eBay Accused of Shill Bidding

A class action suit filed in California last week alleges fraud and unconscionability in eBay’s bidding system. The suit focuses on the manner in which eBay handles proxy bids, and characterizes eBay’s actions as tantamount to “shill bidding.” The plaintiffs’ firm has issued a press release; Reuters [alternate link] and InternetNews.com have more.

The plaintiffs may have a point, but the impact of eBay’s practices isn’t particularly significant (less than one bid increment) except on an aggregate level. I’m guessing this one will settle for substantial attorney’s fees for the named plaintiff’s firm, a thousand dollars or so for the lead plaintiff, worthless coupons for all of the other class members, and a promise by eBay to do a better job of explaining how proxy bids work.

EBay’s bidding system is inherently broken — a timed auction makes sense only where bids are sealed until the auction closes (hence the existence of eSnipe and similar services that exploit this designflaw) — but that problem has little to do with this case.

UPDATES: Commentary on the case from Eric Goldman and Slashdot. And a printable copy of the complaint.

February 2005 Archives

February 20, 2005

No Spam for Cows?

Karl Auerbach notes that cows infected with mad cow disease enjoy greater privacy protection than people who register domain names.

I told you we were on the wrong side of the cow.

All Your Mail Is Spam

CircleID reports that spam now represents 70%-85% of all email. That sounds very low to me — those numbers must be based upon email that is actually delivered (i.e., they don’t include spam that is blocked successfully).

February 12, 2005

Don’t Spam My Domain

Last year the FTC rejected my suggestion that it permit domain-wide opt-out in a national Do Not E-Mail Registry … but the FCC has now done precisely that in its registry of Wireless Domain Names.