Two touts made millions by buying tickets for shows by artists like Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift and reselling them at inflated prices have been jailed after a landmark court case.
Peter Hunter, 51, and David Thomas Smith, 66, ran BZZ Limited, through which they would buy and resell the tickets, contravening terms and conditions. They bought £4m worth of tickets over a four-year period and made £9.3m profit, Leeds Crown Court heard.
Earlier this month, the pair were found guilty of three counts of fraudulent trading and possession or control of an article for use in fraud.
Hunter was jailed for four years while his husband Smith was given 30 months on Monday.
It was the first successful prosecution of a company fraudulently selling tickets on a large scale.
Judge Mushtaq Khokhar said: “This was a case of sustained dishonesty for a number of years.”
He told Hunter: “It’s clear you were well aware that this was a fraudulent enterprise you were perpetrating and perpetrating in a very effective way.”
“You are not somebody who deliberately went out of their way rip off the consumer.
“But I’m afraid this is a serious matter. A lot of people in this case paid a lot more than they could have paid.”
He added: “It gives me no pleasure to impose the sentences I’m about to impose but I have to consider my public duty.”
Hunter and Smith would use a number of different people to buy tickets, used other people’s personal details to purchase tickets, and deployed at least 97 different names, 88 addresses and more than 290 email addresses to evade selling restrictions.
They also concealed their IP addresses to disguise their bulk-buying.
They would buy tickets to Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, Madness, McBusted and other acts from primary sellers before selling them on at a higher mark-up.
Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp told the jury during the trial that he and Sheeran wanted to take a stand against touts after seeing £75 tickets at a charity gig selling for £7,000.
Hunter and Smith would also engage in “spec selling”, where they would list tickets they didn’t own on secondary ticketing websites, receive the inflated money, and then try to source the tickets themselves.
Ben Douglas-Jones QC, for Hunter, said that his client was no more greedy than other businessmen providing a service. Both men argued they had done nothing wrong.
Hunter told the jury how he started his business when a friend without a credit card asked him to buy tickets to Madonna for her and he realised he could re-sell extra purchases at a huge profit.
The pair were caught following a National Trading Standards investigation.
Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards, said after their conviction: “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.”