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
    Boring fence-sitter, 4 Feb 2008 @ 6:04am

    On the one hand this on the other hand that

    Actually seems to me the truth is probably somewhere in between. There are arguments for regulating ebay, but regulators seem to often get captured by the big players as a means for stifling competition (see also much of intellectual property law). Requiring folk to take an expensive course to sell stuff on ebay seems to suggest this is a case where that may have happened.

    But my gripe with Ebay is that its chock full of obsessive-compulsive bidders, who will always 'snipe' you at the last moment purely for the pleasure of 'winning' - even if it means them paying more for the item than it costs new.

    I've several times been outbid for something by someone who clearly doesn't care that its available cheaper than their bid from normal retailers.

    It makes it great for sellers but quite useless for sane buyers. Most of the time I find items are available cheaper, often new, e.g. on Amazon marketplace (where its the sellers who compete to undercut each other), than they go for on Ebay. Sometimes Amazon itself is cheaper than the ebay reserve price. At least for cds and computer games. Consequently I haven't bought anything on ebay for years.

    I mess the old yahoo auction site. There sellers seemed to outnumber bidders, so you rarely had to bid against anyone!

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