Web User Seeks To Revive Discrimination Lawsuit Against eBay

EbayGavelDeaf Web user Melissa Earll is seeking to revive her lawsuit against eBay for allegedly violating a discrimination law by requiring sellers to use a telephone to verify their identities.

"Plaintiff implores the Court to allow her to continue her fight for her civil rights," Earll's lawyer argues in recent court papers.

The case dates to 2010, when Earll alleged in a potential class-action lawsuit that she was unable to register with eBay because the company verifies identity through telephone calls.

She says that eBay gives would-be merchants telephones with passwords that they must enter online. Earll alleges that she spent two months in the summer of 2008 corresponding with eBay in hopes of convincing it to use an alternative verification system. In late 2009, she tried to register as a seller and again was unable to do so, she alleged.

Earll argues in court papers that eBay should revise its procedures by allowing sellers to "choose whether to receive a phone call, a text message, or an email for off-site identity verification."

This August, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, Calif., ruled that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act -- which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities -- doesn't apply to online companies like eBay. The 1990 statute says it applies to "places of public accommodation."

Davila dismissed several of Earll's claims with prejudice, meaning that she can't refile them. But the judge left open the possibility that Earll can refile a claim alleging that eBay violated a California civil rights law called the Unruh Act. That law prohibits intentional discrimination.

Earll is now seeking to revive that claim by alleging that she met in person with eBay's lawyers in July 2010. "Despite having verified Ms. Earll’s identity in person, eBay still refuses to allow Ms. Earll to register as a seller," she argues in recent court papers. "If eBay’s real purpose were to verify identities or prevent fraud, then surely an in-person meeting would suffice."

For its part, eBay says Earll still hasn't hasn't alleged sufficient facts to prove intentional discrimination.

eBay isn't the only Web company to face discrimination claims. Netflix also was recently sued for discrimination based on its failure to provide closed captioning online. The company recently agreed to settle that case by adding captions to its streaming video.

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