Editor’s blog: eBay caught in phoney war

I can’t say that I’m remotely surprised to hear that eBay has been fined nearly €40m by a French court. The online retailer was taken in front of the beaks by LVMH, the French luxury goods maker, because it’s heartily sick of eBay allowing fake perfumes and handbags to be sold on the site.

MT readers will know I’m a big eBay user. There’s nothing I love better of an evening than keeping one eye on a semi-dull telly programme while hunting down another Etro shirt online to add to my legendary collection. I’m such an expert that I can see a counterfeit Chinese Etro before it’s even downloaded – there are several on there at the moment being punted by a dodgy bloke from Turkey. Like a good eBay citizen, I’ve already shopped the Istanbul-based villain.

eBay is a perfect answer to the sustainability problems of the 21st century. Rather than march down to the shops to buy more new gear we don’t really need, thus using valuable energy, eBay helps recycle what is already out there gathering dust in cupboards and wardrobes. It is one of the most perfect uses of The Long Tail – I’ve bought shirts from Koreans in Texas and a small aluminium duck from a man in the Midlands. Only yesterday I got a sun hat for my ten-month-old baby. OK, so it smelled mysteriously of curry, but the kid doesn’t mind and my green conscience is clear.

But eBay has got to do something about this problem – and bleating that LVMH is simply attempting to ‘protect uncompetitive practices at the expense of consumer choice’ isn’t good enough.(I can recall unwittingly buying a fake a few years back when I was a novice. I was so cross I didn’t use the site for weeks)

Sure, it won’t be easy to police the whole site to ensure the genuine nature of items – but it must show willing. LVMH has been harrumphing via its lawyers for ages about ‘parasitical practices’ (pratiques parasites, perhaps?); the truth is it hates seeing even genuine items from its collections on eBay, which it snootily regards as drecky and pour les proles…