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A fake eBay bidder in County Durham must pay £5,000

Paul Barrett hides his face as he leaves court
Image caption New laws were introduced in 2008 to tackle growing internet fraud

The first eBay seller to be prosecuted for bidding in his own auctions to boost prices has been ordered to pay nearly £5,000 in fines and costs.

Minibus firm owner Paul Barrett was told by a judge he had been spared jail because he had no previous convictions.

Barrett, 39, of Stanley, County Durham, was arrested after a complaint he sold a minibus with false low mileage.

He admitted 11 breaches of fair trading regulations and was also ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work.

Barrett was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay costs of £1,456 at Bradford Crown Court

The court was told how the case, involving so-called "shill bidding", was the first of its kind in the UK following the introduction of new legislation in 2008 designed to tackle internet fraud.

The court heard that Trading Standards investigators discovered Barrett used two logins - "paulthebusman" and "shanconpaul".

He would advertise under one, but put bids in using the other to boost the price.

The items involved included two Mercedes vehicles, a pie and pasty warmer, a cash register, a refrigerated display counter, three mobile phones, and a digital camera.

In some cases, Barrett ended up winning the auctions and would leave positive feedback on himself, the court was told.

In relation to a vacuum cleaner he left the comment: "Thanks very much. Item is great."

Sentencing the 39-year-old, Judge Peter Benson, said: "Had you had previous convictions for dishonesty, the result would have been a custodial sentence.

"This sort of conduct strikes at the heart of that trust which is vital if this very, very useful commercial medium is to continue to operate successfully."

A spokeswoman for eBay welcomed the sentence.

Vanessa Canzini, eBay's head of corporate communications, said: "This practice is not only prohibited on eBay as it damages the integrity and fairness of trading on our site, but it is also illegal."

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