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Ebay Buyer Faces Libel Action For Negative Feedback

 
 
Reply Sat 25 Oct, 2008 09:16 pm


Kaya Burgess
A man is facing legal action for libel after leaving negative feedback for an item he bought on auction website eBay.

When Chris Read received the £155 mobile phone he had purchased from Joel Jones on eBay, he found it was the wrong model and was not in good condition, as advertised.

The 42-year-old mechanic from Kent returned the phone, and, on October 3, used the feedback facility on the website, designed to warn other buyers of potentially untrustworthy sellers. He wrote: "Item was scratched, chipped and not the model advertised on Mr Jones's eBay account."

Mr Read subsequently received an e-mail from Mr Jones, a 26-year-old businessman from Suffollk who deals in second-hand electrical goods, saying that his comments were damaging his business, and threatening him with legal action unless he deleted them from the site.

Mr Read said: "I was told the phone was in good condition, but there were scratches all over it, a big chip out of the side and it was a different phone. I paid for a Samsung F700 and got a Samsung F700V."

Although he received a refund for the erroneous product, Mr Read decided to stand his ground, and told Mr Jones he would go to court if necessary, which would be a legal first for such a libel case.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Read was sent a pre-court letter from Mr Jones, which asked him to agree that his comments were unfair. The letter told him that he had seven days to respond, or he would face court action, "substantial" legal fees and costs of £175.

Mr Jones, who sells under the username 'onsalexuk,' defended his action, and said: "I am being punished on eBay because of this as sellers who have negative feedback appear lower down the screen in searches than other people. I'm losing money by the day and my business could go under because of it. I've been left with no option but to take legal action."

He called Mr Read's comments "unfair, unreasonable and damaging", because he had received a "no-quibble" refund for the phone.

Mr Read, however, said: "I can't believe someone can be so petty. I only wanted to buy a phone. All I had done was left an honest opinion and everything I said was true.

"I thought that was why the feedback service was there. It's not like I wrote anything malicious or nasty."

An eBay spokeswoman said that the dispute had not been brought to them, and added that: ""We are very disappointed that this seller has chosen to sue rather than to attempt to resolve the buyer's problem amicably." She explained that one negative comment was unlikely to affect Mr Jones's status on the site, which still rates him with a 98.7% positive feedback tally overall.

However, as the law of libel - that of publishing a false or defamatory statement which damages someone's reputation - applies online as well as in print, Mr Read could have a case to answer if the court decides his comments qualify as libellous.

He said: "I'm prepared to fight my corner."

Chris Matyszczyk a Technology writer from CNET said: "Surely Jones is seeking sympathy rather than justice. Because even if he somehow persuaded a court that he was right (which would seem a little unlikely), he will always be known as the scratchy phone seller who sues his customers."

Earlier this year, eBay banned sellers from leaving feedback for their buyers, which means that Mr Jones was unable to retort to Mr Read's criticism. A Facebook group called "eBay Sellers Want Feedback Rights" is calling for this decision to be reversed, and eBay has admitted it needs to review its dispute-handling procedures.

A new system will be launched later this month to allow sellers legitimately to ask buyers to revoke negative feedback if a dispute has been resolved.

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Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 1,396 • Replies: 9
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farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 25 Oct, 2008 10:13 pm
This sounds like a familiar theme that I see in my craft for libel suits brought by consultants against their clients for "unreasonable actions that affect the consultants ability to continue in b usiness". The consusltant sues the client for some perceived lost future revenues and the consultant settles and moves on and reincorporates.
This is done by lots of "glory hole" mining /contract prospecting companies whove stuck everything into a few prospects and work them out on behalf of a richer client . The consultants means are expended soon and the client, under no burden to pay progress payments just sits there and waits for progress reports which never come. The client then seeks relief by threatening criminal action . That sets off the suits.
Ive always seen these things happen when one guy is already just about to fold. Its kinda fraudulent and I wonder whether the Seller of the phone wasnt already getting ready to fold his tent and the buyer just gave him a convenient excuse.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Sat 25 Oct, 2008 10:32 pm
@edgarblythe,
No lawyer in his right mind would take this case under any condition other then being pay up front in full and even then he or she could get in trouble with the local bar for filing a case without merit, in my non-lawyer opinion.

A so call slap suit is a costly thing to mount and only a real threat when the one doing the slapping have one hell of a lot more resources then the one being slap.

If I was the buyer I would had just had thrown the letter in the old round file with a laugh, as I can not see how it is at all likely that the seller would waste that kind of funds just to annoy me.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Oct, 2008 07:24 am
@BillRM,
Quote:
No lawyer in his right mind would take this case under any condition other then being pay up front in full and even then he or she could get in trouble with the local bar for filing a case without merit, in my non-lawyer opinion.


Welcome to waht we call "the real world". You obviously dont get out much.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Oct, 2008 07:28 am
@farmerman,
I used to think like Bill. Now I know better.
0 Replies
 
Reyn
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Oct, 2008 03:16 pm
@edgarblythe,
It'll be interesting to see how this case works out.

Edgar, if you see a follow-up, please post it.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Oct, 2008 03:43 pm
@Reyn,
I am anxious to see also,reyn.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Oct, 2008 04:19 pm
@edgarblythe,
Farmerman is what way am I wrong? There had been no case file to date only threaten one and why would a lawyer file a case with his dime that would just be thrown out on first hearing?

Anyone can file a suit for any reason that does not mean that it will not be thrown out if there is zero merit to it on it face.

A judge file a suit against a family dry cleaners for 54 million dollars because they dare to lost an item of his and it was thrown out.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Oct, 2008 04:34 pm
lawyers file cases on contingency bases ALL THE TIME. They count on settlement bfore trial and they develop a heavy fee schedule.

I was already involved as an expert in several cases where consultants went out of business and blamed their client who passed negative feedback, or failed to pay in what the consultant felt was a timely fashion.

The consultant made a case that the clients action had prevented the consultant from enjoying future financial gain and caused the consultant to go out of business.

Plaintiffs attorneys operate like this (contingency) fees all the time. Now that attorneys can advertise, how many times have you heard radio ads for personal injury attornies who state that
"I dont get paid until you get paid"

or
" You pay nothing up front. We do all the work and the verdict determines our fee"

thats why plaintiffs attornies charge a lot, they are basically gambling that they will have a payday.

We have a bunch of attornies on A2K, and they know this area waaay better than my attempts to esplain. Send out an APB for Ticomaya, Debra LAw, Joe from CHicago, Jespah or one or two others (I forget the names). OY. Om SAIg DAvid is a retired lawyer. Just tell David about your favorite wine or gun and he will come running.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Oct, 2008 07:20 pm
@edgarblythe,
Yes yes lawyers will file on a contingency fee bases all the time but only if they think one way or another they will gain something by so doing.

Someone with deep pockets or insurance and who is willing to settle out of court for example.

In this case there is no real reason or merit behind this threat for a number of reasons and very little likelihood that one would win such a case in court or that the person being sue would therefore be willing to settle.

It seem an empty threat and little else in my opinion but I would also love to hear from the lawyers in the house..
0 Replies
 
 

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