eBay vrs42?

From: Eric Smith <eric_at_brouhaha.com>
Date: Sat Feb 12 19:28:59 2005

Ya know, certain people here are so concerned about us loosely
organized bidder hurting sellers that they claim bidder cooperation
is like shill bidding.

But now that I think about it more, I'm even more convinced that not
only is it NOT like shill bidding, but that there is a different
seller behavior identical to bidder cooperation. It happens all
the time on eBay, and I don't see anyone complaining that it's

When there are items that are relatively rare, and several sellers
have them, it is common for the sellers to arrange informally
amongst themselves to not list them simultaneously, as that would
drive down the prices. When they're listed one-by-one, bidders
can't be sure that there are more available, so they're willing
to bid higher.

Is that unethical? Is it a breach of eBay's user agreement?
I would claim that it's not, but the people that put such a
broad interpretation on "price manipulation" probably will.

Of course, the reality is that eBay only cares about sellers,
and will overlook most forms of "price manipulation" by sellers.
They very rarely take action even in cases of shill bidding.
But they are very quick to suspend bidder accounts on the
basis of nothing more than unsubstantiated claims by sellers.

So even if I thought that a little bit of cooperation by bidders
was unethical (which I don't), I would think that it is justified
by the sellers' corresponding practices (which I also don't think
are unethical, except in the case of shill bidding), and eBay's
willingness to overlook them.

The logical extension of the broad interpretation of "price
manipulation" would be to consider it a violation of the eBay
user agreement for even a single seller that has two units of
some rare item to list them sequentially rather than at the same
time, since obviously this is done to increase and thus
"manipulate" the price.

For that matter, putting "RARE" and "L_at__at_K" in the item description
would be considered "price manipulation" under the broad
interpretation. In fact, it would be hard to identify any behavior
that would not qualify.

Received on Sat Feb 12 2005 - 19:28:59 GMT

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