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Time change throws eBay for a loop

Instead of springing forward an hour, the online giant's clocks get a little stuck, leading to discrepencies between auction end times and notices sent to members.

    Instead of springing forward an hour, eBay's clocks got a little stuck on Sunday.

    A software problem led to auctions ending an hour early, discrepancies between auction end times listed on different parts of the site, and notices sent to members with the wrong closing time for their auctions. In a message on one of its announcement boards, San Jose, Calif.-based eBay told members it planned to fix the problem early Monday morning.

    "We understand that this issue has created considerable confusion, and we empathize with everyone impacted," a note read. "We are working to resolve it as quickly as possible and will double our efforts to ensure that these types of external issues don't inhibit our users' trading experience in the future."

    eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said the problem was fixed Monday morning.

    The time problem is only the latest bug that eBay has had to fight in recent weeks. Last month, because of one glitch, the company overcharged sellers for relisting items on the leading auction site. A display error led other sellers to think that they were being overcharged for 10-day auctions.

    For more than a week last month, many RoadRunner subscribers either were unable to access eBay or had trouble accessing the auction site because of a faulty data connection between AT&T and Sprint.

    On Sunday, many eBay auctions listed a different closing time than would appear in a search. eBay said the time problem affected nearly all auctions with end dates between April 1 and April 8. eBay said it would provide listing credits for auctions that were ended early because of the problem.

    Much of the bidding on online auctions takes place during the last few minutes. When potential buyers are unable to place bids during that time, items can close with winning bids far lower than what they might otherwise be.

    On its announcement board, eBay blamed the problem on a daylight-saving time bug in Microsoft's Visual C++ code, which eBay uses to handle dates in its database. That bug was discovered and acknowledged by Microsoft in January 1999. The company subsequently issued a fix for the bug.

    Microsoft representatives did not return calls Monday seeking comment.

    "Why didn't eBay know about this?" asked Rosalinda Baldwin, editor of The Auction Guild, a newsletter focusing on online auctions. "I believe that they are just plain old incompetent."

    Although the bug did not affect auctions during daylight-saving time last year, sellers at that time criticized eBay and Yahoo for not alerting them about how their auctions would be affected. Both of the companies ended auctions affected by the time change an hour later than normal last year.