eBay Tells Congress to Protect Internet Users

March 9, 2009

eBay understands the priorities of Internet users. That\'s why we wrote to Congress and asked them to reject discriminatory stolen goods legislation that would raise the prices consumers pay and jeopardize the safety of their personal information.

Below is the letter sent to Senators Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) in response to S.470, H.R. 1173 and H.R. 1166. Make sure your voice is heard - send your own letter to Congress.


March 5, 2009

We support efforts to stop organized retail criminals and would applaud legislation to address retail theft in a balanced and effective manner. Unfortunately, recently introduced legislation (S. 470, H.R. 1173 and H.R. 1166) would discriminate against e-commerce, degrade important online service provider liability precedents, undermine Internet user privacy, open the door to anti-competitive conduct, and fail to establish a successful means to hinder retail theft and the sale of stolen goods.

These bills wrongly discriminate against one Internet business model - online marketplaces. Leading online marketplaces have invested significant resources into stopping criminal theft rings and have long standing positive relationships with law enforcement. Online marketplaces support hundreds of thousands of businesses with steady incomes and provide millions of consumers with quality products at fair prices. Restricting the online channel will only hurt struggling businesses and consumers during a difficult economic time.

Attempting to hold Internet marketplace providers liable for the behavior of their users would undermine a fundamental concept that has been key to the Internet’s success. Congress has long recognized the positive benefits of not holding online service providers liable for the actions of their users. This principle has allowed the Internet to flourish and has promoted innovation, economic empowerment, and consumer value. These bills would drastically change that precedent and require marketplaces to be responsible for items they have never seen or touched.

The legislative proposals also undermine long standing privacy protections for Internet users and businesses by requiring personal information to be turned over to businesses competitors without due process.

Additionally, these bills create an incentive for anti-competitive conduct because retailers can block sales by their competition simply by alleging an item might be stolen (which may be every time an item is being offered at a low price). All of this would result in less competition by legitimate sellers and higher prices for consumers.

Instead of targeting criminal activity, these bills target the Internet and its ability to empower entrepreneurs and provide consumer value and choice, and they chip away at well established Internet Service Provider liability protections and user privacy protections. We hope we can work with you in a constructive way to address the real issues related to organized retail crime. But, as currently drafted we urge members to reject S. 470, H.R. 1173, and H.R. 1166.


Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA)
Internet Commerce Coalition (ICC)
Information Technology Industry Association (ITI)
Electronic Retailing Association (ERA)