Ebay: A Legal System in the Making?

32 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2006


Does eBay operate (partially at least) within its own legal system? This is the question addressed in this article.

The author's contention in this article is that, in cyberspace, specific communities can be found that have the three following characteristics:

- they are primarily governed by a set of norms or rules specific to this community; - the violation of these norms or rules may be submitted to dispute resolution systems specific to this community; and - the outcome of these dispute resolution systems can be enforced by means specific to this community.

These three characteristics correspond to the community's jurisdiction to prescribe, adjudicate, and enforce.

The author further maintains that, if these three characteristics can indeed be observed, such a community would be (primarily or at least partially) governed by its own private legal system.

The example on which the author bases his analysis is the eBay marketplace. In other words, the author argues that there is such a thing as eBay law, understood in the sense of a legal system specific to eBay.

Indeed, eBay has:

- its own norms or rules: the eBay policies; - its own dispute resolution system: SquareTrade's online dispute resolution mechanisms; and - its own enforcement system: eBay's reputation management system, which is connected to SquareTrade's dispute resolution mechanisms.

Note: Downloadable document is in French.

Keywords: eBay, online dispute resolution, cyberspace, Internet, SquareTrade, reputation, enforcement, private legal systems, legal pluralism

JEL Classification: K00, K4, K49

Suggested Citation

Schultz, Thomas, Ebay: A Legal System in the Making?. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=896679

Thomas Schultz (Contact Author)

King's College London ( email )

Somerset House East Wing
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

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