Appeals Rejected: Prison Sentences For Ticket Resellers Upheld In The UK

Highly coveted: tickets for Prince at the Zénith in Paris, Aug. 25, 1986. Ticket resale is as old as concerts.
Roger JOB/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
– Highly coveted: tickets for Prince at the Zénith in Paris, Aug. 25, 1986. Ticket resale is as old as concerts.
The digital age has added a new dimension to the practice, though.

The appeals of ticket touts Peter Hunter and David Smith, who were convicted of fraudulent trading and possessing an article for fraud at Leeds Crown Court in early 2020, got rejected.

Both men used to purchase and resell tickets for different event genres trading as BZZ Ltd (formerly Ticket Wiz Ltd). 
A judge had found them guilty, and sentenced Hunter to four years in prison, while Smith was given 30 months – a total of six-and-a-half years jail time for fraudulently reselling tickets.
Both men had appealed the decision on all counts, questioning the admissibility of evidence in the original hearing, the components of the UK’s Companies Act applied by the court to convict them of fraud, the way the judge directed the jury, as well as the actual validity and enforceability of the restrictions attached to tickets.
The court dismissed all appeals, adding in the transcript of the handed-down judgement, “We also dismiss the application to adduce new evidence. We are clear that the convictions were entirely safe.”
One key aspect of the ruling includes statements regarding the status in law of a ticket. Resellers usually make the case that a ticket was a good that became private property once purchased, and that individuals were allowed to do with their private property as they saw fit, irrespective of any terms and conditions.
Ticket Touts
Keystone/Getty Images
– Ticket Touts
Fulham supporters buy two-shilling tickets for ten shillings outside the ground at Craven Cottage soccer stadium for the cup-tie match against Bristol Rovers. Most in this business don’t have a problem with touts outside of stadiums, but with touts operating on a mass scale online.

According to the two judges on the appeal case, there are “fundamental problems” with this view. “Even if a ticket was in some relevant way a ‘property’ right or a ‘good’ that fact alone does not sever it from the burdens attaching to the benefits.” 

Among other things, “burdens” refers to the resale restrictions laid out in the promoter’s terms and conditions, meaning that a purchaser cannot resell the ticket on the grounds that it has become his or her property. “When a ticket is handed from person to person it transfers any restrictions upon use,” the ruling states.
Because the original terms and conditions on many tickets prohibited their resale, both Hunter and Smith knew that they resold the tickets at risk of being canceled, and ticket holders being refused entry. Yet “they represented falsely to end-consumers that the tickets they acquired at inflated prices were in every respect valid and would guarantee entry to the event in question.” The court also had “limited evidence” of the defendants engaging spec selling, i.e. the sale of inventory that wasn’t in their possession at the time of sale.
The ruling finds that Hunter and Smith deliberately deceived primary ticket vendors into believing that the purchaser was an ordinary consumer, not a ticket tout. “They set out, using this system, to breach the terms and conditions of the vendor, such as the prohibition on commercial or non-personal use and the restrictions on quantities of tickers permitted to be purchased. 
“It was the prosecution case that had the appellants been honest about who they were and what they intended to do with the tickets that the vendors would not have sold to them,” the transcript states.
The prosecution alleged that both men used software designed and intended to deceive ticket vendors into believing that the appellants were genuine end users – an offence under the UK Fraud Act 2006. The indictment gives examples: “an Insomniac Browser computer program, copies of computer software referred to as Spinner Bot used in the acquisition of tickets from See,, and Royal Albert Hall; and debit and credit payment cards held in the names of persons other than the company.”
These latter findings are one of the reasons why the judges dismissed one appeal in particular: the defendants’ alleged fact that not only was a lot of their business tolerated, but encouraged, by some of the primary ticket agents, “for example by providing financial incentives to encourage bulk dealing.” What is more, as the defendants laid out, “three of the big four [secondary ticket websites Stubhub, Seatwave, GetMeIn! and Viagogo] were owned by, or operated in partnership with primary ticket sellers.
The judges found, that “there was no evidence that all PTS and PTW were conniving with touts and to the contrary there was evidence that some took significant steps to preclude touts and enforce the contractual restrictions.”
The added the following potentially far-reaching statement, though: “If the appellants are correct and there are potentially hundreds of other operators all running businesses like theirs; and if they are also correct and there is connivance and collusion between ticket touts and the PTW and STW, then the ticketing market is one which appears to be characterized by a high degree of criminal fraud. The evidence we have seen certainly suggests this possibility. 
“This appeal however focuses more narrowly upon the conduct of the appellants as buyers and resellers of tickets, and not on the possibility that fraud is also being perpetrated by others. It will be for the prosecutorial authorities to consider whether other and broader enforcement action is necessary.”
Adam Webb of the UK’s FanFair Alliance, told Pollstar that the judgement has “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.”
The full transcript of the handed-down judgement can be found here.