An eBay seller in the U.K. could pay 50,000 pounds in fines for bidding on his own items to increase their sale price, a practice called shill bidding.
Paul Barrett pleaded guilty on Monday to 10 violations of fair trade regulations, each carrying a potential fine of 5,000 pounds. The merchant used the username "shanconpaul" to sell items online and bid on them under the username "paulthebusman" when he thought bids were too low. Barrett also posted positive feedback for himself. While this practice is prohibited, the seller says he didn't know what he was doing was against the law, or even eBay policy.
"eBay let me open up the second account, and I gave all my personal details and home address to do so," Barrett tells reporters. "I realized the price was too low on some things, and put the prices up using the second account. I've never been in trouble before and would like to apologize."
eBay policy prohibits shill bidding to ensure no seller gets an unfair advantage, and defines this practice as "bidding that artificially increases an item's price or desirability."
Barrett is the first person in the U.K. to be prosecuted for shill bidding, according to reports.
"This case shows the very serious penalties people can incur if they attempt to do this," says Vanessa Canzini, an eBay spokeswoman.
According to news reports, officials stumbled upon Barrett's practices while investigating a complaint about a minibus he sold on eBay.
Barrett is expected to be sentenced in May.
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Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.