EBay: Phila. 'vampire' businessman violated agreement

In a column last month, I told the latest tale of Patrick Rodgers, who runs an actual store in Queen Village and a virtual store on eBay, and who complained that the online-marketplace giant had treated him like, well, a virtual serf. Earlier this year, eBay had summarily shut down his online business, The MTG Place, for 46 days in a case of mistaken identity. EBay had apparently received complaints against the man who founded The MTG Place and sold it to Rodgers three years ago. Rodgers sued for $5,000 in lost revenue, contending that eBay had no grounds to shut him down before investigating - an inquiry that led to his reinstatement and a sorry-for-the-inconvenience email. Now eBay wants to clarify its position. It says Rodgers essentially had no right to buy the store without its prior consent.

Rodgers is no stranger to the David-vs.-Goliath thing. He's the same Philly homeowner who made national news two years ago with his claim to have "foreclosed on a bank." He had won a default judgment against Wells Fargo in a mortgage dispute, and when the megabank didn't pay a $1,000 fine, Rodgers got a "Sheriff Sale" order for the contents of one of its Philadelphia offices - a small victory but enough to make Rodgers' story go viral after I wrote about for The Inquirer. He even went on The Colbert Report, though Colbert was more interested in the Goth music promoter's cosmetic fangs than his financial victory. How, Colbert demanded, could the rest of the media overlook an obvious vampire?

EBay didn't respond to my questions in time for last month's column, but afterward said it wanted to make its position clear. In an email, spokesman Ryan Moore wrote:

Neither Mr. Rodgers or the original account owner contacted eBay to obtain consent for the transfer of this account at the time Mr. Rodgers claims he purchased the business in 2010. In 2013, when Mr. Rodgers provided to eBay documentation regarding the purchase of the business, the suspension on the account was lifted and the account remains active today.

EBay believes that Mr. Rodgers' claims are without merit and will continue to vigorously defend the pending lawsuit.

EBay's User Agreement states that members of our community may not "transfer by any manner any eBay application or ... eBay account (including Feedback) and user ID to another party without our consent." In the rare case that involves the sale of an entire business, we may give a seller consent to transfer the user ID connected to that business following a careful review. We consider these requests on a case-by-case basis and work with the parties on the specific requirements of the transfer process. The enforcement of this policy reflects our commitment to protecting the reputation of our sellers and the integrity of our feedback system.

Rodgers, who says he turned down a $2,500 settlement offer and is pursuing his Municipal Court suit, disputed Moore's statement. He responded via email:

EBay's User Agreement does not in any way restrict a person from purchasing an eBay account, or a business that operates an eBay account. Even if it did, which it doesn't, I had no contractual obligations to eBay prior to my purchase of the business. I have no information about communication between eBay and the previous owner of The MTG Place concerning his intent to sell his business to me, but that would be a matter between him and eBay. eBay voiced no concerns over the sale when the account name, address, city, state, zip code, and payment information were changed in 2010. Any information that eBay has requested from me has been provided to them within 24 hours. To date I have received no explanation as to why access to my account was blocked nearly three years after the sale, nor why it took 46 days for eBay to correct its mistake.

The case is scheduled for trial in July. I'll keep you posted. If you want to see Rodgers in the Colbert video, it's posted below.