UK court finds in favour of eBay in L'Oreal fight, counterfeiters celebrate

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The U.K. High Court today ruled in favor of eBay, claiming that the company can’t be held legally accountable for the sale of counterfeit L’Oreal fragrances and creams on its online auction site in the U.K. The ruling follows similar decisions by Belgian and French courts, which have ruled in eBay’s favor in three of the five cases L’Oreal brought in 2007 against the company.

This is fantastic news for counterfeiters, who can now keep on duping customers into buying fake L’Oreal cosmetics through the popular web service.

In all seriousness, I think this is a logical ruling, in the sense that eBay is and has always been merely a facilitator of trade and can hardly be expected to verify the authenticity of each and every product that goes up for sale on its auction website. It has in the past taken a lot of steps to do its part in fighting online crime, and recent rulings in European courts fortunately reflect that.

In a statement, Richard Ambrose, Head of Trust & Safety for eBay, reiterated that “cooperation and dialogue is what is needed, not litigation”.

Hear, hear.

  • George

    That’s great news for ebay, however, they should be required by law to assist law enforcement in stopping counterfeit schemes.

    • Agile Cyborg

      No, they shouldn’t be required by ‘law’ to do so. I am fucking sick of people who look at LAW as the optimal solution to facilitate behavior.

      • draw line

        ebay should draw line somewhere. like take down notices?

    • Mike Cerm

      They ARE required by law to assist in investigations, just like everyone else is. If the cops come to them and say, “We’re investigating this user for selling counterfeit merchandise,” eBay can be ordered to turn over that user’s personal information.

      The ruling here means that eBay isn’t required investigate potential crimes themselves, which means that they’re leaving law enforcement to the authorities. That’s how it should be.

      Honestly, I don’t see what the big deal is anyway. If you buy something counterfeit and pay with PayPal or a credit card, you’ll get your money back, and you’ll usually get to keep the product, too.

  • Windowslogy

    I think it makes sense that eBay wasn’t charged because eBay doesn’t have any tools to go into each vendor and check the stuff being sold. It’s impossible. And it’s clear in the policy that eBay won’t be able to recheck this. A buyer must be always watchful for himself or herself with sellers on eBay. It’s advisable to recheck the sellers and their sales backgrounds first before you decide to buy something from them.

    • JB

      It’s true that it would be impossible for eBay to run vendor checks for each item sold, but it would be fairly easy to set-up a process for brands to temporarily flag products and communicate with vendors on the back-end. They won’t do it until legally forced to do so because they’ll lose profit “earned” through selling counterfeit products.

      US businesses like Cafepress and Zazzle make huge profits by printing and selling logo/character clad products…submitted by counterfeiters. These businesses don’t act when contacted by the copyright owners. Instead, they ignore communication from the rightful owners and continue to profit from selling counterfeit products until the legal paperwork goes through and they are forced to remove the products.

  • Karl

    Well about Pirate Bay.. The case is far from finished, and I think they will be freed in the end. The judge who was in charge of the first part of The Pirate Bay case was probably biased too.

  • will

    do loreal sue car boot sales and traditional markets, where counterfitters set up shop?

    • Alex

      They CAN. It won’t be easy to show the criminal intent and prove ‘facilitation’. With eBay it’s much simpler, THEY PASS THE MONEY BETWEEN THE PARTIES through PayPal. So, the PayPal is really doing something that may be considered criminal here, not the eBay itself.

    • geekevaluation

      well said. They also can’t stop counterfeit products in Other countries. Why only target ebay ?

  • Vic

    The ruling was just fair. I agree that Ebay was only a trade facilitator and that what is needed is cooperation and not a war for both companies. It’s also in the discretion of the buyer to scrutinize seller through their reputation scores and ratings which are a feature on Ebay.

  • Steve

    Regarding eBay…
    There’s a thing or two to be said here about shutting doors after horses have bolted, however the other more telling situation is the gullibility of some of the users of this (and probably other sites) that are just facilitators, but it’s worrying isn’t it? while perfume isn’t a mission critical item nowadays it still keeps trading standards busy while there’s a dangerous precedent being set here.

  • jeff micari

    At my old job there was an employee who was stealing parts, then reselling on ebay. We used invisible ink and thumb printed everything. Then purchased the items from him, received them, then used a blacklight and found our prints. Ebay helped with giving us data on previous sales to get a rough estimate on stolen goods. Unfortunately the govt. didn’t seem to do anything on there part with mail fraud, seeing as its illegal to mail stolen goods through usps.

  • John R. Haigh

    This is one of the reasons that eBay has fallen behind from Google. They are different businesses obviously, but Google validates every ad with a human, yet somehow eBay hasn’t ever done the same or something close to this.

    I was a PowerSeller on eBay for a couple of years and stopped in 2006. It became a regular part of my job to police the community for counterfeiters (even though I wasn’t the maker of the product). Nice for eBay to have your legitimate sellers do all the work for you for free while we pay them.

    Here’s the thing, they don’t need to verify the legitimacy of every seller, but sellers who are auto-launching auctions selling declared new items as an online “store” basically, could be verified in some manner by eBay.

    They have tended to work against their sellers in the past rather than with them. They also randomly would shut down all my auctions every few months or so because of a perceived violation on policies that would change intermittently and would only randomly be enforced. This created a confusing and unpredictable environment. Other sellers I conversed with had similar experiences.

    It also sets up an environment where people don’t trust eBay and don’t take it as seriously as say Amazon. Amazon has a much better rep.

    It’s never too late to change and they may have improved their policies in the last three years, but I doubt it.

    They were always focused on how they could take more rather than how they could give more. Such different energy than Google IMHO…

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  • John

    I think eBay is probably at the stage of company maturity where they have gotten lazy (instead of staying paranoid). They could develop into the next General Motors of fat and sassy. The court decision is not beneficial to eBay in the least. Just look at the comments above and you will know that the trust for using eBay is waning.

    And, at the same time that they are ‘winning’ such a lawsuit, you would not believe the hoops they made an artist friend go through to try to show his paintings. And from what I could tell, the hoops had not importance and proved nothing. The poor guy was simply trying to sell his Italian landscape paintings in the USA before he returned home to Massachusetts.

    He gave up.

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  • Jenn N.

    This makes total sense. It’s the responsibility of users to make sure they follow the terms that ebay has established.

    Liability on the internet ultimately comes down down to who actually breaks the law not by what platform/tool they do it by.


    Power tool that helps find cheap ebay auctions

  • David

    Shouldn’t UPS be prosecuted too? After all they are not verifying what shipments they carry.

    Shouldn’t Govt. be prosecuted too? After all they are not verifying if stolen vehicles are being driven on the road.

  • bryan

    it would be impossible for eBay to run vendor checks for each item sold, but it would be fairly easy to set-up a process for brands to temporarily flag products and communicate with vendors on the back-end. i found this amazing website, it has all kind of businesses from a cleaning companies to estate agents to banks, all I have to do is just type in the business type, and the location and it gives me all the results in that particular area, this website has a huge database of all sorts of businesses, I just joined a driving school which I found on this website. I would recommend this site to all the people out there.

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  • The Pirates Of Sweden | ArcticStartup

    […] find the forthcoming trial/trials particularly interesting in the light of the recent ruling in the U.K. High Court in favor of the eBay. The freeing verdict claimed that the company can’t be held […]

  • Тимур Лоськов

    Большое спасибо. Прочитал с интересом, и вообще полезный у Вас блог

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