SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – EBay must face claims that it breached an “ambiguous” contract with users who subscribed for the Featured Plus service, a federal judge ruled.
In a January lawsuit, auto accessories seller Custom LED said it paid $39.95 for Featured Plus, but eBay concealed how the service worked.
The service was available only through the eBay Motors website and when prospective bidders selected “best match” in the advanced search box, according to the complaint.
Custom LED claims it paid the fee to increase search visibility, but sellers who paid less than $1 in listing fees got better results. It also says bugs made the service nonfunctional.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston agreed Thursday that the contract claim can move forward.
“Defendants’ argument that the contract did not promise ‘priority’ if consumers initiated their search from Core eBay or decided to sort their search results by anything other than ‘Best Match,’ ignores that the Featured Plus! description did promise to list Featured Plus! items in a ‘section at the top of the search results page’ without any limitation or description,” Illston wrote.
“Similarly, the fact that – as both sides agree – the Featured Plus! listings only appear when the default ‘Best Match’ criteria is used to view search results does not mean that a reasonable seller would understand that the contract did not require a Featured Items section to appear at the top of the search list when, for example, a consumer chooses to ‘list by price’ the search results,” she added. “The resolution of that question also depends on context and a fuller record.”
But Illston did dismiss the common-law fraud and deceit claims, saying that Custom LED failed to state a claim beyond breach of contract or harm above and beyond the economic damages it suffered from the breach. She also dismissed the unjust enrichment and declaratory relief actions, calling the latter “inappropriate” as it “will not accomplish anything in addition to the resolution of plaintiff’s breach of contract claim.”
Two European eBay subsidiaries dodged liability as well, with Illston telling the New Jersey-based Custom LED that it “cannot, either as an individual or as a class representative, attempt to bring a claim against the foreign entities without showing that it either had a contract with those entities or alleging facts showing that those entities’ conduct injured plaintiff.”