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UK touts found guilty of fraud in landmark ruling

Two ticket resellers who used bots to harvest and resell passes for £11m have been found guilty of fraud in a landmark ruling that could have implications for the resale industry.

Peter Hunter and David Smith, who traded as Ticket Wiz and BZZ, were today (Thursday) found guilty of fraudulent trading in relation to the resale of tickets for the likes of Ed Sheeran, big sporting events, and West End shows such as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at Leeds Crown Court.

Lawyers acting for National Trading Standards argued in November that the defendants tried to “milk profit” from genuine fans by using scalper bots, as well as a specialist browser called Insomniac, that allowed them to masquerade as multiple consumers.

Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards, 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.”

The company’s tactics circumvented the primary platforms’ terms and conditions and their automated systems to block multiple purchases, which saw them purchase more than 750 Ed Sheeran tickets in 2017.

According to the lawyer’s findings, the alleged touts spent more than £4m on primary ticket sites between June 2015 and December 2017, and sold them on resale sites such as GetMeIn and Seatwave, which have since been shut down, as well as StubHub and Viagogo for £10.8m.

Jonathan Brown, chief executive, The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers, 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.”

Image: Eva Rinaldi