Coronavirus

Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift Ticket Scalpers Given Six-Plus Years in Prison in 'Major Blow' to Touts

Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran
Gareth Cattermole/TAS/Getty Images for TAS

Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran at London's O2 Arena on Feb. 1, 2014 in London.

LONDON – Two ticket touts who bought and resold large numbers of Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift concert tickets online have been jailed for a total of six and a half years in a landmark British court case.    

Married couple Peter Hunter and David Smith, who traded as Ticket Wiz and BZZ, were found guilty of using multiple identities and bot software to harvest millions of pounds worth of concert and theatre tickets between 2010 and 2017. 

In one year, London-based Hunter and Smith bought more than 750 tickets for Sheeran concerts, which they then resold at vastly inflated prices on U.K. secondary sites such as Viagogo, StubHub and the now-shuttered Ticketmaster platforms Get Me In and Seatwave.

The pair also made large profits buying and selling tickets to U.K. concerts by Swift, Lady Gaga, Blink-182, Rod Stewart, Madness and popular West End theatre shows like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

In total, Hunter and Smith earned at least £10.8 million ($14 million) from their ticket selling operation, jurors at Leeds Crown Court were told. When investigators raided their homes, they found more than 100 different payment cards in 37 names. The couple also used 88 different postal addresses and around 300 email addresses to evade platform restrictions.

Sheeran's manager Stuart Camp gave evidence in the trial, which National Trading Standards called a "landmark decision." 

Following the guilty verdicts, Hunter was sentenced Feb. 24 to four years in prison. Smith will spend two and a half years behind bars. 

"This was a case of sustained dishonesty for a number of years," said Judge Mushtaq Khokhar upon sentencing. "A lot of people in this case paid a lot more [for tickets] than they could have paid," he said.  

The prosecution is the first of its kind in the U.K. since National Trading Standards started investigating bulk buying and reselling tickets in 2017.

Commenting on the sentences, FanFair Alliance campaign manager Adam Webb said the lengthy jail terms "represent a major blow to online ticket touts who break the law and rip off the public."

He called it a fantastic result "for music lovers across the U.K. [that] should also send shockwaves through the likes of Viagogo and StubHub whose businesses are dependent upon large-scale resellers." 

"This should be investigated as a matter of urgency," said Webb, "and lead to action against those platforms if they have benefitted from the proceeds of criminality."

A spokesperson for Viagogo issued a statement following the sentencing, excoriating Hunter and Smith's "fraudelent activity" on their platform and calling for greater collaboration between primary and secondary markets.

“We don’t believe that anyone should be using software to gain an unfair advantage when buying tickets," the rep said. "Their activity was a clear breach of our user agreement, that strictly prohibits sellers from selling tickets sourced through criminal means. As soon as we became aware of their fraudulent activity, we removed them from the site immediately. That was approximately two years ago."

The spokesperson added, "We believe greater coordination between the primary and secondary markets along with the proper authorities will enable us to identify this type of fraud early, and ensure it is stopped."

StubHub has yet to comment.


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.