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
    SuperSparky, 2 Feb 2008 @ 2:15pm

    Another example of an outdate, misapplied law.

    Ebay may be in the loophole zone, but only because the laws governing businesses and auctions are very out-dated. Selling on Ebay may be an "auction", but the actual auctioneer is the server, a machine. The server is also a salesperson (salesmachine?) too. If the Ebay seller is an "auctioneer", then the same claim can be made that the server is a "sales employee" too. This "employee" besides acting as an auctioneer, also acts as a price negotiator for those sales with "buy now" etc. etc.

    Lawyers love to argue things which clearly have no application to the laws as they were written, but some self-righteous judge out there will legislate from the bench to solve such a case instead of sending it to the legislature to fix. There's also some egotistical bureaucrat out there refusing to allow someone to not pay for something even if it doesn't meet with the intention of the current laws. SO much for "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," unless of course you have a license to do so.

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