• RSS Feed

The LinkUp Blog The Industry's Best-Kept Secret

July 10, 2008 / Toby Dayton

French Court’s Ruling Against ebay Should Send Signal To Employment Guide

Last month, a French court ruled that ebay must pay $61 million to LVMH for allowing the sale of fake luxury goods on its site. Though ebay is appealing the ruling, it’s a fascinating case that is garnering widespead attention for its implications on how business is conducted on the web. There are good arguments to be made on both sides of the issue, but I basically feel that sites like ebay should make reasonable, good-faith attempts to prohibit sales of the types of merchandise at issue in the ruling. The site should not be required to bare unreasonable costs to do so, but the auction site and others like it should be required to implement reasonable, appropriate, and sensible policies that attempt to prohibit, block, or remove from the site such transactions. I will clearly admit that I have no idea exactly what those policies, technologies, or restrictions would look like and what impact they might have on ebay’s business model, but my guess is that we’ll soon find out thanks to the French court.

In some ways, the same issues inherent in the ebay ruling are akin to those that could be applied to a media company running advertisements for its clients/advertisers. What responsibility does a media company have to screen its customers and the products or services they are advertising? It’s a tricky, complex topic with few easy answers. But despite the grayness surrounding the issue, there are, without a doubt, some easy answers that at least begin to bring a hint of clarity to the issue. Unfortunately, not all media companies choose the right side of those easy answers.

The Employment Guide continues to run scam ads, the worst of which is the postal jobs ads that run every week in every single issue of the Employment Guide nationwide, that take advantage of the most vulnerable in our society and prey on ignorance and desperation. I’ve written about this topic quite a bit over the past few years, and will continue to do so until the Guide and other newspapers stop running these heinous ads. There is absolutely no question, none whatsoever, that the Employment Guide is fully aware of how fraudulent the advertiser is in this case (it takes a 5 minute phone call to figure it out). That alone makes them guilty of aiding and abetting a criminal.

But even worse, the company running the postal ads is undoubtedly the Employment Guide’s single largest customer, spending what I’d estimate is somewhere between $500,000 – $1,000,000 per year with the Guide (50+ markets, $200-$300 per week, 52 weeks a year). That fact alone places an even higher level of responsibility on the Guide to ascertain the legitimacy of their biggest customer. The fact that they blatantly shirk this responsibility to their readers, their employees, and their legitimate advertisers (however few remain) is a testament to both how negligent the Guide is and how desperate they are for revenue. The French court would undoubtedly rule against the Employment Guide in this case. At the very least, anyone considering buying the Guide should substantially reduce their offering bid to account for the facts that not only is the Guide’s largest customer a fraudulent company, but the Employment Guide has engendered years of ill-will among its readers and customers by running these horrendous ads.