EBay ‘failing to take action against the scammers’
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