CYBER detectives who became the first to tackle online traders over illegal secondary ticket sales have been criticised as an appeal judge dismissed the fines over procedural failures.

The failure of the National Trading Standards e-Crime team, hosted by North Yorkshire County Council at County Hall in Northallerton, to enforce the Consumer Rights Act 2015 has been greeted with “disappointment”.

The fines followed mounting concerns over online resale of tickets to sporting, recreational and cultural events and the information consumers receive during such sales, with cases such as World Cup tickets being marketed on secondary ticketing sites for up to £11,300.

Last year, the council authorised the team to launch enforcement action against online platforms for individual breaches of the legislation, which made it illegal for operators of secondary ticketing websites to sell tickets without providing details about the original face value of the ticket, the seat the ticket is for and restrictions on the use of the ticket.

In the first test of the legislation, the team served maximum £5,000 penalties on Worldwide Tickets Ltd, Black Sync Ltd, Gary Harvey and Alan Gambin following test purchases in August 2017 by an officer of the Competition and Markets Authority.

A first tier tribunal appeal hearing was told while all four online sellers accepted they had breached the secondary ticketing rules in one way or another, they all challenged the imposition of the financial penalties on procedural fairness grounds and said the financial penalties imposed on them were too high.

Judge Alison McKenna heard the sellers were not told they would be fined until August 2018, a year after the test purchases, which was six months out of time for a prosecution.

Barrister Ben Douglas-Jones QC told the appeal evidence supplied by the trading standards team was “woefully unedifying”.

He described one County Hall-based officer as having affected a “Nelsonian blindness” in relation to the free-flow of information between Competition and Marketing Authority and County Hall.

A spokesperson for National Trading Standards said:  “There were a number of elements of the secondary ticketing measures set out in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 that needed to be tested in court.

“While we are naturally disappointed with the outcome, this judgment represents the first practical test of these measures and we will now carefully review the detail of the judgment.”