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Yahoo to charge auction fees, ban hate materials

The online giant says it will begin charging listing fees for its Internet auctions and that it would ban the sale of Nazi militaria and Ku Klux Klan memorabilia.

Yahoo said Tuesday that it will begin charging listing fees for its Internet auctions and that it will ban the sale of Nazi militaria and Ku Klux Klan memorabilia.

Both policies go into effect Jan. 10. Yahoo's new fees come during a sharp industry economic downturn, brought on by a slowdown in online advertising. The new policy on hate-related material comes as Yahoo has been criticized--by a French court of law, as well as by consumer watchdog groups--for the sale of Nazi paraphernalia.

Yahoo contended that its listing fee will "ultimately further improve the quality of our auctions service," adding that it will not charge a closing fee. The fees will range from 20 cents to $2.25 depending on the value of the item being sold.

Customers had speculated for more than a month that Yahoo would begin charging the fees, and many were not pleased.

"Bye bye Yahoo, it was fun while it lasted," said one person on AuctionWatch.com. "With so few bidders and your jumbled listings, I won't pay to list. See you later gator."

Others speculated that Yahoo's new pricing policy would help other auction sites that still are free, such as DutchBid.com.

eBay and Amazon.com already charge listing fees, but Yahoo's free listing policy made it a popular competitor. Yahoo's policy also helped it gain ground on its competitors in terms of auction listings. Analysts will watch closely to see whether Yahoo's new policy leads to a decline in auction items listed on the site.

Like other Internet companies, Yahoo has considered charging more fees to help reduce dependence on advertising.

Yahoo also said it "will no longer allow items that are associated with groups which promote or glorify hatred and violence, to be listed on any of Yahoo's commerce properties."

A statement singled out "items such as Nazi militaria and KKK memorabilia." Yahoo also said it will start a new policy that includes trained representatives monitoring the site regularly. In addition, Yahoo will use software to identify potentially objectionable items.

Yahoo has been sharply criticized for the sale of Nazi memorabilia on its site.

A watchdog group, BiasHelp, had urged Yahoo to end the auctions. In a letter to chief executive Tim Koogle, the group said: "While we are sensitive to free speech considerations, those interested in purchasing music, toys or antiques via your site should not have to wade through hundreds of Nazi or Klan postings." The group routinely monitors eBay, Yahoo and other auction sites for merchandise that it considers racist.

In addition, a French court ordered Yahoo to find a way to halt the auctions in countries such as France. The ruling has gained widespread attention. The case also was seen as a test of how local laws are applied to Internet companies, which operate across global boundaries.

A French anti-racism group sued Yahoo in April objecting to the sale of Nazi items on its auction site--illegal under French law.

Two weeks ago, Yahoo asked a U.S. federal court to rule that the French government has no jurisdiction over the company's operations.

Last year, after coming under similar scrutiny from BiasHelp, eBay banned auctions that promote hate groups such as the Aryan Nation and the KKK. Unlike Yahoo's new policy, eBay's policy allows Nazi and other hate material, as long as items are more than 50 years old and have legitimate historical value.