The Court of Appeal has dismissed appeals from two online ticket touts, who were jailed on 24 February 2020 in a landmark case heard at Leeds Crown Court, in a move campaigners have described as “another nail in the coffin” for unethical secondary ticketing.
Peter Hunter and David Thomas Smith ran BZZ Limited, a multi-million pound limited company, through which they purchased and resold hundreds of tickets at inflated prices for events and concerts by acts including Ed Sheeran.
The Court heard how the touts used at least 97 different names, 88 postal addresses and more than 290 email addresses to evade ticketing platform restrictions to acquire the tickets.
The identities were enhanced through the use of bots, which are designed to support the automated bulk-buying of tickets. Emails to the 290 email addresses were all auto-forwarded to one email address held by BZZ Limited.
The duo’s prosecution in February 2020 marked the first successful prosecution against a company fraudulently reselling tickets on a large scale.
Hunter and Smith appealed their convictions on all counts, based on a number of grounds about the judge’s rulings. The Court of Appeal rejected these appeals and stated that it is “clear that the convictions were entirely safe”.
It also noted that Hunter and Smith never “made clear to consumers the risk attaching to the purchase of a ticket, namely that consumers were acquiring at inflated prices tickets that the event organiser might treat as null and void. Had this been transparent then it can properly be inferred that purchasers might have been reluctant to spend large sums on tickets that might turn out not to permit entry to the event in question. This lack of transparency is unlawful.”
The broader characteristics of the secondary ticketing market was also highlighted by the court, which noted that the “ticketing market is one which appears to be characterised by a high degree of criminal fraud.”
National Trading Standards director Wendy Martin said, “We welcome today’s ruling by the Court of Appeal, which represents another major milestone in the efforts to tackle the dishonest and fraudulent practices in the secondary ticketing market. Consumers continue to be at a disadvantage when trying to spend their hard-earned money on tickets for music concerts and sporting events and we hope our work to test the current legislation and make recommendations to government will make it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.”
Adam Webb of anti-ticket touting campaigner FanFair Alliance said, “This precedent-setting judgement will be a bitter blow for Hunter and Smith. But there will also be far-reaching ramifications for other touts, many of whom use similarly unlawful business methods to acquire tickets, and for websites like viagogo and StubHub who depend on these suppliers for the bulk of their listings. All in all, it’s a good day for music fans, and another nail in the coffin for those who profit from, support and invest in these deeply unethical practices.”