Licensing eBay resellers, cont’d

Mary Jo Pletz, who lives north of Allentown, Pa., made a very successful time of it accepting people’s consigned items and selling them on eBay. Now the state of Pennsylvania is proceeding against her for not taking out an auctioneer’s license, though it denies that it is seeking the $10 million in fines that her lawyer alleges. (Bob Fernandez, “Pennsylvania takes on online auctions”, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 30). Earlier similarly: Feb. 26, 2006 (California); Oct. 13, 2005 (North Dakota); Mar. 21, 2005 (Ohio).


  • But, she is not an auctioneer. She is the agent of the offeree. I hope the lawyer countersues and enjoins the Harrisburg jack booted government thugs, seeking double legsal costs from their personal assets.

    Here is the auctioneer license statute.

    She would have to take a lengthy course in loud, fast, repetitive bid repetition, perhaps get tested on that.

    No relation to what she has been doing.

  • Supremacy Claus is correct. Pletz is not actually conducting the auction. One of the policy reasons for licensing auctioneers and auction houses is to prevent crooked auctions by the use of shills, false reserves, etc. This is unlikely to happen on E-bay.

    Also, PA’s law is probably ineffective to ensure the honesty of an auctioneer-licensee. There is no background check, only self-certification. Market forces with existing laws on theft and breach of fiduciary duty should be enough to get rid of the few bad apples who sell as agents for others on E-Bay, yet don’t remit the proper amount to their principals.

    PA should leave Pletz alone and let her earn her living. The only interest that I can see that PA may have in Pletz is the collection and payment of the proper sales taxes. Requiring her to have an auctioneer’s license will do nothing towards this goal.