Is an eBay auction style listing an auction?

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A Pennsylvanian woman is facing a fine of up to ten million dollars for selling on eBay. The State of Pennsylvania is prosecuting Mary Jo Pletz for “auctioning” goods on eBay without an auctioneers license. There is a possible $1000 fine for each infringement and Pletz has sold 10,000 items on eBay.

The only good news appears to be that the latest court papers only cite two counts so the fine could be as little as $2000. Also state officials acknowledge that a stay at home mum working to care for her children “was not the best person with whom to make a legal point”.

eBay are of course opposing legislation that would require sellers on the site to apply for a license, although a fair solution could be an “electronic auctioneer’s license” costing about $40 per year. The issue is of course the unanswered question are eBay “auction style listings” auctions?

In the UK it would appear that they are considered auctions, eBay themselves state on the site that “. This would imply that auction style listings are indeed considered auctions to qualify for exemption from the Distance Selling Regulations.

There may be a difference between “auctions” and “internet auctions” which would simplify the discussion, but until that is settled different countries (and even different states within a country) all have their own interpretation of exactly what they are.

9 Responses

  1. Hi Dave, and thanks for the update. I’m guessing that they dropped the case due to the adverse publicity in prosecuting a woman trying to look after her family. No doubt they’ll be looking for less controvesial businesses to target for their test case.

    Regardless the poor woman has lost her business, and that’s not good for anyone. 🙁

  2. It is a total nonsense – if I place goods at auction, it is the auction house that is the auctioneer not me. are the ones that need the license, not Ms Pletz.

  3. I have just noticed that she was a Trading Assistant selling other people’s goods not her own, so this may be subject to different laws.


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