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State laws do not extend to EBay

August 21, 2008|Carol J. Williams | Times Staff Writer

California consumers are not protected by the state's consumer protection laws when something they buy on EBay turns out to be less than advertised, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

In the latest judicial message of "buyer beware" on Internet shopping, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said a federal district court in Northern California properly decided it didn't have jurisdiction to require a Wisconsin classic car seller to abide by this state's consumer protection laws.

The dispute began three years ago when Paul Boschetto of San Francisco offered the winning $34,106 bid for a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 XL auctioned by Wisconsin sellers who described the vehicle in their EBay ad as "in awesome condition, not restored, rust free chrome in excellent condition, recently rebuilt and ready to be driven."

When the car arrived, according to Boschetto's testimony to the federal district court, the engine wouldn't start and the car was rusty and dented.

Boschetto contacted EBay and Hansing in a fruitless effort to rescind the purchase, then filed suit in federal district court alleging violation of the California Consumer Protection Act, breach of contract, misrepresentation and fraud.

The defendants filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for Northern California for dismissal, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction over an out-of-state seller. The court agreed and dismissed the case in July 2006.

In reviewing Boschetto's appeal, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit ruled that since the sellers weren't specifically aiming to sell to Californians, the transaction was not subject to state law. Circuit Judge Betty Binns Fletcher wrote for the panel that the mere fact that Boschetto was in California was insufficient "to establish jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant."

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carol.williams@latimes.com

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