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eBay wins against opticians

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The General Optical Council declined to present evidence today at the opening of its case against eBay for "aiding and abetting" illegal contact lens sales so all charges against the auction house were dismissed.

A spokeswoman for the group admitted they had overlooked the European Ecommerce Directive which states that companies cannot be forced to actively monitor their webpages. She also said the GOC had seen no contact lenses for sale on eBay since September, when the GOC took action. The spokeswoman said: "It would appear eBay is taking steps to remove them [dodgy contact lens sales].

eBay said the verdict reinforced its position as an "information society service provider" which means it is not responsible for monitoring its own site for illegal content.

Robert Miller, former director of legal affairs at eBay UK, said: "eBay has an extensive notice and take down programme to try and ensure that illegal activity doesn’t take place through its website; however, it relies on the vigilance of third parties, including rights owners and prosecuting authorities, to identify illegal items and contact eBay." Miller is currently at eBay subsidiary Skype.

The GOC issued ten summonses against eBay claiming breaches of the Opticians Act back in September 2005. A statement at the time said: "Members of the public are being put at risk because eBay are[sic] just not willing to act on this." In response eBay described the GOC statement as libellous and demanded an immediate withdrawal.

A spokeswoman for the GOC admitted that the libel issue was still ongoing and the council is still in discussions with eBay.

The full GOC statement issued today is available here .

Contact lenses can only be sold under the supervision of a doctor or optician.®

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