eBay fined by French court over LVMH fakes

01st July, 2008

The commercial court in Paris has, in a ruling announced yesterday, upheld a claim made by LVMH against eBay.

The court has ruled that, by allowing the sale of counterfeit goods on its website to the detriment of Louis Vuitton Malletier and Christian Dior Couture, eBay was guilty of gross misconduct and of detrimental breach as, through accountable negligence, eBay had not taken the necessary measures to prevent the sale of the counterfeit goods on its site.

The court has also ruled that, in allowing the sale of perfumes carrying the brands Christian Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy and Kenzo, products which can only be sold through the network of distributors, agreed by the companies which own these brands, eBay was guilty of practicing unlawful sales.

To compensate for all damages, the court has ordered eBay to pay 16.4 million euros to Louis Vuitton Malletier, 19.28 million euros to Christian Dior, and 3.192 million euros to the perfume brands. The verdict is one of provisional execution. Moreover, the court has also added that a report of the decision must be published in three French or international newspapers. Finally, eBay must report the verdict on both its French and English sites.

The Paris commerce courts verdict will make case law. For the first time in France it clearly states the principle under which auction sites that operate on the web have to ensure that their activities do not permit unlawful dealings. The court has dismissed as without foundation the argument used by eBay to exonerate itself that its clients are solely responsible for their illegal undertakings when transacting. eBay is not a host but a broker.

A statement by eBay on its website reads:

"If Counterfeits appear on our sites we take them down swiftly, but today's ruling is not about our fight against counterfeit; today's ruling is about an attempt by LVMH to protect uncompetitive commercial practices at the expense of consumer choice and the livelihood of law-abiding sellers that eBay empowers everyday.

We believe that this ruling represents a loss not only for us but for consumers and small businesses selling online, therefore we will appeal. It is clear that eBay has become a focal point for certain brand owners' desire to exact ever greater control over e-commerce. We view these decisions as a step backwards for the consumers and businesses whom we empower everyday.

We believe that the overreach manifests itself through an attempt to impose, in France, a business model that restricts consumer choice through an anti-competitive business practice.

The ruling also seeks to impact the sale of second-hand goods as well as new genuine products, effectively reaching into homes and rolling back the clock on the Internet and liberty it has created. The attempt to use the ruling to confuse the separate issues of counterfeit and restrictive sales suggests that counterfeit suits are being used by certain brand owners as a stalking-horse issue to reinforce their control over the market.

eBay does more and more to combat counterfeit. We invest more than $20 million each year to ensure counterfeit goods are found and removed. We partner with over 18,000 brand owners around the world to identify and successfully remove counterfeit goods and employ over 2,000 people to carry out this fight on a daily basis. When we find counterfeit goods on our sites we take it down.

Overzealous enforcement of restrictive sales practices are anti-competitive and give consumers a bad deal. This is recognised by European Union policy-makers who are seeking to create a better framework for online sales to promote e-commerce in Europe. We support a free and fair market in Europe and the benefits this will bring for our sellers.

eBay will continue to fight against counterfeit and continue to fight for consumer value through the promotion of e-commerce."

 

Ebay does appear to be accepting listings for the LVMH brands. Basenotes successfully placed an auction for Guerlain's Coriolan. We will report more on this case as it develops.

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