"Accidental" eBay bid causes shake-up

Let's say you decide to offer up a silver 1969 Mercedes-Benz limo -- once owned by Elvis Presley, you're quick to note -- on eBay. You set the "buy-it-now price" at a quarter of a million dollars, and, lo and behold, someone bites. But you never see the money. This troubles you. You may even be, dare we say, all shook up.

That's what a 66-year-old Pennsylvania man claims happened to him in a lawsuit filed last month with the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. In the latest episode of online-auctioneering scandal, a local TV news station is reporting that Gene Epstein, a retired car dealer from Wrightstown, Penn., has sued Jason Shepard, a 40-year-old sales representative from Ballston Lake, N.Y., for $245,000 -- the amount of the original bid -- plus $150,000 in damages.

It remains to be seen whether the Shepard's argument -- that his 2-year-old daughter accidentally hit a key on his computer and locked the bid into place -- would hold up in court. "It was not a prank, not a joke," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this month. Shepard snagged a 1999 Oldsmobile on eBay a week after the disputed auction in February 2004, the Inquirer reports. The cost? Less than $5,000.

Tech Culture
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    Anne Broache
    covers Capitol Hill goings-on and technology policy from Washington, D.C.

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