PayPal Responds To Violin Incident

    January 6, 2012

On Wednesday we ran a story about PayPal’s latest PR problem. It seems a woman sold an antique violin worth $2500. When the buyer received it, however, there arose a dispute over the label (which is apparently not uncommon the in the violin world). When the buyer asked PayPal for a refund, they decided that the violin must be counterfeit, and ordered the buyer to destroy it in order to get his money back.

While preparing that story, I sent a request for comment to PayPal. They got back to me with the following statement:

While we cannot talk about this particular case due to PayPal’s privacy policy, we carefully review each case, and in general we may ask a buyer to destroy counterfeit goods if they supply signed evidence from a knowledgeable third party that the goods are indeed counterfeit. The reason why we reserve the option to ask the buyer to destroy the goods is that in many countries, including the US, it is a criminal offense to mail counterfeit goods back to a seller.

Unfortunately, this isn’t really that much of an answer. They decline to discuss the specifics of the case, but state that signed evidence from a knowledgeable third party is required before they ask the buyer to destroy an item. According to the seller, however, the violin had already been examined before being sent, and its authenticity was confirmed. It remains unclear whether PayPal really did require the buyer to present proof from a third party before ordering the violin’s destruction. I asked PayPal’s representative in a follow-up email whether the buyer had provided the necessary evidence. I also asked what, if any, recourse the seller might have, since she has lost both the violin and the $2500 she was paid for it. As yet I have not received a response.