SEATTLE - The Attorney General's High-Tech unit today filed a lawsuit against an Olympia man who used Internet auction sites to sell valuable, vintage baseball cards that failed to live up to their promise -- if they were ever delivered at all.
In the lawsuit filed in Thurston County Superior Court, attorneys accuse Jon Hudson of violating the state's Consumer Protection Act by:
- misrepresenting the quality and value of cards offered for sale;
- failing to deliver goods that were paid for;
- failing to disclose material facts about the cards he offered for sale; and
- failing to refund customers' money.
"Most Internet auction sellers are honest, or these sites would not be as hugely popular as they are," Attorney General Christine Gregoire said, noting that as many as 32 million people visit online auction sites every month. "However, this case serves as a reminder that there will always be those who take advantage of a system built largely on trust."
A report issued last year by the Attorney General's Office and the University of Washington's Shidler Center for Law, Commerce and Technology said that between October and December of last year, eBay -- one of the most popular online auction sites -- had a total of 126.5 million items for sale. The site ended 2001 with more than 42 million registered users.
The Attorney General's Office so far this year has received 131 complaints about online auctions, most of which concern a seller's failure to deliver or misrepresentation.
According to the complaint filed today, Hudson conducted numerous auctions on eBay, including one type in which multiple bidders purchased varying quantities of cards, and another in which a single bidder purchased a defined package.
In the first type, Hudson offered all-star card collections that he claimed included "all the greatest (players) to ever play the game" and "Nothing but the best of the best, the cream of the crop."
He claimed the collection was "absolutely LOADED with vintage" cards, many of them from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. However, most of the cards in the collection were manufactured in the 1980s and 1990s, and are not considered vintage, the complaint alleged.
In the single bidder auction, Hudson offered a package of 50,000 cards, as many as 200 of those "graded" by a third party who assessed their value, and more than 2,000 unopened packs of cards. Instead, the winning bidder, who paid $5,000, received only 35,000 cards, 121 graded cards and no unopened packs, the complaint alleged.
The complaint also alleges Hudson failed to tell consumers that many of the cards he offered for sale were manufactured in the 1990s by a cookie company and that they "are neither valuable nor vintage."
In January, Hudson was barred by eBay from staging any further auctions because of the consumer complaints filed against him.
Attorneys are seeking civil penalties, a court order prohibiting Hudson from misrepresenting the value or quality of cards he offers for sale, costs and fees and restitution for as many as 80 consumers who told the Attorney General's Office that they were dissatisfied with their purchase.
A copy of the Attorney General's online auction report, titled "Bidder Beware: Toward a Fraud-Free Marketplace - Best Practices for the Online Auction Industry" can be accessed via the web.