eBay, other online auctions, and the offline auction requirements


C|NET is reporting today on moves by U.S. states to apply regular auctioneering laws to companies who facilitate selling your stuff on eBay (or other online auctions). These companies act on consignment, where they take your items, put it on an ebay auction, handle all the fees and shipping, and send you the resulting money minus a little for their commission. This is a good service, though I've never tried to use it myself.

Secondhand blues for eBay consignment sellers

(Published: March 30, 2005, By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

The online auctioneers are complaining that laws designed for offline auctions are not relavent to them. The laws are requiring things like training in an approved auctioneering school, background checks, and the like. In some states former felons cannot be auctioneers.

Speaking for myself I want more accountability for the people selling through online auctions like ebay. Auction fraud is rampant with many stories of people mocking up auctions for fake merchandise, selling stuff, and absconding with the money.

At the same time the C|NET article reports how the studies at these auctioneering schools clearly are irrevelant. For example they spend a lot of class time covering voice techniques, chanting techniques, judging the grade of cattle, and techniques for handling drunkards showing up at your auction. None of these things are relavent to an online auction, so why should an online auctioneer be required to pass that certification.

Another interesting requirement stated in California is that any consignment shop must take fingerprints and other identifying information from people who leave things for sale. Immediately the thought was this would act as a shield against folk trying to sell stolen property. This would be an interesting twist of modern life, for a thief to use an online auction to sell stolen property.

Clearly some kind of certification requirements are necessary for online auctioneers. But the requirements need to fit the environment to which they are going to be applied.