The first UK seller to be prosecuted for artificially inflating prices by bidding on his own eBay auctions has been told to pay £5,000 in fines and costs, and ordered to do 250 hours community service.
Judge Peter Benson at Bradford Crown court said he would have jailed minibus firm owner Paul Barrett, 39, if his record were not clean and the sums of money involved had been larger, PA reports.
Barratt pleaded guilty to using two logins to drive up the price of items including vehicles, mobile phones and a digital camera. He used the same contact details and IP address to create each account, the court heard.
He was investigated by Trading Standards after a buyer complained he had been sold a clocked minibus.
eBay today welcomed the sentence.
“We are extremely pleased with Paul Barrett's sentence," said spokeswoman Vanessa Canzini.
"While this case was not solely about shill bidding, we hope that it highlights how seriously we consider the practice of artificially increasing prices. This practice is not only prohibited on eBay as it damages the integrity and fairness of trading on our site, but it is also illegal.
"We continue to invest over £6 million every year in industry leading technology to proactively detect shill bidding. We will always work closely with law enforcement agencies to ensure that, on the rare occasion someone attempts to follow in Barrett’s footsteps, they will be stopped and will face the consequences.”
Judge Benson said: "This sort of conduct strikes at the heart of that trust which is vital if this very, very useful commercial medium is to continue to operate successfully." ®