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."

Filed Under: auction license, pennsylvania
Companies: ebay

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 3 Feb 2008 @ 6:51am

    Amazon Does It Better.

    RE: #1, #32, #33 by Hellsvilla's Disciple

    Hellsvilla's Disciple is of course correct. I use Amazon Marketplace, mostly to buy used books, and for various other odds and ends. Amazon does make an explicit linkage between sale transaction and money transfer, and thereby becomes the reseller of record. In effect, Amazon gets paid for assuming legal responsibility. Amazon's model is not technically an auction. That is, the Amazon seller is expected to have a fairly good idea of what goods are worth, and quote a price accordingly. If the goods do not sell, they can go back later and quote a lower price. E-bay allows this as an auxiliary mode ("Buy it Now"), but it is less widely used. Implicit in Amazon's thinking is that used goods are generally not worth very much, and may even be worthless. If an out-of-production item were truly valuable, the manufacturer would have resumed production, ergo, an out-of-production item is not likely to be worth very much. E-bay, on the other hand, is designed around the assumption that yard sale items are potentially worth a lot of money. Predictably, that kind of model attracts con-men.

    Now, of course, there are improvements which Amazon could, and should, make. For example, Amazon could purchase "indicia" postage from the post office on behalf of the seller, and Amazon could lobby the post office to improve its tracking system. This would give Amazon independent knowledge of when goods had been shipped. Similarly, Amazon could furnish the seller with a supply of envelopes, boxes, etc. bearing a distinctive Amazon Marketplace logo ("Smith & Jones, an Amazon Marketplace trading partner," or words to that effect). These kind of things have no "street value," and the dishonest seller would have less opportunity to get his paws on actual money, while, at the same time, it would be possible to reduce the honest seller's out-of-pocket expenses, save him paperwork, etc.

    Amazon is rather like Google. They are both companies which succeed, not because they are so talented, but because their competitors are so dumb. "Don't be Evil" is such a simple idea, but it seems to be beyond the comprehension of most dot-com businessmen.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.