Ebay Bidder Guilty of Shill Bidding


North Yorkshire Trading Standards have recently prosecuted a man who used a second Ebay account to bid on his own auctions to inflate the sale prices. He also left positive feedback about himself in order to trick people into thinking that he was a reputable dealer. The trader in question, Paul Barrett, inflated bids on auctions selling a variety of items, such as a car and numerous mobile phones. Known as ‘shill bidding’, the practice is illegal in the UK by virtue of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which came into force in May 2008. Mr Barratt claimed not to realise that what he was doing was illegal, but this is not a defence in these types of offences.
Interestingly, Mr Barratt was found by Trading Standards to be a ‘trader’ and his customers ‘consumers’. This was despite the fact that his Ebay account was only very loosely related to his business, which was a minibus hire company. Furthermore, it was relevant to Mr Barratt’s prosecution that he had been engaged in ‘sock puppetry’ – i.e. leaving fake reviews about a company, product or, as in this case, person. Mr Barratt is due to be sentenced shortly and could face a fine of up to £50,000.
This case acts as a reminder that businesses that market their products must do so honestly and fairly. Reviews or posts relating to products or services must be clearly identifiable as marketing messages if appropriate, rather than giving the impression that they have been made by an independent purchaser.

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