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
    Rose M. Welch, 4 Feb 2008 @ 5:51am

    Caveat Emptor? I think not.

    Caveat emptor (or buyer beware) is the rule with in-store purchased. It is *not* the rule with online purchases. There are very strict laws about on-line sales, and the FTC, which prosecutes such claims, takes the view of a *reasonable consumer* and decides all cases with a serious slant toward the consumer, in response to the serious number of Internet scams. They wish to encourage the on-line marketplace by making the Internet a safer place to shop. Nowadays, even having a disclaimer with all the fine print (What the big print giveth, the little print taketh away,. rofl.) is not surety that you are in compliance and will avoid prosecution. Granted, though, the FTC readily admits that they prosecute products that cause bodily harm *first*, such as diet pills with outrageous claims, fake Viagra, etc. So you probably won't ever be fined for your fake diamond scam without help from the state that you or your victims live in.

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