Quebec Court of Appeal sides with eBay in case of $98K running shoes
Online auction site appealed lower court ruling that awarded Montreal brothers $86,700 for cancelled sale
Quebec's Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of the online auction site eBay after it cancelled the sale of a pair of running shoes that stood to earn a pair of Montreal brothers $98,000.
In 2016, a lower court judge ruled eBay cancelled the sale unfairly.
She awarded the brothers, Kevin and Thierry Mofo Moko, $86,700 in damages.
EBay appealed, and in a decision released last Friday, Quebec's Court of Appeal ruled the auction site was justified in cancelling the sale in order to protect the security of its customers.
The $98K shoes
The sale dates back to 2012, when shoemaker Nike released with great fanfare a shoe called the Air Foamposite Galaxy 1 to coincide with the NBA all-star game.
The limited edition shoes were in high demand and prompted frenzied lineups at shoe stores across North America on the day of their release, Feb. 24, 2012.
On Feb. 21, Kevin and Thierry Mofo Moko advertised a pair of the shoes for sale on eBay, though they didn't yet have the shoes in hand.
The next day, Thierry lined up at a Montreal shoe store and waited 30 hours to purchase a pair of the shoes for $280 plus tax.
When he got home, Mofo Moko was shocked to see the bids for the shoes he'd posted had reached $50,000 and climbing, maxing out with a bid of $98,000 just two hours before the sale was due to end on Feb. 24.
That's when eBay pulled the plug.
EBay suspected sale was fraudulent
In court documents, eBay explained that it stopped the sale because it had reasonable suspicion to believe it may have been a fraud.
It noted that it was the first time the Mofo Moko brothers had ever sold anything on its site, so it had no sales history to verify their reliability.
EBay also noted the duration of the sale — three days — was the minimum allowed by the site and the most common duration for fraudulent sales.
It also noted the photo accompanying the sale was generic, suggesting the seller may not be in possession of the actual shoes.
And it noted that the $98,000 bid on the Mofo Moko's pair of shoes was wildly out of step with other bids for other pairs of Air Foamposite Galaxy 1's on the site at the time, which ranged from $755 to $2000.
Even though eBay had no direct evidence the sale was fraudulent, the Court of Appeal ruled that based on these factors, the auction site was justified in halting the sale.
It said eBay was not acting unreasonably or abusively towards the Mofo Mokos, but simply trying to protect its users against fraud and abuse.
Ultimately, after making some verifications, eBay allowed the Mofo Mokos to repost the shoes for sale.
By that time, it seemed, the frenzy had passed.
The Mofo Mokos withdrew their sale after attaining a maximum bid of just $1,900 in their second attempt to sell the shoes.
They launched their lawsuit against eBay a few months later.
Shoes were unique, but not that unique: expert
Toddy Flores, a Montreal DJ and avid shoe collector who calls himself a "sneakerhead" and once owned 2,000 pairs of shoes himself, has followed the case.
Flores said Nike released very few pairs the Foamposite Galaxy 1s, and their distinctive appearance made them highly sought after.
"It had that Milky Way star pattern on it, more like a solar system. It was the first time a print like that was put on shoes," Flores said.
But Flores said the $98,000 bid on the shoes always seemed odd to him.
"That was very abnormal, something I had never seen before," Flores said. He said around the time of their release, a pair of Foamposite Galaxy 1's could be had for $2,000 or less.
He said he's seen rare running shoes sell for as much as $20,000, but never anything approaching $100,000.
Lawyers for eBay and for the Mofo Mokos could not be reached for comment.