eBay Found Negligent after Failing to Heed User Warnings
By Ina Steiner
eBay was found negligent and will have to pay damages to an Austrian buyer who purchased gold bars from German PowerSeller "ml-agentur" on eBay in September 2007 but never received them. A member of watchdog group Falle-Internet.de testified in a recent trial in a lawsuit brought against eBay by the victim.
According to the organization, "One of the main arguments of eBay's lawyers in court was the (plaintiff) having been negligent. After explaining on more than 3 pages of their written pleading why eBay under no circumstances could have seen the risk imposed by the seller at hand, they spent another 3 pages on arguing that the buyer should have instead."
Readers were indignant when they read of eBay's lawyers' argument that the plaintiff could have read the warnings about the PowerSeller on the discussion forum before making his purchase. "A few users are working really hard, and are being ignored and boycotted by eBay, and when eBay needs them, their reports are used as arguments."
In a German-language statement, Falle-Internet.de said eBay allowed the seller in the case to continue to sell with the PowerSeller label, even though users had posted warnings about the seller in eBay's Trust and Safety forum.
Perhaps more striking was the fact that Falle-Internet.de, well known to eBay, had written about the risky and highly speculative nature of gold trading on eBay in a July 22, 2007 post and specifically described ml-agentur as a risky seller - 2 months before the plaintiff purchased the gold bars from him.
A spokesperson for Falle-Internet.de said an eBay employee testified of internal organizational problems that led to it taking them "several weeks" until responsible eBay employees across departments could meet to consult on measures concerning the seller.
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About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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