Mar 19, 2009
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French eBay rival PriceMinister launches in UK

Mar 19, 2009

By Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) - Online market place PriceMinister, France's second-ranked e-commerce site behind eBay, said it was expanding into the UK as free listings and its clampdown on fake goods attracted rising numbers of buyers.

"The UK is the biggest e-commerce market in Europe. We will aggressively buy traffic, notably from Google and price comparison sites," Chief Executive Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet told Reuters in an interview ahead of the site's UK launch on Friday.

"We want to be in the top-five audience rankings by the end of 2010 -- eBay, Amazon.com, Tesco, play.com and soon PriceMinister."

The number of unique users on PriceMinister's French site has grown from 60 percent of eBay's level in 2008 to 80 percent in February, he said, and if the trend continued it would overtake the U.S. company in 2010. The site already operates in Spain and French-speaking parts of Belgium and Switzerland.

PriceMinister's free-listings policy -- it takes a cut of the sale price -- was encouraging people to list more goods on the site, he said.

"The number of individual sellers is picking up quickly because of the downturn," he said. "A year ago a quarter of buyers were also sellers, now a third of buyers are sellers."


Also attracting buyers to PriceMinister was its tough stance on fake goods, said Kosciusko-Morizet.

"Three years ago we decided our position was not sustainable -- we feel responsible for what's on our site and responsible for getting rid of counterfeit goods," he said.

Luxury goods makers are increasingly determined to tackle online sales of fake versions of their products, with France's LVMH and L'Oreal launching legal action in European courts, with mixed results, against eBay.

PriceMinister was called to give evidence in cosmetics company L'Oreal's ongoing case against the U.S. giant over the sale of fake cosmetics in the British High Court this month.

EBay said it had an "absolute commitment" to fighting counterfeit goods on its site.

"We spend $10 million a year and have 2,000 people dedicated to keeping the site safe," an eBay spokeswoman said.

Kosciusko-Morizet said PriceMinister, which launched in France in 2001, worked with 90 percent of luxury goods manufacturers in France, including L'Oreal and LVHM, to identify counterfeit goods and remove them from its listings.

It also offered buyers a money-back guarantee on any products that turned out to be fake, he said.

The strategy initially cost some sales growth, he said, but it was now paying off as sellers and buyers increasingly trusted the veracity of items for sale on the site.

"We have 90 percent growth in clothing and apparel," he said. "Buyers feel safe and sellers feel safe."

PriceMinister is one-third owned by its founders, one third by individual investors and one third by venture capitalists including 3i Group, which holds just under 15 percent.

(Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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