An online operation that has failed to deliver promised Beijing Games admission tickets to hundreds of consumers worldwide unexpectedly closed down Monday, hours before a federal judge in San Francisco approved a restraining order aimed at halting the websites.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White's order prohibited Xclusive Leisure & Hospitality Ltd. from using more than a dozen website names, which include www.beijingticketing.com, www.beijingolympic2008tickets.com and olympic-tickets.net.
White also prohibited the company from using any Olympic marks, such as the familiar rings or the Beijing Games logo, to market tickets.
The International Olympic Committee and U.S. Olympic Committee had gone to court seeking to shut down websites they said had ripped off hundreds of consumers around the world who paid thousands of dollars thinking they were buying Olympic tickets.
Some consumers held out hope in recent days that tickets would still arrive. But those who did business with www.beijingticketing.com reported receiving a mass e-mail Monday morning that confirmed their worst fears. The company acknowledged that it doesn't have any Olympic tickets to distribute -- including the opening ceremony admissions it had been selling for as much as $2,150.
The e-mail from "Alan Scott" told beijingticketing.com customers that "our suppliers have not been able to honour their commitments to us in supplying tickets for the Summer Olympics, despite having received written assurances from these suppliers. We are given to understand that they have placed themselves in to bankruptcy, despite having been paid in full by our company."
That assertion angered some customers who had grown increasingly frustrated in recent weeks because the company had stopped answering its telephones and responded to e-mails.
"It's a classic shell game," said Jonathan Murray, a British citizen who paid $4,950 for Beijing Games admission tickets.
The e-mail also advised customers to "immediately" seek refunds from their credit card companies and said that a call center would be created "that may be of further assistance."
But calls to a London telephone number that had been listed on the website did not go through Monday. Similarly, e-mails sent to the sales department at beijingticketing.com were bounced back as undeliverable.
USOC officials on Sunday used Internet blogs and chat rooms to advise consumers who'd done business with beijingticketing.com and another website that failed to deliver tickets to check with an authorized Beijing Games ticket seller in the U.S. that had received "an additional small allocation of tickets."
The USOC advised consumers to check with New Jersey-based CoSport, which operates online as www.cosport.com. The USOC, however, cautioned consumers that no additional opening or closing ceremony tickets are available. Attorneys representing the Olympics last week won a court order that shut down another website ( www.beijing-tickets.com) that allegedly was run by the same company behind beijingticketing.com.
Although web chat rooms and blogs are filled with speculation over who is operating the websites, Olympics officials have yet to say whom they believe to be behind the websites.
Jim Moriarty, a Houston trial lawyer who spent $12,000 on Olympic tickets wonders why it took so long for Olympic officials to intervene.
"If I try to sell T-shirts with the Olympic rings on them, the USOC would have the police knocking on my door at 3 a.m. with a cease and desist order," Moriarty said.
"The IOC and USOC sued because they want to protect their logos, to collect damages for themselves," Moriarty said. "They want money from these websites, but not because they want to help us. Nobody is doing anything for the victims."