Dorset Council Trading Standards has prosecuted an online trader who made over a million pounds selling counterfeit vinyl records.
Richard Hutter (55) came to the attention of Dorset Trading Standards after a member of the public complained that they purchased a fake record online. Officers launched an investigation, carrying out test purchases of several records which a representative of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) subsequently identified as counterfeit.
The investigation revealed that Hutter was responsible for the counterfeit record sales through his own website, on eBay and through an American website.
When Hutter’s home address was searched in July 2018 a number of counterfeit records and sleeves were seized, and well as his phone and laptop.
Hutter claimed to have bought the records from fairs across Europe and denied knowing they were counterfeit. However, an examination of his phone revealed conversations in which he was trying to arrange for counterfeit vinyl to be made to pair with record sleeves from elsewhere.
On 4 April at Bournemouth Crown Court, Recorder Richard Tutt sentenced Hutter to four months imprisonment suspended for two years, 250 hours of unpaid work to be completed within 12 months and an electronically monitored curfew between 8pm and 7am for three months.
The investigation revealed that Hutter had benefited by £1.2m from his business; the sum of £373,589, which Hutter was found to have available, was ordered to be forfeited under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Tutt also stated that Hutter would be sentenced to three years imprisonment if he did not pay this within three months.
Hutter’s defence counsel asked that he be given credit for an early guilty plea and said that he was remorseful and unlikely to reoffend.
Cllr Laura Beddow, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Culture, Communities and Customer Services said: “The sale of counterfeit goods damages legitimate business, including local retailers selling genuine products and can confuse and mislead consumers.
“These items were being sold at usual prices for genuine vinyl records and consumers would have been misled by buying these. Our Trading Standards team will take action against sellers of counterfeit goods, including financial investigations to recover proceeds of their crime. The penalties can be substantial.”
Paola Monaldi, Head of the BPI’s Content Protection Unit, said: “Vinyl has seen an incredible comeback in the past few years, with around 5.5 million LPs purchased in the UK alone in 2022. Sadly, this renaissance has been accompanied by a disturbing rise in bootlegging and sales of unauthorised recordings. This is a serious crime that denies artists the rewards for their creativity, exploits fans, and impacts legitimate retail and the record labels that invest in music – but worse, it can feed into other forms of criminality that can impact us all. Over the last three years the BPI has delisted over 100,000 fake items from marketplace platforms and seized over 3 million counterfeit units across the UK – which underlines the scale of the problem.
“On behalf of the BPI and its members, I wish to thank Dorset Trading Standards and all the involved authorities for their valued efforts in closing down this criminal operation. We continue to work closely with online platforms and law enforcement agencies to uncover illicit operations and protect the interests of creators, consumers, and music outlets.”