Vicarious Liability: French Court Slaps $63 Million Fine Against eBay for Users' Sins

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Vicarious liability is a legal principle that lays out rules for liability of one person for the acts of the other. But the most uncompromising version of this legal doctrine has surfaced in France, where a court ordered eBay to pay luxury goods group LVMH damages worth $63 million .

LVMH had alleged wrongdoing on eBay’s part as many counterfeit LVMH goods including those from brands like Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Givenchy were being sold through the website. But the court failed to understand that eBay is merely an online marketplace and can’t be held liable for the wrongful acts of its users, unless there is evidence to suggest collusion between the two. The court also deemed eBay liable for damages due to the sale of legitimate LVMH products which are only to be sold through authorized channels.

In a similar case in India, the MD of Baazee.com that later became eBay India was arrested in 2004 for selling pornographic content through his company website (Baazee), although it was actually a user who sold the porn clip. He still faces legal charges and is currently under trial, however, criminal charges against him have been countermanded.

eBay is going to challenge the ruling and will soon file an appeal against the order. “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,” said eBay’s spokesperson in a statement.

Image Credit: RaeA

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