Online auction sites in nasty fight over ‘free’ listings

Telstra subsidiary Sensis, which owns the Trading Post online auction site, has accused fellow Australian auction site OZtion of misleading and deceptive conduct and demanded that it stop advertising the fact that OZtion provides free listings.

Telstra subsidiary Sensis, which owns the Trading Post online auction site, has accused fellow Australian auction site OZtion of misleading and deceptive conduct and demanded that it stop advertising the fact that OZtion provides free listings.

The demand is contained in a letter sent from Sensis’ general counsel to OZtion executives.

The letter alleges that OZtion advertising material, which states listing items on the site is free, could confuse customers, because while listing items on the site is free, selling them involves paying fees.

Sensis alleges the “free” claims constitute misleading and deceptive conduct under the Trade Practises Act and has demanded OZtion provide Sensis with a written undertaking that it will cease making the statements and provide appropriate disclaimers by 5pm on 20 August.

OZtion co-founder Philip Druce says he is mystified by the demands and claims Sensis’s own website promotes exactly the same thing.

“The terms OZtion uses, ‘free to list items’ and ‘you can list items for sale on OZtion for FREE’, are fact.” Druce says.

“A quick review of a Sensis online auction site, The Trading Post, sees virtually the same terminology, and certainly the same meaning, used in a similar way when promoting their own services.”

But Senis spokesperson Lucinda Tippett says Sensis has been transparent in communicating its “list for free” offer to customers.

“Our ‘list for free’ offer clearly states that it applies to a ‘basic auction’ and ‘buy now’ listing and that sellers will pay a success fee on sale.

“This approach is very different to our competitors whose advertising materials do not explain or refer to any further information regarding the ‘free offer’,” she says.

“Sensis is eager to ensure there is a level playing field for advertisers which in turn ensures our customers are not being mislead. In this regard we’ll continue to monitor our competitors advertising.”

OZition’s Druce won’t be bowing to Sensis’s demands. “Their letter simply doesn’t have merit. Our statements are correct and you can list items for sale on OZtion for free.”

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