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Congress To Make eBay A Rat

Taken together, three bills in Congress would require online marketplaces and auction sites to secretly police affiliates suspected of selling stolen goods. In addition to requiring extensive record keeping on sellers using the site and turning over that information to authorities upon request, the legislation prohibits resale sites—like eBay or craigslist—from informing suspected sellers they are being investigated.

None of the bills, two in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate, is expected to come to a vote before the Congressional recess—they’ve got bigger fish to fry in Bailout Brand oil at the moment—but the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing on the subject recently.

The purpose of the legislation is to target organized retail crime, or bands of shoplifters and hustlers hocking ill-gotten goods online, where the National Retail Federation, which has come out aggressively in favor of the legislation, says thieves can sell goods at 70 percent value. Street corners typically only bring 30 percent of the retail value.

The problem was highlighted recently when a New York vendor was busted selling Victoria Secret brassieres on eBay for $25 a pop. They typically sold for between $40 and $80. If you’re wondering why Homeland Security is being dragged in to this, it’s likely because of alleged past connections between organized retail crime syndicates traced to Hezbollah and Hamas.

Naturally, the Internet is to blame.

Though, NetChoice’s Steve DelBianco colorfully compared this logic to blaming the back seats of cars for teenage sex, the NRF’s vice president for loss prevention, Joseph LaRocca, has elevated the problem to the level of addiction to Class A narcotics. At the aforementioned hearing, LaRocca said:

“The Internet seems to be contributing to the creation of a brand new type of retail thief – people who have never stolen before but are lured in by the convenience and anonymity of the Internet. Thieves often tell the same disturbing story: they begin legitimately selling product on eBay and then become hooked by its addictive qualities, the anonymity it provides and the ease with which they gain exposure to millions of customers. When they run out of legitimate merchandise, they begin to steal intermittently, many times for the first time in their life, so they can continue selling online. The thefts then begin to spiral out of control and before they know it they quit their jobs, are recruiting accomplices and are crossing states lines to steal, all so they can support and perpetuate their online selling habit.”

About the Author:
Jason Lee Miller is a WebProNews editor and writer covering business and technology.