eBay removed one of the three listings today, and although the other two remain on the site, the auctions have been discontinued. "It was clearly more along the lines of an advertisement" than an auction, said eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove.
As reported, EarthLink on Tuesday listed its $19.95 unlimited Net access offer on eBay as if users could bid for the service. But the Internet service provider appeared to be turning to eBay as an inexpensive way to advertise rather than participating in a person-to-person auction. eBay's site is among the most heavily visited on the Web, making it an ideal advertising venue.
EarthLink's action left some eBay users confused. "Is this really an auction?" one user asked on a message board.
Despite the removal of the EarthLink auctions, eBay has no plans to implement a policy that would prevent other companies from trying similar tactics. "We do not monitor all the items," for auction, said Pursglove. "We and the eBay users will have to be forever vigilant." The company did not receive any complaints from users, he added.
In its eBay listings, EarthLink offered the first month of service free (it charges $19.95 per month after that), a waiver of the $25 set-up fee, and a $50 check if the user stays with the Internet service provider for at least two more months. By clicking on a link in each listing, potential EarthLink customers are whisked to the ISP's site to sign up.
If eBay customers actually tried to bid for the ISP offer, they could have ended up paying more than $19.95, because eBay's system automatically sets a minimum bid increment of 50 cents for all auctions.
News.com's Jeff Pelline contributed to this report.