First eBay fixer in court warned he could face jail

THE first eBay seller in the UK to be prosecuted for online auction fixing was yesterday warned he could face jail as his sentencing was adjourned.

Paul Barrett, 39, from Stanley, Co Durham, was due to be sentenced at Bradford Crown Court after bidding against himself on the auction website.

But Judge Robert Bartfield adjourned the hearing for four weeks for pre-sentence reports and told Barrett all sentencing options were open.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Barrett, a minibus hire firm boss, was investigated by North Yorkshire Trading Standards after a complaint that he had advertised and sold a minibus on eBay with false low mileage.

Officers found he was selling goods on the auction website under the user name "shanconpaul", then bidding on them under the identity "paulthebusman" – a process known as shill bidding.

Barrett earlier pleaded guilty to 10 offences at Skipton Magistrates' Court after using two separate eBay accounts to bid on and increase the prices of his own items.

He also admitted another charge relating to the sale of the minibus.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He told the court at that hearing that he did not realise bidding on his own items – which included a pie and pasty warmer priced at 127 – was a criminal offence.

Yesterday, Judge Bartfield told balding Barrett, who appeared in court wearing a grey suit and a patterned tie, that custody was a "strong possibility".

He told the defendant: "The decision about whether you go to prison or not is one that will be taken by the judge on the day. All options are open."

Barrett was charged with breaches of the business protection from misleading marketing regulations 2008 and the consumer protection from unfair trading regulations 2008.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The two new laws were brought into force two years ago to tackle growing internet fraud after an EU directive to bring existing UK consumer protection up to European standards.

He will be sentenced at Bradford Crown Court on July 5.

Related topics: