Whether eBay is an auctioneer and responsible for certifying the authenticity of goods sold at its site will likely be addressed by a California court.
Responding to the order of a state superior court judge in San Diego, plaintiff's attorney James Krause says he plans to file an amended complaint against the online auction company. The plaintiffs include Lars Gentry, identified as being from Illinois, and five others.
The suit, originally filed in April, alleges that eBay has a responsibility to certify the authenticity of goods sold at its site. The case came about when the plaintiffs bought baseballs that the seller claimed were autographed by specific baseball stars. The plaintiffs later found those autographs to be forgeries.
California enacted the Autographed Sports Memorabilia statute in 1992, which requires dealers to provide a certificate of authenticity to buyers at the time of sale. eBay never complied with this statute, the plaintiffs allege in the lawsuit.
"An auctioneer is considered to be a dealer under the statute," sayd Krause, a partner at the firm of Krause and Kalfayan, in San Diego. So as a dealer, eBay is required to provide proof of authenticity of goods sold on its site, Krause says.
Krause is seeking class action status for the suit, saying that transactions of $US25 are best resolved by such a suit.
"You can't bring justice on items that are $US25 each unless it's in a class action suit," Krause says.
In its amended complaint, the plaintiffs also argue that eBay is not an ISP entitled to the safe haven that is called for in the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996.
The suit against eBay could have wide-ranging implications for goods sold at all auction websites.
eBay has argued in the past that it serves as merely a marketplace for buyers and sellers to connect and has no obligation to certify the authenticity of any goods or services.
San Jose, California-based eBay disputes the claim that it is an auctioneer, saying it is more like a modern version of a newspaper classified section where individuals buy and sell from each other.