Fraudulent eBay seller faces prosecution
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?