Pennsylvania Sues Woman For Selling Goods On eBay Without A License

from the if-we-don't-understand-it,-it's-probably-illegal dept

A few years back we wrote about states that were passing inexplicable laws requiring anyone selling goods on eBay for others to get an auctioneer's license, something that can be quite costly and sometimes requires a long-term apprenticeship. It appears just such a law is being used in Pennsylvania to go after a very successful eBay seller (via the Agitator). The story in that case is even more ridiculous, since the woman in question only began selling goods on eBay in order to be able to stay at home with her young daughter who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Even though the woman stopped (and got a job outside the home) as soon as the state notified her that she was illegally selling goods, the state is still moving forward prosecuting her. While the state told the reporter that the maximum fine the woman faced is only $2,000, her lawyer read the charges in a way that suggested she could be on the hook for up to $10 million. The whole thing seems pretty pointless. Selling on eBay is quite different from running an auction house. If anything, laws like these seem designed to limit competition in an effort to protect an incumbent industry. As another eBay seller facing similar charges notes in the article: "It's like the buggy-whip manufacturer's deciding whether these newfangled automobile manufacturers can do it without a buggy-whip license."

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  1. identicon
    Celes, 3 Feb 2008 @ 10:37pm

    Re: What is this coming to?

    Perhaps the confusion comes from the phrase "sales tax". In my state that is not the case; it is a "sales and use tax". So the tax covers things that are sold in the state and also things which are used in the state (a used car would be a good example; just try to get out of paying taxes on it). And just like it applies to used items, it also applies to all those lovely online purchases for which you weren't charged sales tax at the time of purchase.

    Is it right? Debatable. Is it enforceable? Not in most cases. But it is the rule, at least in my home state.

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