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eBay facing legal action over contact lens dispute

September 29, 2005

Online auctioner eBay could be facing legal action for allegedly "helping and abetting" the sale of contact lenses on its Web site without the involvement of a qualified optician.

The summons was prompted by the UK's General Optical Council (GOC) which is to argue that "eBay is responsible for preventing unsupervised sales of contact lenses via its website".

But the online auction site hit back saying that it considers the GOC's claims that "eBay are just not willing to act" as libellous and has instructed its own lawyers to "seek immediate withdrawal of these allegations by the GOC".

The GOC, for its part, has confirmed it has been contacted by eBay's lawyers and refuses to withdraw the claim.

"We stand by our statement," a spokeswoman for the GOC told The Register.

At this stage it's not known if eBay intends to take libel action against the GOC.

The online auction house is due to appear at the City of London Magistrates Court next month.

The failure of the GOC and eBay to see eye to eye stems from the sale of contact lenses on the auction site.

Under current legislation Contact lenses (including cosmetic lenses) must be sold by, or under the supervision of, either a registered optician or doctor.

Failure to seek proper medical supervision could lead to eye infections, damages eyesight or even blindness, warns the GOC, the statutory body which regulates opticians and optometrists in the UK.

It says it alerted eBay to the problem in November last year although the auction site said the first it was aware of the problem was when it received the court summons earlier this month.

Ebay says that illegal items, including contact lenses, are not permitted on its website and once notified, listings are "promptly taken down".

In a statement eBay said: "Since this case has yet to come to court, eBay UK is unable to comment on the case specifics; however, we do intend to contest and plead not guilty to these charges."

Source: The Register



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