back to article Auction watchdog says eBay is illegal in France

A French Government watchdog is trying to shut down eBay in France. The Council of Sales regulates auction houses and has said that the site should be bound by strict French auction rules. The French eBay site does not have one of the Council's permits to operate as an auctions service and so does not have to abide by …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Here, here !

    I hope the French win this one and it sets a precedent so others can follow. eBay is fraud-ridden and they need to spend some of their profit to clean up their sites. Unfortunatley, if they completely cleaned up their operations, they would lose probably a third of their revenue. They are in a tricky spot here, but they brought it on themselves ....

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Yes, but...

    "If you rent your house to someone who sets up an illegal casino in it, then you share part of the responsibility."

    How does that work then?! I rent a flat, if I murder someone in it does that make the landlord partially responsible? If I murdered my landlord would it be classed as suicide as he would have to 'share part of the responsibility'?

  3. Dam

    About the Cour de Cassation


    "A Maltese horserace betting site, Zeturf, had a ruling banning it from operating overturned in July by France's highest court, the Cour de Cassation."

    Just a little precision.

    A case goes like so in France:

    1/ Regular court, where a judgement is given based on the case

    2/ Appeal court, where a judgement is given again based on the case

    3/ Cassation (break) court, where officials either uphold or break the decision of the Appeal court, based on the *proceedings* of the case.

    IE they check that applicable laws were correctly enforced, that proofs were obtained legally... and so on.

    They don't base their decision on the case like the 2 previous courts but rather on its proceedings and the legality of them.

    Be enlightened, my brothers.

  4. Peter Jensen

    Trust the French to get it right

    I am mildly surprised the the "French Government watchdog" (le watchdogue gouvernmental français) has not insisted on spelling Ebay as "yabE". After all, NATO is OTAN in French, UNO is ONU and AIDS is SIDA. I believe the United States is EU (Etats Unis) which is, of course, a neat way of extending the realm of the EU, or should I say UE (l'union europeen)

  5. Andy Worth

    Damned right!

    Ebay SHOULD be liable for fake goods sold through it. They make huge money from commissions on sales through the site yet claim they have no responsibility for it. Perhaps if more places take this stance, Ebay will be forced to do something about the widespread corruption going on through its site. At least they should be liable to have to take "reasonable measures" to ensure user safety.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope the frogs win ....

    ... over years, I've got sick & tired with eBays "nothing to do with us guv" attitude. They are quick to charge, and even quicker to offload problems onto someone else - not them, oh no!

  7. Will

    Too damn right

    You have to admire the French for this kind of action.

    Why should be have our rights pissed away by the likes of eBay/PayPal who just assume they are above the law?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    And if the corresponding law doesn't exist outside France ...

    Isn't it time that one was CREATED ?

    We have the Consumer Credit Act, which makes credit card companies liable for the default of merchants that accept credit cards.

    So why not a EU directive that all countries must adopt a rule making online selling houses such as ebay jointly liable for default by their enrolled sellers, either through failure to supply goods or failure to honour statutory warranties such as SOGA.

    A quick and simple answer, and one which would overnight force ebay to more thoroughly verify the identity and trustworthiness of its sellers.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    What a lot of hate against e-Bay. What I'm curious to know is when our Government passed a law forcing us to use e-Bay on a regular basis. What? What's that you say? They haven't passed such a law? Oh, so it's not compulsory to use e-Bay then? Gosh, well that surely must mean then that if you don't like e-Bay, you can choose not to bloody well use it!

  10. My Opinion

    Not true.

    "They charge a commission to the seller and a commission to the buyer."

    Ebay charge the seller various fees, yes. But they charge the buyer nothing. Even if the buyer pays using PayPal it is the seller who then pays again (3.4% or whatever of the amount received).

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    On the other hand?

    "Ebay will comply with all local regulations and seeks to conform to law of the land in whichever land it chooses to operate."

    Now wouldn't that be a refreshing approach?

    I too hope that the French win as I've seen far too much on ebay that indicates a very poor "buyer beware" approach to things. The upshot is that it (explicitly/implicitly/tacitly or actively) supports many things including stolen goods and software piracy.

  12. system

    New way of buying and selling?

    "EBay has invented a new way of buying and selling, which has been adopted by 10 million French people, and which is not at all the same as that of auction houses,"

    The totally brand new, never seen before, highly innovative method of selling being to have auctions then. The same sort of auctions that have been going on without ebays interference for millenia.

    As for arguing that they are not at all like auction houses, do they really believe that one? Their core business is the easy organisation of public auctions, sounds like an auction house to me.

  13. Morely Dotes

    @ My Opinion

    You are correct about eBay charging the seller, not the buyer; however, in those cases where the seller has defrauded the buyer, eBay has then profited from fraud which was committed by a person acting as their "agent" in legal terms (IANAL but I've watched some on TV).

    The bottom line is that every time eBay allows a sale which is fraudulent, and does not refund the buyer's money, eBay is guilty of being an accessory to fraud.

  14. Ian Nice
    Thumb Up

    I like ebay!

    I dont get the anti Ebay feeling here, if you dont like the company or their service dont buy from them! Only way to change a company is to vote with your feet, if everyone stopped buying then they would have to change.

    I like ebay, it means i get to buy stuff cheaper than if i bought it from somewhere else. I even got some fancy christmas lights in the post from from them today!

    To be honest I dont understand what the French Government are up too, are they upset that it isnt a French company doing it?

  15. Brett

    Not one for government regulations

    But I am a bit sick of these, mainly American, companys only following USA laws (if they do). Why if I am stupid enought to by from iTunes do I get the USA classifications and "explicit" ratings? The store *knows* I am in Australia yet won't follow my local rules. Ebay, Facebook, myspace et al are all the same.

  16. BitTwister

    @Here, here !

    Where, where?

    "Hear, hear" originated in 18th century British parliament as a contraction of 'hear him, hear him' and is often used to express approval, although calling "here, here" might get a dog running back to you...

  17. Henry Keultjes

    The French are catching on to eBay's sales tax evasion issues.

    In Ohio, an auctioneer is liable for the sales tax. Obviously it is more difficult to enforce that in a state court against eBay than it is enforcing it against Ohio sellers but, just like in France, auctioneers can make that an issue with each state prodding authorities to enforce the laws we have.

    Henry Keultjes

  18. My Opinion

    @ Ian Nice

    "if you dont like the company or their service dont buy FROM THEM!"

    "I even got some fancy christmas lights in the post from FROM THEM today!"

    Err - but you didn't buy FROM EBAY. You bought from a seller who paid eBay to run their auction (or to list their item Buy It Now item).

    And if it all went wrong then eBay would show diddly-squat interest in your problems. They'd just happily keep the seller's fees.

  19. Steve


    @Anonymous Coward, I think you'll find that the Sale of Goods Acdt (or SOGA as you put it) does not apply to private sellers. Hence why dodgy car traders try to advertise cars as private sales. You have no recourse in law from a private seller.

    @My Opinion, good job of self contradiction. You are quite right that Ian Nice didn't buy from eBay but from an independent seller. So, why exactly should eBay be responsible? If you go to a car boot sale and buy a DVD that you later find to be fake, you can't claim against the boot sale organiser. If you buy a faulty radio from a Currys shop in a shopping centre, you can't claim against the shopping centre owner. In both cases, the car boot seller paid the organiser for the plot and Currys pay the centre owner rent for the shop. AFAICS, eBay is the same, it is a marketplace not a retailer.

  20. Mr Larrington
    Paris Hilton

    Colour me baffled

    If you don't like Comet, or Ikea, or Tesco, then don't go there. How is egay any different?

    I could potentially save shedloads of cash by buying Stuffs on ebay, but I choose not to because it's riddled with pikeys.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What I want to know is that do the auction houses in World of Warcraft come under French law since the European servers are in France?

  22. Alan Parsons


    I have been tempted on more than one occasion to add a line to /etc/hosts that reads: in order to curb my better half's propensity to purchase tat via this particular auctioneer. "It must be at their end, darling - the rest of the web seems fine.."

  23. Claus P. Nielsen

    Re: Blimey & I Like Ebay

    Arguing that people can just stop using a particular service (like Ebay) if they don't like the way it operates is essentially arguing for deregulation.

    Personally I like to live in a society, where I can more or less trust a shop or broker - or where the government will help me when I can't.

    You guys may be intelligent enough to not be "taken" by crooked merchants, but a lot of people are not, so the government try to protect them to a certain degree.

    But besides this, there is also the issue of businesses operating on equal terms.

    If every other auction house in France has to operate under these rules and Ebay doesn't, then that gives Ebay an unfair advantage, so the French government really only has the option of either enforcing the law against Ebay or abandoning the law alltogether.

  24. John Parker
    Thumb Up

    I'm with the CESMs on this one

    I'm with the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys on this one - if only we cuold have this happen in the UK too.

    eBay are such arseholes when it comes to holding up their end of Paypal Buyer Protection, they make insurance companies who don't wanna pay out look good.

    Ho hum.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    eBay/PayPal promoting organised crime

    So if eBay is 'just a facilitator', why don't they swap full seller/buyer details at the end of an auction.

    I just had a computer item that was clearly not going to work as it wasn't complete. I filed a claim and eBay/PayPal wanted me to report it at the local police station, faxing a copy of the report back to them. This I tried and was told by the Police that they could only do this if I had the full sellers name and address.

    eBay/PayPal refused to let me have the sellers details, which I did explain the situation back to them via the claims department FAX.

    At the end, I lost my claim as I didn't provide the required Police report !!

    I now can't file for a 'small claim' through the court as I don't have the sellers details, just a hotmail address.

    I'm sure If I claim through my credit card, I'll have my account closed as happened to one of my friends.

  26. Anthony


    Same as with social networking sites, MMOs, mobile phone ringtune services.. if you don't want this stuff, don't sign up for it.

    Ripped off customer "I got ripped off"

    Ebay "So? Don't use us again then"

    Ripped off customer "Don't tell me what to do!"

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    bah humbug

    I love the style and class of the "cheese eating surrender monkeys".... the UK or US it would be an "illegal massage parlour" or "crack den", but no the French have an "illegal Casino".... maybe they just movein differnt circles?

    "They charge a commission to the seller and a commission to the buyer. These people cannot say they are responsible for nothing at all. If you rent your house to someone who sets up an illegal casino in it, then you share part of the responsibility."

    But, yes.... 'bout time some one halued up this flagrant abuse and holds ebay to account and not let them get away with their CIA style "plausable deniability"

    whats gets me, is that beacuse there are laws restricting the sale of goods in germany and france they apply these across ebay sales in europe for fear of being sued by minority groups1 - yet there is a whole raft of goods sold via ebay from the US or China that are illegal in most of the civilised world but for which they do nothing about!

    if they banned the sale of all things that where illeagal in all contries there would be nothing to sell!? - still i suppose drawing the line at body parts is fair enough

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    death and taxes

    Surely people can be miffed at ebay and still use it?

    i am miffed ad paying a host of excessive taxes and taxes upon taxes, yet practiclly I still have to pay tax on my earnings, and then what is left gets taxed again with various VAT + Sales Taxes!

    there are loads of people who hate Micro$oft but are complled to use them!

    I would also like to use an alternative train company for my commute to work,m except i cant as teh SW TRains have a monopoly on the stations I use!

    I would also like to pay for my food in buttons or beans, bud sadly the great imperial wal*mart(ASDA) refuses to play ball!

  29. Steve

    Ironic, isn't it

    that eBay was founded by a guy born in Paris...

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    French got it right...

    hope they shut it and the rest of the world follows the suit.

  31. Anonymous Coward


    "If you buy a faulty radio from a Currys shop in a shopping centre, you can't claim against the shopping centre owner."

    Yes but taking the example of fraudulent or illegal goods, the shopping centre owner and the car boot sale organiser etc., would have to show that they had acted in good faith, that they were not aware that there was criminal activity going on and that there was no reasonable way they could have known - otherwise this begins to stray from an individual seeking civil remedies to those that become criminal where the police become interested...

    A car boot sale organiser who knowingly 'turns a blind eye' to dodgy sellers and takes a handful of cash to boot ('scuse the pun), could well be prosecuted if they could be shown to be complicit in facilitating the trafficking of dodgy goods.

    In the case of eBay, being such a big player, it is not unreasonable to expect it to take steps to ensure that that type of activity is minimised - that's why we have regulations in the first place - to protect society - and sometimes it means requiring those organisations with the power to do something, to do it - even if they don't want to. Usually it will cost money, which the "God of Profit" won't like, and therefore we use regulations to make it even more expensive for them to do nothing, and the "God of Profit" is appeased!

  32. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: Warcraft

    "What I want to know is that do the auction houses in World of Warcraft come under French law since the European servers are in France?"

    The two principles that seem to be operating here are...

    "If you make money out of it, you're in the legal firing line."

    "If it quacks like an auction house, it is an auction house."

    Ebay are certainly in trouble on both counts. Does WoW (and I mean WoW, not the individual punters involved) make real money out of its auctions?

    (BTW: The claim about "totally new way of selling" is truly up there with the best of the US patent system. I've never used Ebay, but if this is representative of their beliefs, they are a pernicious evil that must be expunged from society.)

  33. Syren Baran

    Auction house or flea market?

    My first thought would have been the later.

    You find all kinds of stuff on a flea market, both from private people and from professional sellers. You can haggle the price and if someone walks by while the seller considers the offer and bids more, well, they´ll get it.

    Nobody would ever consider suing the city (or whoever rented the space to the sellers) if something didnt work.

    Sure, the scale is different, Ebay is large and thus the risk of fraud is higher. But honestly, what is Ebay supposed to do, have every item offered for sale sent to them to check it first?

    That said, i´ve never sold anything on ebay and only bought something there 2 or 3 times in my life.

  34. James StewartNewman

    EBay is server farm.....

    EBay is an auction site... but who is the auctioneer?

    EBay is a server farm running software. EBay users are the auctioneers if they are in France they have to respect French law. If they are in Ohio they have to dodge taxes as is after all the American way :)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Yes, but...

    >>How does that work then?! I rent a flat, if I murder someone in it does that make the landlord partially responsible? If I murdered my landlord would it be classed as suicide as he would have to 'share part of the responsibility'?

    sounds interesting, just need someone in France to try it and let us know the out come :)

  36. Matthew


    If was closed down what's stopping The French using or any of the others, it wouldn't' really make any difference to the service.

    Every time something is uber successful there are green-eyed monsters wanting to close it down/ban it.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Making eBay

    play by the rules, sounds like an excellent idea it isn't just France that has rules on auction-houses it's like Paypal they get a pass on banking regulations why? It would indeed require some financial involvement and increased vigilance on the part of EBay but that's the breaks, who said business was always cheap and without risk to get into. Why the difficulty money is money, banking is banking and auctions are auctions it's not virtual. If people are to have confidence in network services this insistence on allowing wild west, no holds barred fleecing of the visitors/sellers needs to stop. I am still trying to figure out why they weren't regulated to start with.

  38. William Bronze badge

    Of course they would..

    Funny how I hear claims that the organiser of a car boot would not be prosecuted if one of the people on their stall were selling stolen goods, or that the owner of a shopping centre would not be prosecuted if one of the shops were selling stolen goods.

    Well, they most certainly would if the owner of organiser of the car boot of the owner of the shopping centre were receiving a "cut" from every stolen good sold.

  39. sauerkraut
    Thumb Down

    general principle

    shut them frog eaters up and let ebay do their business.

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