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eBay bidding fraud & online liability legal issues

Posted by Steve Vondran | Dec 29, 2014 | 0 Comments

Vondran Legal® - eBay litigation, insurance claims, seller fraud and other issues.  Call us at (877) 276-5084.


Have you ever found an item you wanted to purchase on eBay and started bidding on it?  Then, you get other notifications telling you someone else has outbid you.  Then, when an other buyer has officially outbid your highest bid (for example, by $5 or more), you back out of the bidding process, saying to yourself, “Fine, let them have it.,” only to be emailed by the seller informing you that “YOU WON AND ITS TIME TO PAY FOR THE PRODUCT.”

But then you say, “What are you talking about? Someone else outbid me.”  Then the eBay power seller says, “No, they backed out – you won – please pay for the product.”  

When someone tries to do this to you there is probably good cause to believe they are engaged in eBay fraud by having a fake account run up the bidding so that you bid higher on the product, thus achieving a higher sales price, albeit in a manipulated marketplace.  Basically the eBay or online auction power seller is rigging the marketplace.  That's where our internet law litigation attorneys can take over.

Other types of claims involve a seller who fails to tender a product you purchased.  If the seller lives in California or Arizona and assuming it is not a scam you should have been aware of, we may able to assist.

Another type of claim relating to eBay transactions is insurance bad faith. If you purchase transaction fraud insurance, and the seller refuses to convey the product an insurance company may be obligated to pay the claim.  When they don't, under California law, this could amount to "bad faith insurance" and lead to a huge claim for punitive damages.

Contact us to discuss if this has happened to you.

Common types of eBay fraud and misrepresentation that may require you to send a cease and desist demand letter (or else filing a small claims case, or civil lawsuit seeking money damages, including punitive damages designed to punish and deter future misconduct):

1.  eBay bid rigging / fake bids through third party accounts designed to drive up the price on listed goods;

2.  False advertising of products that appear good on the surface, as depicted on the website, (but which then arrive in a shape, condition, or form not as described, for example, the eBay seller sends you a completely different product from what you thought you ordered).  Once time I ordered a Charleston Lookouts Baseball Batting Helmet from a “power seller” on eBay.  The seller, looked like a legitimate online retailer, and I wanted this specific helmet to send to a friend in San Francisco so he could use the helmet in his band.  The seller took my order and my money, but when it came time to ship me the product, he told me that he was “all out of the Lookout helmets”.  I said DUDE, YOUR HOMEPAGE SAYS YOU HAVE SEVEN OF THOSE BASEBALL HELMETS FOR SALE AND IN STOCK.

In short, the eBay seller, in my opinion, was a thief basically trying to take my money with no intent to sell me the product he advertised for sale in an a manner agreed to on eBay.  The guy was a fraudster and I sent him a cease and desist letter, which surprised him and he informed me (“who would go to the trouble to do that”), and I said I would.  You better stop what you are doing before you end up in Court depending your deceptive practices which violate several state laws dealing with online marketplaces.  His attitude says it all – most eBay sellers think they can just say sorry, offer a refund and continue about waiting for their next victim as they hide anonymously behind their computer.

I informed this eBay seller, as I will be informing you now, of various legal theories you could look into to try to hold this type of eBay trickster liable in a Court of law.  In some cases, as discussed below, an aggrieved party Plaintiff may have cause to seek to litigate against eBay, who has a “deep pocket” to go after as opposed to most “power sellers.”

How to hold eBay buyers or sellers honest, and sue them in court if they continue with their game-playing, lies, deceit and fraudulent conduct online.

1.  Your first step is to consider sending a written cease and desist letter to the eBay fraudster.  Let them know that you know what they are up to and that you are going to file a civil lawsuit for fraud and violation of California Consumer Legal Remedies Act if they don't stop doing what they are doing.

2.  If that cease and desist letter does not work out, then you should consider filing either a small claims lawsuit (up to $10,000) and/or a civil lawsuit alleging your fraud, false, or unfair business practices, violation of CLRA etc as the case may be.

These are the main avenues to consider.  Of course, some people would consider acts of fraud over the internet to be an example of mail and wire fraud, and make make criminal complaints to the proper authorities (ex. FBI, Postmaster General, etc.)

Cease and Desist letter Counterfeit Goods eBay

Another thing that happens on eBay is that the seller advertises and sends you a “falsely autographed” piece of sports memorabilia, or other counterfeit goods (that often infringes on another companies valuable trademarks – for example false Louie Vatton purses or wallets).  These types of fraudsters must also be stopped and a cease and desist letter demanding a full refund, damages, etc. should be considered, especially against a fraudulent “power seller.”  There are a lot of counterfeit and knock off goods originating from China and Hong Kong according to reports I have heard so you need to be careful when purchasing items from abroad if you are in the United States.

Can I hold eBay responsible for the conduct of the seller on the website?

Keep in mind, in most cases, eBay may have a claim to immunity such as one California Court held in a sports memorabilia case Gentry v. eBay, Inc., 99 Cal. App. 4th 816, 819-20, 121 Cal. Rptr. 2d 703, 706 (2002):

“Lars Gentry, Henry Camp, Mike Hyder, James Conboy, William Pommerening, and Michael Osacky (appellants) appeal a judgment of dismissal entered after the trial court sustained eBay, Inc.'s (eBay) demurrer to appellants' second amended complaint without leave to amend. In that pleading, appellants alleged eBay violated California's Autographed Sports Memorabilia statute (Civ.Code, § 1739.7) by failing to furnish a certificate of authenticity to persons who purchased autographed sports-related collectibles through its web site. Appellants also alleged eBay was negligent and engaged in unfair business practices under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) (Bus. and Prof.Code, § 17200 et seq.) based on its failure to supply such certificates as well as its acts in distributing false certificates, permitting other false representations to be placed on its web site, and making its own false or misleading representations. In part, the trial court ruled eBay was not a dealer within the meaning of Civil Code section 1739.7 and appellants failed to plead around the statutory immunity provided by section 230 of title 47 of the United States Code (hereinafter section 230), which otherwise protected eBay's conduct. Appellants contend the trial court erred in sustaining eBay's demurrers without leave to amend because (1) they sufficiently alleged eBay is an auctioneer that provides the requisite description of collectibles as being autographed within the meaning of Civil Code section 1739.7; and (2) section 230 does not preempt their causes of action against eBay.

We conclude appellants cannot state a cause of action against eBay under Civil Code section 1739.7 because their allegations reveal eBay did not sell or offer to sell the collectibles at issue. Additionally, we conclude imposition of Civil Code section 1739.7 liability on eBay in this particular case, as well as liability for negligence and violation of the UCL, is inconsistent with section 230 ( Communications Decency Act) because appellants' causes of action ultimately hold eBay responsible for misinformation or misrepresentations originating with other defendants or third parties. Because appellants cannot maintain their Civil Code section 1739.7 claim, and section 230 otherwise immunizes eBay from civil liability under these circumstances, we affirm the judgment of dismissal. Even so, other California Courts have looked to other causes of action.  In  Rosado v. eBay Inc., No. 5:12-CV-04005-EJD, 2014 WL 2945774, (N.D. Cal. June 30, 2014) the Northern District Court held Plaintiff plead a case:

“In the instant action, Plaintiff describes a unified course of fraudulent conduct, alleging that eBay made misrepresentations and omissions “grounded in fraud,” relying entirely on that course of conduct as the basis for his claim against eBay. Therefore the claim is “grounded in fraud” and Plaintiff's claim as a whole must satisfy the heightened pleading standard of Rule 9(b). To meet the pleading standard for fraud claims under the UCL, CLRA, and FAL, a plaintiff must show that “members of the public are likely to be deceived.” Williams v. Gerber Products Co., 552 F.3d 934, 938 (9th Cir.2008). The challenged conduct “is judged by the effect it would have on a reasonable consumer.” Puentes v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., Inc., 160 Cal.App.4th 638, 645, 72 Cal.Rptr.3d 903 (2008) (citation omitted). “Whether a practice is deceptive, fraudulent, or unfair is generally a question of fact that is not appropriate for resolution on the pleadings.” Williams, 552 F.3d at 938–39 (citation omitted). However, where a court can conclude as a matter of law that alleged misrepresentations are not likely to deceive a reasonable consumer, courts have dismissed claims under the UCL, CLRA, and FAL. Jones v. ConAgra Foods, Inc., 912 F.Supp.2d 889, 899 (N.D.Cal.2012).”

The California Legal Remedies Act

“The CLRA proscribes “ unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” Cal. Civ.Code § 1770(a); Conduct that is “likely to mislead a reasonable consumer” violates the CLRA.  A CLRA claim sounding in fraud must establish reliance and causation. Buckland v. Threshold Enters., Ltd., 155 Cal.App.4th 798, 809, 66 Cal.Rptr.3d 543 (2007), The sufficiency of a plaintiff's CLRA claim may be analyzed together with the UCL fraud claim. Kowalsky v. Hewlett–Packard Co., No. 10–CV–02176–LHK, 2011 WL 3501715, at 6 (N.D.Cal. Aug. 10, 2011) (“ [T]he CLRA claim stands or falls along with the claim under the fraudulent prong of the UCL”). As discussed in the analysis of Plaintiff's UCL claim, Plaintiff has pled specific facts to support his claim under Rule 9(b). Accordingly, the Court denies eBay's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's CLRA claim.”  See  Rosado v. eBay Inc., No. 5:12-CV-04005-EJD, 2014 WL 2945774, (N.D. Cal. June 30, 2014).

California False Advertising Law – B&P 17500

“The FAL (False Advertising law) makes it unlawful to induce the public to enter into any obligation through the dissemination of “untrue or misleading” statements. Cal. Bus. & Prof.Code § 17500. A claim under the FAL must show that the plaintiff suffered an injury due to his or her own actual and reasonable reliance on the purported misleading statements. Whether a statement or omission is “misleading” must be judged by the effect it would have on a reasonable consumer. Generally, a violation of the UCL's fraud prong is also a violation of the FAL……As an initial matter, Plaintiff does not argue that eBay's website contained any statements that were actually false. However, California courts construe section 17500 to extend beyond literal false statements. The statute has been interpreted broadly to encompass “ not only advertising which is false, but also advertising which although true, is either actually misleading or which has a capacity, likelihood or tendency to deceive or confuse the public.”  Because Plaintiff has adequately established his UCL fraud claim, the Court denies eBay's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's FAL claim.   Again, see  Rosado v. eBay Inc., No. 5:12-CV-04005-EJD, 2014 WL 2945774, (N.D. Cal. June 30, 2014)

Other eBay related legal issues that might arise

  • Disputes over “defect rate” policies
  • Loss of rating due to eBay purge policies
  • Disputes under eBay's “money back guarantee” policy
  • Controversies arising under eBay global shipping program
  • Feedback fraud
  • Insurance bad faith
  • Online defamation / libel
  • Defective products
  • Unlawful termination of seller accounts under eBay policies
  • Excessive and unwarranted fee gouging
  • Issues with tying up paypal account
  • Misuse of return issues
  • Mediation and appeals

This is a just a sample list of potential legal issues when dealing with an online auction website, and similar legal disputes have been known to arise through the use of's online marketplace.

eBay Insurance Bad Faith (replacements and repairs)

Many companies now offer eBay insurance.  For example, a quick search of the internet uncovers the following companies involved in this space:

ebay insurance with Allstate

Their offerings appear limited to repairs and protections.  If they fail to honor their policy, give us a call.

eBay Vehicle Protection (not insurance)

  • eBay Motors vehicle protection programs
    eBay Motors helps protect buyers against fraud and material misrepresentation through our purchase protection programs. These programs include eBay Motors Vehicle Purchase Protection, Seller Condition Assurance, and Roadside Assistance. Note: Not every program is offered for every vehicle.

Purchase protection for vehicles:

Vehicle Purchase Protection (VPP) is included in most vehicle purchases and covers up to $100,000 or the vehicle's purchase price, whichever is lower.

Vehicle Purchase Protection (VPP) Overview

  • VPP provides protection at no additional cost for certain losses associated with fraud, such as non-delivery of the vehicle, undisclosed title defects, and certain undisclosed vehicle defects when your purchase meets the VPP eligibility and coverage requirements
  • An independent service provider will work with eBay to determine whether you have suffered a loss that is reimbursable by the VPP program and what that reimbursement amount would be
  • VPP is not an insurance policy, a warranty, or a solution for buyer's remorse. You should perform due diligence when considering the purchase of any vehicle
  • Restrictions apply. Find out more about the eligibility requirements and coverage restrictions

When the buyer doesn't receive an item

Sellers are required to deliver the item to the address in the Order details, unless the buyer selected a local pickup option.

If the item doesn't arrive at the address provided by the buyer at checkout or isn't made available for collection, the buyer is entitled to a full refund, including original shipping costs (if applicable).

eBay equipment insurance

With the Business Equipment Purchase Protection program (BEPP), you're covered for capital equipment purchases in the unlikely event that something goes wrong with the sale.

The eBay Business Equipment Purchase Protection program (BEPP) offers peace of mind that you're fully covered if there's an issue with a purchase, such as a seller committing fraud or otherwise deliberately misrepresenting an item.

Since items in the business equipment category are often valuable, all eligible items sold on eBay Business for at least $1,000 are covered by BEPP free of charge. 

Your capital equipment purchase is protected for up to $200,000 or the equipment purchase price, whichever is lower. 

To file a claim, select the Submit BEPP reimbursement request button below and fill out the form. Our third-party partner will investigate and process your claim, which generally takes 30–45 days.

We'll also send a copy of your claim to the seller via email so they'll have the opportunity to respond. Sometimes this makes them aware or reminds them of the problem, and they're happy to resolve it.

While your claim is being processed, it's important to provide all payment documentation (full or deposit). Do not discard, alter, or resell items related to the claim.

Once the claim has been processed, you and your seller will be contacted directly about the outcome.

eBay ShipCover Insurance

Filing a ShipCover claim

We've partnered with Parcel Insurance Plan (PIP) to process ShipCover insurance claims. Here's how to file your claim:

  1. Go to Shipping labels in My eBay or Seller Hub.
  2. Find the shipping label for the item and select Create claim under More actions.
  3. Fill out the claim form.

You'll receive an email confirmation about your claim, including the policy number, claim amount, and claim number.

With ShipCover claims, keep in mind:

  • You'll need to wait at least 7 days after the date the transaction ends to file a claim for a damaged item.
  • You'll need to wait at least 30 days after the estimated delivery date to file a claim for a lost item.
  • If you shipped multiple items but only one arrived damaged, you may only file a claim for that one item.

Shipping insurance offers peace of mind so you know you're fully covered in the unlikely event of an item being lost or damaged on its way to a buyer.

If you're thinking of adding shipping insurance, take a look at the options provided by USPS, ShipCover, UPS, and FedEx to see which best suits your needs.

Auction Insurance Agency

Other companies are popping up claiming to offer transactional insurance.  This company - appears to be a business partner of eBay

and they represent that they "manage eBay's Business Equipment Purchase Protection (BEPP) program and investigates complaints made in relation to qualifying purchases."

The best I can tell, and this is my opinion only, is they work with California based eBay to handle claims over business equipment auctions gone wrong.

Contact an Internet law firm to investigate your legal rights, weigh the pros and cons of litigation, and/or send a eBay cease-and-desist consumer fraud letter.

We can be reached at (877) 276-5084.  Or, fill out the contact form below to have one of our internet lawyers contact you to discuss your case.  We cannot help with all disputes as some are merely scams you should have avoided.  

About the Author

Steve Vondran

Thank you for viewing our blogs, videos and podcasts. As noted, all information on this website is Attorney Advertising. Decisions to hire an attorney should never be based on advertising alone. Any past results discussed herein do not guarantee or predict any future results. All blogs are written by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise indicated. Our firm handles a wide variety of intellectual property and entertainment law cases from music and video law, Youtube disputes, DMCA litigation, copyright infringement cases involving software licensing disputes (ex. BSA, SIIA, Siemens, Autodesk, Vero, CNC, VB Conversion and others), torrent internet file-sharing (Strike 3 and Malibu Media), California right of publicity, TV Signal Piracy, and many other types of IP, piracy, technology, and social media disputes. Call us at (877) 276-5084. AZ Bar Lic. #025911 CA. Bar Lic. #232337


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