August 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

eBay in class action suit over auction start, duration policies

The legal thrust-and-parry is under way in a class action lawsuit charging that eBay did not deliver the full amount of auction time that sellers bought. EBay counters that the suit is a rehash of one previously settled.

The legal thrust-and-parry is under way in a class action lawsuit charging that eBay Inc.’s online auction site did not deliver the full amount of auction time that sellers paid for and did not start auctions when listings were submitted. EBay counters that the suit is a rehash of one previously settled.

The lawsuit was filed this month in United States District Court, Northern District of California. It states that the suit arises from eBay Inc.’s “unlawful, unfair, fraudulent and unconscionable tactics whereby eBay uniformly represents in its ‘Online Auction Format’ that customers can select an eBay auction to last for a specific period of time, and that the auction will begin when submitted. In reality, the auctions do not begin when submitted and customers routinely receive less auction time than they select and pay to receive.”

The suit contends eBay’s auction practices violate various provisions of California statutes intended to protect consumers, as well as common law.

According to documents obtained by Internet Retailer, eBay has countered by filing a motion to dismiss the suit. The motion cites the outcome of a previous case-which was settled – that eBay asserts was essentially the same claim and therefore binding on the current suit. EBay declined to comment on the case before its resolution.

Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas LLP, the Houston law firm that brought the class action suit, will file a response to eBay’s motion this week stating that it believes the suit has different merits, says John Fabry, lead attorney. The class action suit names Michael Ewert, an independent eBay seller based in Colorado, as the lead plaintiff.

Ewert “seeks to enjoin eBay’s unlawful activities and recover damages on behalf of himself and all persons who were harmed,” according to Williams Kherkher.

Since filing the suit, Williams Kherker has received queries from “a number of others who would like to participate as representative plaintiffs,” Fabry says, declining to be more specific.

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