back to article eBay shill bidder gets £5,000 fine

The first UK seller to be prosecuted for artificially inflating prices by bidding on his own eBay auctions has been told to pay £5,000 in fines and costs, and ordered to do 250 hours community service. Judge Peter Benson at Bradford Crown court said he would have jailed minibus firm owner Paul Barrett, 39, if his record were …

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  1. shade82000
    WTF?

    Irrelevant statement

    "Judge Peter Benson at Bradford Crown court said he would have jailed minibus firm owner Paul Barrett, 39, if his record were not clean and the sums of money involved had been larger, PA reports."

    ...just like how an attempted murderer would have got a longer sentence if it was actually murder instead?

    I think that's how the law works, Mr Benson. Top marks for you.

  2. Jinxter
    WTF?

    Does this add up?

    "He used the same contact details and IP address to create each account, the court heard."

    "We continue to invest over £6 million every year in industry leading technology to proactively detect shill bidding."

    "He was investigated by Trading Standards after a buyer complained he had been sold a clocked minibus."

    If the 'industry leading technology' can't detect that the seller and bidder have the same IP address && same contact details what exactly is it doing? Am I missing something here?

  3. Dennis SMith
    WTF?

    "Clocked" minibus?

    What does clocked mean?

    Mileage turned back?

  4. dephormation.org.uk
    FAIL

    Paying the fine.

    The defendant volunteered to pay by Paypal.

    1. Rob 30

      exactly

      it sounds like he was done for breaking the law, as in clocking the bus rather than ebay doing anything. at all. they pretty much admit their 'shill detection' either doesn't work, or they weren't using it, seeing as it took someone reporting the clocking to the coppers for him to be detected.

      but then don't they make their money by taking a cut of the selling price? -not really in their interests to keep it low then it would seem.

    2. Danny 14 Silver badge

      not really

      My wife has the same contact details as my account as we only have the one paypal account. The name is different but all the other details are the same. We also have the same IP.

      Unless the guy SERIOUSLY used his own name each time in which case he truely is a nob.

      1. Cameron Colley

        @Danny 14

        So, are you admitting to shill bidding for your wife or saying that eBay not detecting you and your wife have the same details means that their anti-shill bidding software is working?

        I think what is being said is that if two people with the same IP address, email address, IP address or (especially) PayPay account bid on each other's auctions then that has to be grounds for some kind of suspicion.

        Nothing wrong with having two accounts with the same details (assuming it's not against the Ts&Cs) -- but using them for financial gain is likely to be illegal.

      2. Justicesays
        Badgers

        Outbidding your own wife, you cad!

        But presumably you and your wife don't outbid each other on the same items, unless you have a particularly competitive relationship going there...

        I fail to see how even the most basic of checks, if in place, would fail to match IP address, followed by real world address, in order to flag up the bidding as suspicious.

      3. Steven Mileham
        Heart

        Wife?

        Yes, but I'd imagine you aren't selling stuff to your wife on eBay.

      4. Ash!

        His/Hers accounts

        Ah, but do you routinely bid on each other's auctions? I thought not.

      5. King Edward I
        Stop

        Yes, but...

        How often does your wife bid on stuff you're selling, or vice-versa?

      6. Danny Roberts 1

        yes but how often

        does your wife bid on items that you are selling?

    3. madferret
      Thumb Down

      Read for comprehension

      No, because attempted murder is not murder. If he had *attempted* to steal money, he would have got an even lower sentence, because that is a different offence. Just like if this was the second time he had been convicted he would have got a higher sentence, as the judge said.

    4. Martin
      FAIL

      Murder is a bit of a special case....

      But in general, if you have a clean record, you are more likely to get a lesser sentence. That's exactly how the law works.

      Bet it's how it worked when your parents punished you too.

    5. Freddie

      yes

      mileage turned back.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fraud detection

      Detection of the buyer and seller have same IP address is in itself not suspicious -- there are valid cases, such as being behind a firewall, where eBay detects the firewall IP and not the IP of the PC -- this is typically what happens when you are at work, or how AOL used to operate (all AOL users had the same external IP).

      What I don't understand is that this guy used the same home address for both accounts -- that should have set off some bells -- but hey, it's only eBay.

  5. Ally J

    What about the minibus?

    Do we know if that turned out to have been clocked?

    Poor lad does seem to have been slightly lacking in criminal cunning if all three logins shared the same contact details. You have to wonder if the (alleged) clocking attempt was just as inept....

    1. Adam Foxton
      Joke

      "Yaay! I've got my shiny minibus!

      Wait... is that... is that Tippex on the odometer?"

  6. Dayjo
    FAIL

    So essentially...

    He got busted because he's an idiot.

    A simply proxy and fake name would surely suffice to fool the ebay police?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    W**ker

    I love the excuses that this guy gave. Apparently he didn't know it was against ebay's rules and indeed the law to bid on your own items or leave feedback for yourself. But, hang on, didn't bother reading the rules when he signed up? Even though in clicking that last button you state that you have read the rules.

    F**kwit.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      @ AC ("W**ker")

      No dude, you got it all wrong.

      That little "I agree" tickbox that you have to actually tick... well, it no longer can be implied that you do agree, or actually understood what you're agreeing to, or even if need your nappy changed in amongst all this drool-happy clicky-pointy-look-at-the-pretty-pictures that just "happens" to sign you up to eBay and just "happens" to put your stuff online and just "happens" to have you bidding against yourself. It's all a total coincidence, and that "I agree" thing? Don't mean anything, does it?

      [re: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/21/fsa_contract_guidance/ ]

  8. Tim #3

    Oink. Flap. Oink. Flap.

    "on the rare occasion someone attempts to follow in Barrett’s footsteps, they will be stopped and will face the consequences". Is it possible to be more condescending and more plain wrong too?

    Meanwhile, a big well done to Trading Standards.

  9. Tatsky
    Stop

    Something doesn't sound right here....

    The guy was only caught because someone complained that they bought a clocked mini bus. But Ebay claim this shows how seriously they consider the practice? And they invested £6 million every year in inductry leading technology, which didn't seemingly pick up on the same IP address and contact details.

    Sounds like Ebay trying to get some PR off the back of the case. Surely if they were so shit hot, they would have picked up on the fella, before the consumer with the clocked minibus.

    Seems to me they are happy to turn a blind eye maybe?

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      @ Tatsky

      Come now, should we really trust an organisation that takes a cut of the final price to have our best interests in mind? It's in their interests for prices to be higher.

      1. Tatsky
        Thumb Up

        @heyrick

        Yeah, that was what I was getting at. I think they just turn a blind eye until someone cottons on, and then they say they are all over stuff like this.

        As many have pointed out, a simple check on IP address and contact details of competing bidders should have flagged this up. So what are they spending the £6 million per year on?

        Madness!

    2. TeeCee Gold badge
      Thumb Down

      Turning a blind eye?

      From the eBay Q&A: "If the item sells, you are charged a Final Value Fee. The Final Value Fee is based on the final amount the item sells for."

      In other words: The more it sells for, the more they get paid.

      In other, other words: It's very much in their best interests to turn a blind eye to any devious or underhand practices designed to jack up the sale price.

      In other, other, other words: You can bet your bum that any industry leading fraud detection cobblers they may shout about exists purely as a figleaf to ward off any pesky "aiding and abetting" charges that might otherwise come their way.

  10. Annihilator

    Weirdest law

    As I recall, his defence was that he didn't realise shill bidding was illegal. I'll be honest, I didn't know this until reading this case.

    Seems a rather crazy law to me. Granted it's not very nice (and I'm sure has happened to me), but you choose to keep bidding up to the artificially high price...

    1. Pete 2

      commonplace in "real" auctions, too

      The practice of taking a bid "off the wall" is well documented (just google for it) and appears to be considered acceptable practice in real life. If you've been to more than one or two auctions, you've probably experienced it - though you may not have realised it. Quite how that is different from someone bidding up their own items escapes me - except that one is illegal and the other widespread.

      In that case I can well understand how a defence of not knowing it's illegal could be made and I would think that a half-decent lawyer could make a very convincing argument about it.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      @ Annihilator

      Is it not basically a form of fraud?

      1. Annihilator
        Paris Hilton

        @heyrick

        Yes, it's part of the Fraud Act 2006. Given how recent the law is, I really think a defence of "I didn't know" is quite a good one. Using me as the yardstick, I didn't know.

        Interestingly, I can't find any evidence of it being illegal in "real" auctions, which @pete 2 alludes to. I find that very very odd indeed.

        1. Jimbo 6

          Bidding "off the wall"...

          is totally legal in normal auctions : the auctioneer bids on behalf of the vendor, *if* the item is below the reserve price - because if the auction starts below the reserve price, and if only 1 person is bidding on it, the price would otherwise never get to the reserve.

          So (IANAL but) I reckon you would have a legal defense if you had a reserve price on your ebay items.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          unfortunately

          given the current state of the law, "I didn't know" doesn't really cut it as a defence, as nobody knows the law it's so convoluted.

          Even lawyers only know the bits of the law that they specialise in.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    One can only assume

    That the buyer of the minibus got suspicious when, upon going to collect it, he noticed that it was up on jacks, in reverse and had a brick on the accelerator. . .

    1. James Hughes 1

      That doesn't work.

      Driving in reverse doesn't wind back the clock - you can only do it by running forwards (a lot...)

      One way to spot this on mechanical systems is to check the line up of the digits. Once the odo has gone round the clock, the digits don't line up so well.

  12. Lewis Mettler 1
    Stop

    what about

    What about the ebay policy to just refund the purchase price and dock the sellers account if the seller can not prove actual delivery?

    EBay does not even warn sellers of this policy for international sales. And proof of delivery on international shipments can be expensive even when it is an option.

    Shilling is a problem. And few sellers are a stupid as this guy. But, if is not the only problem that eBay does not solve.

  13. John Murgatroyd

    a minor

    problem. I have spotted the same vehicle advertised by "different" people several times.

    I can only suppose that the practice of bidding-up the price is common as well.

    Leaving bad feedback is getting hard to do, you have to wait a week now.....and even then it seems that sellers with poor feedback just change name....

    The Arthur-Daleys seem to have deserted the back streets in favour of ebay.

    Want a car mister ?

    Don't use ebay !

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fairly common?

    I'd be interested to hear how many people have had the experience of bidding for something, being beaten into second place and then being contacted by the seller to say that the winner has backed out / was a time waster and would I still be interested?

    I wonder if EBay would, and should be interested in such cases for special scrutiny.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Love it

    "eBay shill bidder get £5,000 fine

    A+++ SENTENCE. WOULD USE LAW AGAIN"

    You owe me a double latte with hazlenut syrup.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Actually....

      I have just "sold" two mobile phones, both of which the top bidders after buying decided not to buy as:

      1. "My teenage son bid on this item as he was cross we wouldn't buy him one and actually I don't have the money"

      2. "My girlfriend has just had an accident and gone into hospital and the phone was for her and so now I will not be buying it" (after several days of prevarication over paying for it)!

      In both cases I was left to offer the phones to the other bidders who -by the time the winning bidders got round to admitting they had no intention of honouring their bids- had already bought elsewhere meaning I now have to relist them from scratch!

      Not everyone offering second chance offers are shilling, many will have been screwed around by timewasters (like in my case).

      Personally I will not sell anything of over £50 value on e-bay after my recent experiences.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sounds like it

      I usually don't buy from sellers doing this and would pay a higher price to some other seller or take the Buy It Now option. The problem is Ebay actually proving it to take any action. As so many commentards have pointed out, he was an idiot to be found out - proving that this is common practice but most are able to hide their tracks a bit better.

  16. Gulfie
    Go

    Great fraud detection, eBay

    I'm sorry, how is it that eBay's superb anti-fraud processes failed to spot this? It's one thing for multiple accounts to be opened from one IP, but all with the same contact details? And only bidding on an item from one of the other accounts in the group after a 'foreign' bid?

    It is simple enough to create 'pools' of accounts based on individual account criteria - IP address used for registration, username, email address, post code, phone number... use fuzzy techniques to ignore minor changes where necessary. Identify accounts that appear in two or more groups, then write some alorithms to spot bids placed from one to another but only after a third party bid. Flag these for investigation, again looking at where the item was listed from and where all the bids come from.

    This will spot probably 75% of lazy shills who can't hop around from IP to IP to list and place bids.

    That's £15k consultancy fees, thank you.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    The laws an ass.

    I didn't know this was illegal. I've often done it myself with my girlfriend, as it costs money on ebay to set a reserve. Pretty sure I'm not the only one, and personally I don't consider it to be wrong, as its the other bidders choice if he continues to bid at the higher price.

    Theres something wrong with the law when the guy gets fined £5000 and 250 hours community service, when its pretty likely he would have got off with less for a serious physical assault. eg:

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23771123-girl-trawled-networking-site-to-track-down-the-attacker-who-glassed-her.do

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What law has been broken?

      Maybe someone who IS a lawyer could explain what law exactly has been broken, rather than just the say so of an ebay spokesperson, who, like most company types, will say whatever they're paid to say.

      Or is the ebay reference irrelevant to the whole story and he'd have got a 5000 pound fine & 250 hours if he'd sold the vehicle on Autotrader?

      If it really IS illegal (and no one here has claimed to have been aware of such a law), does that mean that someone using gazumping to maximise the sale price is also illegal?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Gazumping != Shill Bidding

        It's not even similar you numpty.

        Gazumping is where a buyer has made an offer and had it accepted then, before contracts are signed and exchanged somebody else comes along and makes a higher offer. IOW it's like being outbid by another buyer and there's an easy way to deal with that: bid higher. OK it's not nice, it shouldn't really happen but if you were a sensible buyer you made your offer in writing and got the acceptance in writing. That way you have a letter of intent which amounts to a contract, up to a point. That point being that certain conditions of the sale are met.

        Shill bidding is like fake gazumping, that is to say inventing a higher offer in order to try to get your buyer to raise their offer. This is clearly fraudulent and is a crime.

      2. Annihilator

        re: What law has been broken

        Fraud Act 2006

      3. beerandbiscuits

        OK

        I am a lawyer. This is English law, so does not apply elsewhere. It is not advice and should not be relied on without consultation with a solicitor on your own circumstances.

        At law, there is usually nothing wrong with bidding on your own auction provided that you make it clear in the auction conditions that your right to bid on your own item is reserved. The right is specifically reserved in land transactions by the Sale of Land by Auction Act 1867, but is of general application.

        In this case though, there cannot be a reservation because it is against the auctioneer's rules to bid on your own item. In that case, as mentioned above, the Fraud Act comes into play. For what it's worth it would have been unlawful at common law prior to the Fraud Act coming into force, but that's not relevant to this situation. Section 1(1) provides that "A person is guilty of fraud if he is in breach of any of the sections listed in subsection (2)." Section 2(1) states "A person is in breach of this section if he—

        (a)dishonestly makes a false representation, and

        (b)intends, by making the representation—

        (i)to make a gain for himself or another, or

        (ii)to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss."

        A bid is a representation to the auctioneer and to other bidders, and therefore the bid is a fraud under the Act. There are other ways that this behaviour could be fraudulent too.

        As for making offers on property in writing and getting written acceptance, that can amount to a contract, but I would not advise any buyer to do this. At the time of the offer, there will usually have been no investigation of title, or searches to ensure that the property is one you relly want to buy. So you might find that you are contractually bound to buy a property with subsidence, next to a planned 6 lane motorway and the seller doesn't have absolute title to the land.

        1. Grease Monkey

          Words or Digits

          " As for making offers on property in writing and getting written acceptance, that can amount to a contract, but I would not advise any buyer to do this. At the time of the offer, there will usually have been no investigation of title, or searches to ensure that the property is one you relly want to buy. So you might find that you are contractually bound to buy a property with subsidence, next to a planned 6 lane motorway and the seller doesn't have absolute title to the land."

          A lawyer you may be but you clearly don't deal in property since any letter of offer should contain conditions on the offer, for example that the offer is subject to investigation of the title, searches etc. etc. as any solicitor who deals in property will tell you. Nobody with any common sense would simply bang out a letter saying "I will pay you £X for your house." Indeed the solicitor simply handed me a form letter on my first house purchase where you filled in names addresses and amounts and contained conditions including the above and a couple more and also that the offer was subject to a mortgage being secured. Quite a neat thing and it was rolled into the price he charged me for the whole deal. Twenty odd years later I'm still using the same wording. Get a letter in reply simply saying that the seller accepts the offer and should you get gazumped you have the seller for breach of contract at the very least.

          From the fact that it was twenty odd years ago you may have noticed that that particular transaction took place in the days when gazumping was big news and big business.

    2. ChrisC
      Thumb Down

      The *law* is an ass??? I think not...

      "Pretty sure I'm not the only one, and personally I don't consider it to be wrong, as its the other bidders choice if he continues to bid at the higher price."

      Ah, but you're not giving the other bidder a true and fair reflection of how the auction is progressing. Having the final sale price pushed up by other genuine bids is one thing, but having it pushed up just because the seller wanted to make more money whilst evading the additional eBay fees required to set a reserve or a more realistic starting price is quite another.

      Shill bidding artificially increases the perceived value of an item by making it appear more desirable than it actually is, so whilst it's true to say that the winning bidder only won because they chose to bid up to the winning price, it's completely wrong to assume they would have been prepared to bid that highly if they knew no-one else was genuinely interested in the item.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Shill bidding artificially increases the perceived value of an item...

        by making it appear more desirable than it actually is..."

        That would be like every salesman on the planet who "forgets" to mention the ways in which his product doesn't meet your requirements.

  18. mark l 2 Silver badge

    shilling

    I would assume that most shill bidders simply get there friends to put shill bids on an item, use a proxy to place bids or even an place bifs from an there mobile or old dial up account. As ebay makes most of its cash from final value fees and then paypal fees ontop of that they want the items to sell at the highest prices possible so probably don't go out of there way to deter it.

    To be honest ebay is seriously flawed these days, the ability for people to leave sellers negative feedback simply because they don't like the item they have bought with no come back, the limited payment methods that can be offered when selling an item, and the detailed seller rating which penalise anything but a 5 out of 5 ratings as poor. Its about time someone came up with a viable alternative

  19. Grumpy Fellow

    Seen it a lot

    I estimate that about 1 in 10 ebay auctions that I have bid on smell of shill bidding. Someone bids up in small increments until they outbid me, then they cancel their last bid for "entered wrong bid amount". I complained to ebay a few times but nothing came of it. Nowadays I either stick with "buy it now" sales or else make darn sure that I don't bid an auction up beyond the price at which I will be delighted to win it.

  20. mmm mmm
    WTF?

    Eh?

    "While this case was not solely about shill bidding, we hope that it highlights how seriously we consider the practice of artificially increasing prices. This practice is not only prohibited on eBay as it damages the integrity and fairness of trading on our site, but it is also illegal."

    The article makes no mention of eBay finding the fraud, it was the buyer who reported it to trading standards after buying a clocked minibus.

    As far as I can tell, eBay wouldn't have known anything about it, had it not come to the attention of them through this case.

    1. Woodnag

      How to bid on Ebay...

      Put an initial bid on at starting price, unless no-one has bid yet. Then bid your limit plus a silly amount to beat someone with a round number (put 41.23 instead of 40.00) 15 secs before the end.

      1. ewan 3
        Stop

        Almost.

        Just miss out the first step of that post. Never bid until 15 seconds before the end...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Bidding wars

        Simply don't get involved. Early bids worry me anyway, I only bid with a few seconds to go and I can't see the point of doing otherwise. I certainly don't bid twice on the same item. Decide what you're willing to pay, if it goes beyond that amount why bid? If it doesn't exceed that amout then bang your top bid in with ten seconds to go.

        I am immediately suspicious of those auctions where you same the same bidder(s) repeatedly jacking up the price. Why would anybody be doing that with days to go? Surely everybody knows how ebay works? It doesn't work like a traditional auction where bidding stops when nobody wants to bid any higher, so what sort of idiot bids as if it does? Odds are it's not an idiot, it's a con merchant.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        erm?

        Why bother with the initial bid? There's no reason for it at all.

  21. Andy Fletcher

    £6m

    Yeah right. I'll tell you where they get that figure from. It's based on the UK minimum wage, and the number of hours spent by their own users policing their system, because they sure as hell aren't doing it. You've got to hand it to them though for sheer gall. Stating they spend that amount of money, and in the same breath stating the money spenty has achieved nothing because they didn't spot the activity.

    Presumably they didn't make that statement in open court, but outside with their fingers crossed behind their backs.

    I'm pretty horrified by the Judges comment "very, very useful commercial medium". I know these people are meant to be completely out of touch with reality, but surely there's a limit on the level of ridiculousness they are allowed to utter.

  22. Richard 26

    Re: The laws an ass

    "There's something wrong with the law when the guy gets fined £5000 and 250 hours community service, when its pretty likely he would have got off with less for a serious physical assault."

    This is for ten separate offences. I take the point that the assault case guy seemed to get off lightly but that doesn't seem to me to be a good reason to go easy on a serial fraudster.

  23. Martin Lyne

    WHAT?

    They spend SIX MILLION on trying to detect shill bidding?

    Can that really be profitable seeing as artificially inflated prices benefit eBay?

  24. TkH11

    @Soren IP addresses and firewalls

    It's not the firewall that's causing a single IP address to be presented.

    It's the router and NAT.

    But some routers contain integrated firewalls.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
      Stop

      Boundary firewalls nearly always NAT.

      The main reason is so that inside the firewall, you can run private IP address ranges, otherwise all of your internal systems have to have IP addresses obtained from ICANN.

      Only so called 'personal' firewalls, that are really connection filters on your PC do not.

      There are a type of so-called 'transparent' firewalls which firewall without NAT.

      Generally speaking, pure IP routers never NAT. That is not their function.

  25. Philip Cohen
    FAIL

    Ah, Vanessa, have you no shame?

    “We are extremely pleased with Paul Barrett's sentence," said [eBay] spokeswoman Vanessa Canzini.

    "While this case was not solely about shill bidding, we hope that it highlights how seriously we consider the practice of artificially increasing prices. This practice is not only prohibited on eBay as it damages the integrity and fairness of trading on our site, but it is also illegal.

    "We continue to invest over £6 million every year in industry leading technology to proactively detect shill bidding. We will always work closely with law enforcement agencies to ensure that, on the rare occasion someone attempts to follow in Barrett’s footsteps, they will be stopped and will face the consequences.”

    What? Still spinning this “£6 million” nonsense when it is easily demonstrable that shill bidding is rampant on eBay nominal-start auctions and that eBay does absolutely nothing proactively, and very little reactively, about shill bidding fraud. In fact, by their introduction of anonymous masking of bidder IDs they effectively—and knowingly—criminally facilitate such fraud by unscrupulous sellers on unsuspecting buyers, just so that they (eBay) can improve their FVF from such thereby corrupted auctions. Indeed, eBay’s anonymous masking of bidder IDs serves none other than this criminal purpose.

    Supporting documents at

    http://www.auctionbytes.com/forum/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=6502877

    1. Andy 115

      Agreed

      I used to use eBay quite a bit for buying but stopped when they hid bidder identities - before that it was quite easy to spot the shill bidding (not that eBay ever did anything about it when brought to their attention) - I can't see in what way hiding this information "protected" purchasers.

      2 things seem to have happened since (though I doubt related to the hiding of IDs) firstly ever increasing amounts of "voucher" listings and secondly "Buy it Now's" (an completed auctions) priced so high it is cheaper to buy new.

  26. VulcanV5
    Grenade

    Big Nob eBay.

    Years ago and far far away, many believed eBay was A Good Thing.

    Whereas today, they don't because it's not.

    Of the £6 million eBay says it spends on anti-fraud measures -- including shill bidding -- around £5.9 million is probably invested in producing corporate Public Relations news releases about how £6 million is spent on anti-fraud measures.

    Fact: the nob in this case used two almost identical IDs and the same address and IP details.

    Fact: the nob in this case would've been pretty much instantly identified as a shiller by other eBayers a few years ago.

    Fact: eBay stopped other eBayers from identifying and reporting shillers by introducing ID masking.

    Fact: eBay makes its money from commission on items sold, so the higher the price, the higher the commission. Having to act on reports about shill bidding -- it never did anyway, but that's by-the-by -- means acting against eBay's own interests. The introductionof ID masking thus spared eBay both the embarrassment of dealing with shill bidders whilst simultaneously protecting eBay's income stream.

    Fact: eBay didn't spot this shill bidder (or, if it did, then as usual it hoped for the best and ignored it.) even though this particular nob has to be one of the thickest and most amateurish scumbags ever to get an eBay ID.

    Fact: eBay is now desperately trying to exploit this court case to its own advantage in exactly the same way it exploits everyone who uses it to its own advantage.

    Fact: the nob in this case could've been fined £5,000 per offence but wasn't -- so no, El Reg's feedback rating is utterly misplaced: should've been a neg. Not a pozzi.

    Fact: the nob in this case isn't the only nob who uses eBay. By definition, anyone who buys anything on eBay is a nob -- unless they're a shiller, in which case, welcome to eBay.

    Fact: a P&P-free 12-month guaranteed brand new product from Amazon UK will in 90% of cases always be a better deal than the same product flogged second-hand without warranty on eBay and posted to you in a black bin liner at a P&P cost of £4.99p to cover the seller's "inconvenience" in having to, er, pack and post it to you.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Title

    I have to admit I'm confused generally as to how anyone would think that bidding on your own advertised item would not be illegal. On a ethical/moral level, it is clearly inequitous to attempt to increase your profit by bidding on your own item.

    On a legal level, there are various potential offences under the Fraud Act 2006, including fraud through false representation which you could apply to the offence. By making a bid on an item, you are clearly representing that you are interested in the item, and wish to purchase it.

    Clearly if you are advertising the item then unless you are a schizophrenic you are not looking to also purchase it. Your representation is therefore false, and you are making the representation to 'make a gain' using the wording of the Act, by pushing the bidding higher and forcing third parties to increase their bid should they want the item. Whilst you are not forcing the third party to increase their bid, it will obviously happen in certain circumstances, and that is very clearly your intention.

    The case report does not appear to be available on bailii.org so it's uncertain whether it was the trading standards offences or any fraud offence that he was prosecuted under.

  28. Mike Moyle Silver badge
    Coat

    "prohibited on eBay as it damages the integrity and fairness of trading on our site..."

    Now THAT's comedy!

  29. Grease Monkey
    Flame

    Anti-ebay?

    I never understand those who think ebay are evil? If you think capitalism is evil then fair enough: ebay is evil. But if you are selling things you too are a capitalist and by your own definition evil.

    Ebay is a business and is in business to make money. They are totally open about their fees and their business practices. If they had hidden fees then that would be naughty, but they do not have hidden fees and they never have.

    As for sellers doing something bad then that's not ebay's problem unless it is brought to their attention. Imagine somebody selling stolen goods on your local market. Is it up to your local authority to try to discover such practices that? Nope. They are only beholden to do anything about it if it is brought to their attention. Even then it's unlikely the operator of the market could do much more than report it to the police.

    As for basing fees on the final sale price, some commentards seem to feel that is unfair. Why is it unfair when they are totally upfront about that charge. It's made perfectly clear what you are going to pay before you sell anything so why is it a problem. If you don't want to pay more than a certain amount you could put a Buy It Now price on that's nice and low. When you last sold a house what did the estate agent charge you? A flat rate or a percentage of the sale price? It was the latter wasn't it. Standard auction practice is to charge both the seller and the buyer.

    Charges for a reserve or a charge based on start prices are they unfair too? Not at all. There's a sound reason and traditional auctions levy them too. The reason is that a high starting price or a reserve makes the item less likely to sell.

    Nope ebay isn't evil, it's just a business doing what businesses do. If you don't like that then don't deal with them, it will surely be their loss not yours. It seems however that it is a disease of the internet age that customers seem to think they have the right to dictate to companies how they should run their business. The customer is always right? No. It's never been true, those are just weasel words to make the weak of wit feel important. However the customer has, as every, the right to withhold their business. It's not difficult, all you have to do is stay away from ebay.

    While you're at it you can stay away from all those other evil businesses. Microsoft, Google, Ford, the bloke down the corner shop who over charges for a loaf of Warburtons and all the rest. You just can't do it though can you because you just love to complain. It's how you validate your sorry existence isn't it?

    </TROLL>

  30. Philip Cohen
    FAIL

    Here come de judge, at last, and let there be many more ...

    More at:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/wear/10510086.stm

    ‘Sentencing the 39-year-old, Judge Peter Benson, said: “Had you had previous convictions for dishonesty, the result would have been a custodial sentence.

    ‘“This sort of conduct strikes at the heart of that trust which is vital if this very, very useful commercial medium is to continue to operate successfully.”

    Oh, dear me, shill bidding, who would have thought …

    What a shame it is that Judge Benson did not sense the need to look at and comment upon eBay’s clunky auction system mechanism that—eBay well knows—so obviously facilitates and thereby encourages this form of criminal activity.

    ‘A spokeswoman for eBay welcomed the sentence.

    ‘Vanessa Canzini, eBay’s head of corporate communications [aka, Dept of Spin], said: “This practice is not only prohibited on eBay as it damages the integrity and fairness of trading on our site, but it is also illegal.”’

    Have you no shame Vanessa; we all know that eBay couldn’t care any less about shill bidding fraud—it improves eBay’s FVFs!

    We can only hope that one day some competent consumer authority will shine a bright light under this slimy rock.

    And, the proof of the pudding can be found at

    http://www.auctionbytes.com/forum/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=6502877

  31. James Woods

    let me speak from ebay experience

    I have no history of shill bidding however I have been a victim of it. Ebays technology and government intanglements (US anyhow) allow it to run basically like an arm of our government that only catches people to make an example out of them.

    Please allow me to give a few examples.

    I had an ebay account opened probably about 7 years ago. I sold some items and the buyer never paid me. I agreed with the buyer to mark the items as paid however that was a trick so I couldn't say he didn't pay. Long story short I tried to dispute it with ebay to no avail and I refused to pay the seller fees (around $100 USD).

    I did what I could do to dodge the fees, didn't use the account, didn't use the credit cards attached etc...

    Well about a year or so ago I forget about this and open a new ebay account up. They caught me within a few hours with the old account that was several years old, all with different ips/emails, everything was basically different perhaps except the real name.

    So they are able to track and catch practically anything however with shill bidding they do very very little. They do more to protect the shill bidders than anything else.

    I paid my debts to ebay and got back invovlved in it and they refuse to tell you how long an account has been active that you suspect yourself of shill bidding. They *** usernames now so you can't connect the dots and no longer reveal seller contact information like they once did.

    So +1 for ebay making an example out of someone. However they already have the technology to catch all of this stuff and they only use it to chase debts.

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