EBay ‘fail­ing to take ac­tion against the scam­mers’

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - FRONT PAGE -

EBay has been ac­cused of fail­ing to pro­tect users from scams and dodg­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the num­ber of fake list­ings it al­lows to be posted on its web­site. Shop­ping scams of all kinds are rife on­line. More than 42,000 re­ports were made to Ac­tion Fraud, Bri­tain’s fraud re­port­ing ser­vice, last year. The av­er­age loss was £1,349.

Yet a pro­tec­tive le­gal frame­work in­tro­duced al­most 20 years ago and its own terms and con­di­tions al­low eBay, the multi-bil­lion-pound on­line mar­ket­place, to dis­tance it­self from the prob­lem.

The e-Com­merce Di­rec­tive 2000 states that as long as the “ser­vice provider has no knowl­edge or con­trol over the in­for­ma­tion that is trans­mit­ted” it is not li­able for the ac­cu­racy of the list­ings. But sites must “act ex­pe­di­tiously” when “re­mov­ing or dis­abling ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion on ob­tain­ing ac­tual knowl­edge”.

Sarah Miles, a part­ner at Nock­olds, the law firm, said eBay “ob­vi­ously re­lies” on this part of the di­rec­tive as a “get-out clause” when ac­cused of fail­ing to com­bat fraud.

EBay’s own terms and con­di­tions also al­low it to shrug off re­spon­si­bil­ity. It said that although it used “tech­niques” that aim to ver­ify users, it was a “dif­fi­cult” task.

There­fore the com­pany says it is “not re­spon­si­ble” for en­sur­ing “the ac­cu­racy or truth­ful­ness” of users or the in­for­ma­tion they pro­vide.

Thou­sands of in­di­vid­u­als have joined Face­book groups, such as eBay Ve­hi­cle Scam Alerts, which has more than 5,000 mem­bers, or fo­rums to warn oth­ers. They pub­li­cise sus­pi­cious email ad­dresses used by crim­i­nals on eBay and to re­port scam list­ings, of­ten fea­tur­ing high-value items such as Af­ter Colin Labouchere lost £1,500 try­ing to buy an or­gan on eBay, he dis­cov­ered that the fraud­ster’s email ad­dress had been re­ported on­line months ear­lier.

Mr Labouchere, 79, spot­ted a Roland C-330 Clas­sic or­gan listed on the site at the start of April. Within the list­ing was an email ad­dress, which is against eBay’s rules. This is to en­sure that deals are not taken “off plat­form”.

But the fraud­ster had man­aged to by­pass the mar­ket­place’s sys­tems by in­clud­ing the in­for­ma­tion in an im­age.

Crim­i­nals will try to get buy­ers to con­tact them di­rectly so that eBay can­not in­ter­vene and they avoid de­tec­tion.

The list­ing dis­ap­peared but Mr Labouchere emailed the seller and they agreed on £1,500, which the seller in­sisted was paid “through eBay”.

Mr Labouchere, who said he was a reg­u­lar user of eBay, re­ceived what ap­peared to be an in­voice from eBay. He said he hadn’t seen one be­fore but be­lieved it was gen­uine, and pro­tected, so went ahead and paid by bank trans­fer. The seller said he would ar­range for a delivery the next week.

But when the or­gan didn’t ar­rive as ex­pected, and the fraud­ster stopped re­spond­ing to emails, Mr Labouchere knew he’d been conned.

He re­ported the crime to his bank, Ac­tion Fraud and eBay and found that some­one had posted a list of email ad­dresses used by eBay scam­mers on the Face­book page of Ac­tion Fraud in De­cem­ber last year, in­clud­ing the one he had cor­re­sponded with.

Mr Labouchere said: “If eBay had taken due care it would have picked up that the email ad­dress had been as­so­ci­ated with an­other scam be­fore.”

Vic­tims and ex­perts say the auc­tion web­site could do much more to thwart on­line fraud­sters. Amelia Mur­ray re­ports

Peter Barrett spot­ted a num­ber of sus­pi­cious list­ings for around 20 clas­sic cars on eBay last Oc­to­ber, all with a start­ing price of 99p.

The seller ex­plained in the post he would of­fer a rea­son­able quick-sale

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