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History in the faking

6 July 2010

Mr Paul Barrett has been sentenced to a £3,000 fine, plus ordered to do 250 hours of community service, for committing the offence of shill bidding, after becoming the first person to be convicted of the practice on eBay earlier this year. This occurs when a seller bids on their own item, under another account name (or ‘sock puppet’) in order to jack up the price. Shill bidding is reportedly a widespread problem on eBay. 

Mr Barrett had faced a maximum fine of up to £50,000, or jail time. He pleaded guilty after an investigation by North Yorkshire Trading Standards. He stated that he was not aware he was committing a crime. 

Though the prosecution is to be commended, the size of the penalty, combined with the admission by the authorities that shill bidding is difficult to prosecute, means that without more action being taken, this conviction alone is unlikely to deter future shill bidders.

So do you think that chasing internet crime is a good use of Trading Standards meagre resources – or should they be concentrating on the real risks to consumers like sale of dangerous toys or flammable furnishing?

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