Fraudulent eBay seller faces prosecution

ebay sham auction

From BBC News 05/07/10:

An eBay trader has been given a community service order and made to pay nearly £5,000 in fines and costs for bidding on his own items to increase the price.

Barrett became the first person in the UK to be prosecuted over online auction fixing after admitting that he used two separate eBay accounts to bid against himself.

Officers found he was selling goods on the auction website under the username "shanconpaul", while bidding on them under the identity "paulthebusman".

He also posted positive feedback from these accounts.

Barrett said he did not realise that bidding on his own items - which included a pie and pasty warmer priced at £127 - was a criminal offence.

A what? Who the hell needs one of those and should it really cost almost £130? And if you did need one and did cost that much, would you really choose to get it from eBay?


The 39-year-old admitted breaches of the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Ian Williamson of international law firm Bird & Bird LLP said anybody bidding against themselves could also face prosecution under the Fraud Act 2006, which is applicable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A conviction under the Fraud Act can lead to a maximum fine of £5,000 per offence and up to 12 months in prison.

In England and Wales, the offence of conspiracy to defraud, which makes it an offence for parties to agree to defraud another party, could cover a situation where people agree to bid on each other's items.

Sham bidding and other dubious concerted practices can be a fundamental problem for all auctions – not just those held online, of course.  As you might expect, eBay have always seemed relatively committed to fighting problems that plague their site – albeit not always that proactively.  This prosecution has got to be welcomed, no matter how you slice it.

But what really surprises me is that eBay is still going as strong as it is, quite honestly. Who the heck uses it anymore? That said, I did find it useful for picking up cheap ink for my inkjet printers in the past and I’m due to place an order. Is my first eBay order of 2010 pending?


  1. eBay is the huge online market place. Sometimes, this feature of eBay turns it into something complex - not only for beginners, but also for the veterans.

  2. I think a pie and pastry warmer is one of those display cabinets that you see in chip shops - the ones with Pukka pies in them.

    I use ebay quite a bit for stuff - particularly printer inks, they're so much cheaper than anywhere else.

  3. Serves the cheat right! On a separate note, I've never bought anything off ebay...

  4. BM - thanks... I'd not thought of that! In which case, it's not such an extortionate price I suppose.

    And you're right, you can snag some real bargains on eBay re. printer ink. :-)

    AW - Well said! ;-)

  5. I bought 2 used BlackBerry phones on eBay (first one died after about a year, but still not bad for c £35). It's also good for plumbing supplies (shower heads etc.) and you can get branded parts cheaper than in DIY shops. Which reminds me, I need a new shower hose...but I digress.

    On the subject of auction cheats, I was watching a county court case last year where there was expert evidence to the effect that bidding up one's own goods is common in live auctions (particularly of land?). The judge expressed considerable surprise at this, but did not mention it might be a criminal offence. (Okay, it was a civil court, but still.)


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