The sale of fake or fraudulent merchandise on eBay is nothing new. The world’s largest online auction venue has long been a magnet for scam artists in search of illegal gains and pranksters seeking attention. Everything from human kidneys to illegal drugs has been offered to the highest bidder. In a few cases, cheaters have been caught and prosecuted, but the company has never been held liable.

Now a group of victims who bought fake sports memorabilia on eBay hopes to change that. In a suit filed late last month in San Diego County Superior Court, the plaintiffs are seeking damages under an obscure California statute that regulates the sale of such items. More important, the suit challenges the core of eBay’s legal framework, through which the company takes a hands-off, no-liability approach to the transactions that take place between buyers and sellers.

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