eBay has a number of policies in place to make their auctions fair for all involved. Among these policies are rules against bidding on your own items or items of people you know. Referred to as "shill bidding," this practice not only violates eBay policies but may have legal ramifications depending on where you live as well.
Shill bidding is typically performed by users who have more than one eBay account since the eBay system does not let users bid on an auction with the account that created it. In some cases, sellers may ask friends to bid on their auctions from their own accounts as well, a practice that is still considered shill bidding. Though the accounts are separate, the goal of the bids is to artificially inflate the winning price of the auction. As this artificial inflation is unfair to genuine customers, eBay does not allow it.
eBay does not tolerate shill bidding and may take a number of actions against sellers who engage in the practice. Sellers found to be violating eBay's shill bidding policy may have their buying and selling privileges restricted or may have their seller status revoked entirely. eBay also may suspend one or all of the accounts used to facilitate shill bidding, either temporarily or permanently. If legal action is taken, eBay will release information on the bidding fraud if requested by the law enforcement agency in charge of the legal action.
Shill bidding can violate antitrust and fraud laws, resulting in both civil lawsuits and criminal penalties. Depending on the laws of the state where the auction originated, misdemeanor and felony criminal charges can be filed which carry with them the possibility of prison sentences lasting one or more years. Fines up to tens of thousands of dollars can also be levied, as well as orders of restitution to ensure that those defrauded by shill auctions receive the money back that they paid due to the inflated auction price.
Reporting Shill Bidding
eBay makes it easy for individuals who suspect shill bidding to report the infraction for review by site staff. Each listing has a "Report Item" link under the "Other Item Info" box on the right side of the page. Choosing the "Fraudulent Listings" option from the drop-down menu on the report screen gives you the option to select shill bidding as the detailed reason before submitting the report. Once reported, eBay will investigate the auction and take action against the accounts involved if shill bidding appears to be taking place.
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