on them were too high in all the circumstances.
The named touts were Worldwide Tickets, Gary Harvey, Alan Gambin and Black Sync.
Louise Millington-Roberts, consultant sports lawyer at Hill Dickinson LLP, told TheTicketingBusiness.com in April that the appeals were granted because the council failed to act in a timely manner.
She said: “The decision came as no surprise to me. It is unfortunate that the council has fallen foul of procedural inaccuracies and that despite the ticket touts admitting breaches of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, their appeals were allowed.
“In this particular case, the council failed to act on evidence gathered within the time frame set and should have served the notices of intent within six months of the evidence being gathered and when it failed to do so, should have gathered fresh evidence.”
The judge said that the key documentary evidence in the appeals was the notice of intent and final notices served in each appeal.
During the hearing, Nicola Pearson, a divisional officer employed by NYCC who works for the National Trading Standards e-Crime team, said she was putting together necessary procedures for undertaking enforcement action, following receipt of grant funding, in the summer of 2017.
She noted in her statement that the NYCC had “sufficient evidence” of breaches in February 2018, and notices of intent were reportedly served in July 2018. However, she later admitted during cross-examination that she had reached this point in the summer 2017, but had not taken any action “in respect of the information in her possession while she awaited the establishment of the formal enforcement and appeal procedures.”
The CMA had sent over information dated August 2017 about live listing breaches by three of the touts. The schedule sets out CMA’s assessment that, at the time of inspection, 69 per cent of Harvey’s live listings involved a seat number-related breach of the 2015 Act.
Gambin had 83 per cent of his live listings similarly non-compliant on one platform and 95 per cent of those on another platform.
Black Sync had 68 per cent, 73 per cent and 87 per cent of its live listings non-compliant for the three different platforms that had been investigated.