Thousands left without Olympic entry as police smash agency selling black market tickets
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Wednesday 01 August 2012
Thousands of people across the world including in Britain may have been left without entry to the Olympics after police smashed an unauthorized agency sourcing black market tickets.
The Office of Fair Trading said that around 20,000 tickets for London 2012 had been sold by Oslo-based Euroteam, 15,000 more than it had obtained from unofficial sources.
Euroteam appears to have been sourcing tickets from national Olympics federations, but its plans went awry this week when Norwegian police stopped a Polish man at Oslo airport and confiscated 455 tickets from one Olympic Committee, prompting an investigation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The Norwegian authorities charged the Pole with fraud on the grounds that Olympic tickets are valid only when used by their official recipient.
In an interview with the Norwegian Business Daily newspaper, which broke the story, Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg said: “What has happened is that representatives of some Olympic committees have sold tickets outside their country, and probably earned a lot of money on this. It is strictly illegal, and it is a scandal.”
While the Norwegian authorities continued the investigation, the Office of Fair Trading took a High Court order against three companies, Euroteam AS, Uncus AS, Ticket and Travel AS and their controlling director, Andreas Gyrre.
They have given legal undertakings to the High Court to refund customers who do not receive their tickets or are refused entry because their tickets are invalid.
The OFT said: “People who are refused entry should ensure that they retain their tickets, or get a receipt from the games organisers if their ticket is seized indicating that the customer was unable to gain entry.
“They should send a copy of their void ticket or the receipt to the trader when applying for their refund.”
Last week, the Honorable Mr Justice Kenneth Parker, ruled that the traders had misled consumers by failing to make clear that they were unauthorised to sell Olympic tickets, that they may not be able to supply the tickets ordered, and any tickets supplied might not allow the purchaser to enter the Games.
The OFT worked with the Metropolitan Police and the Serious Organised Crime Authority.
Jason Freeman, Legal Director in the OFT’s goods and consumer group said: “Lots of people want to go to see the Olympics, but you need to be careful about where you go to get your ticket.
Only authorised sellers can guarantee to supply you a ticket, and if you buy from someone else, even if your ticket arrives, you may be refused entry to the Games.”
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