Ticket touts target London 2012 Olympics

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Unofficial websites are illegally selling tickets for the London 2012 Olympics at vastly inflated prices, a BBC investigation has suggested.

BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme found that one website based in Norway was selling tickets at five times their face value.

The Metropolitan police said it will work with authorities abroad to try to stop unofficial ticket sellers.

Website boss Andreas Gyrre said that his company was doing nothing illegal.

No guarantees

"They quoted £80 per ticket, which I thought was a bit steep but worth it. Then they wanted another £20 for delivery and I agreed to that," said Irene Ermelli, who found the unofficial website, Euroteamtickets, after doing an online search for London 2012 tickets.

She became suspicious and visited the official London 2012 website after doing another internet search. This showed that if she had bought the two athletics tickets through the official site, they would have cost only £16 each.

"Of course, then I wanted to cancel what I'd done before, but they refused to give me a refund even though it was within 15 minutes of paying."

And there was no guarantee that Ms Ermelli would receive the tickets she had paid for, because no Olympic tickets have been released yet.

Start Quote

What I'm determined to do is to make this a really hostile environment for them to operate”

End Quote DCI Nick Downing Metropolitan Police

The official site is inviting applications for tickets, but people will not know whether they have been successful, or indeed be charged for any tickets, until a ballot is carried out in May for any oversubscribed tickets.

Fine threat

By UK law, tickets for Olympic and Paralympic events can only be sold through licensed outlets.

Section 31 of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 makes it an offence to sell tickets without authorisation from the London Organising Committee (LOCOG). This includes re-selling tickets to make a profit.

Over the next couple of months the maximum fine for illegally selling 2012 tickets will go up to a maximum of £20,000 per offence.

Mr Gyrre from Euroteam declined to be interviewed on Money Box, but he provided written responses to questions.

He said that the website does not market its services to British residents, and argued that the point of the business is to sell event tickets which are hard to get hold of, and that this is reflected in its prices.

But after Money Box got involved, Mr Gyree said Ms Ermelli would get a refund.

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When asked about Euroteam, a London 2012 spokesperson, said: "This website is not an authorised reseller of London 2012 tickets and has not applied to be an authorised reseller - nor do we expect them to apply to be an authorised seller.

"We urge people to go the official website where they can find out all the information about how to purchase tickets."

The official website contains a URL checker where people can find out whether a website is a genuine authorised outlet.

The website also contains a list of known unauthorised websites.

Hostile environment

The police have a dedicated unit of officers, which is trying to disrupt the activities of unauthorised websites. They are hopeful the unit will be able to tackle websites based in other countries, as well as those set up in the UK.

"I've had a team in place since June 2010, so we can learn how they operate," Detective Chief Inspector Nick Downing, from the Metropolitan Police, told Money Box.

"We've sat down with LOCOG, we've sat down with major event holders who run all these events today. I can't promise that we're going to disrupt all of this activity - I'd love to say we could. But what I'm determined to do is to make this a really hostile environment for them to operate."

BBC Radio 4's Money Box is broadcast on Saturdays at 1200 GMT, and repeated on Sundays at 2100 GMT.

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