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Don't Con people on EBAY

Don't Con people on EBAY

Published by the Yorkshire Coast Radio News Team at 2:26pm 5th July 2010.

Trading standards warning as eBay sham bidder is sentenced


North Yorkshire County Council’s trading standards officers have warned people who sell goods on eBay and other auction sites that they risk ending up in court if they take part in so-called shill bidding.


The warning comes after Paul Barratt, 39, from Stanley,  County Durham received a fine of £3,500 and was ordered to undertake 250 hours community punishment at Bradford Crown Court today after pleading guilty to 11 charges under consumer protection laws.


Barrett increased the value of items he was selling on eBay by bidding on them under a separate user name in an attempt to raise prices … a practice known as shill bidding.


North Yorkshire trading standards officers began their investigation, which has led to the first prosecution nationally for shill bidding, after receiving a complaint from a North Yorkshire resident about a minibus advertised on eBay which he was interested in buying for his own minibus business.


Barrett claimed the vehicle had covered just over 55,000 miles.  But once the complainant had bought the minibus he found it had actually done over 132,000 miles.


As a result of their investigation trading standards officers obtained Barrett’s eBay records and discovered he had used two user names to increase the bidding on items he was listing.  As well as the minibus the listing included a pie and pasty warmer, a cash register, refrigerated display counter, two mobile phones, a Land Rover and a Mercedes.


County Councillor Clare Wood, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Trading Standards said: “This case should be a stark warning to people using eBay and other auction sites that if they shill bid or encourage family and friends to place fake bids to push up prices artificially, they too face prosecution. 


“Anecdotally it would appear that shill bidding does take place on eBay and other auction sites and people may not realise that what they are doing is wrong. But such action could lead them to ending up on the wrong side of the law and in court.”


Barrett’s offences were prosecuted under the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008, because some transactions were business to business sales, and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2010, because some transactions were business to consumer sales.


In Crown Court Barrett faced an unlimited fine and up to two years’ imprisonment for each offence.


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