Bill would ease NH auction laws for online sites

Under current statute, users of eBay and similar platforms are supposed to get a state license

Companies and individuals would be able to auction off other people’s stuff on eBay, or any other platform, without getting a license if Gov. Chris Sununu signs Senate Bill 316 into law.

Yes, New Hampshire law requires a license for things like online auctions, and the fact that you may not know it is one of the arguments for the bill.

“There are thousands of people who have no idea that they are violating the state statute,” said Rep. Michael Costable, R-Raymond, when arguing for the bill on the House floor.

To obtain a license, you either have to go to auctioneering school or apprentice with a licensed auctioneer for six months, Costable said. One thing you’d have to learn was how to make a bid call, that repetitive cattle rattle that is the soundtrack of old-fashioned, real-life auctions. Then you have to pay $75 to take an exam, and pay $200 for a two-year licenses and post a bond worth $25,000.

”I shouldn’t have to learn a bid call to post a picture online,” Costable said.

A good number of representatives opposed the exemption. Rep. Rebecca McBeath, D-Portsmouth, emphasized that even under existing law someone can put their own stuff on the internet, and she quoted FBI statistics showing that online auctioneering fraud is one of the top 10 complaints in 2016.

Even if that was true, said Costable, a state law was impossible to enforce, since the “barriers are global.” Some 43 states don’t require an auction license for online sales, and 23 don’t regulate auctions at all. How can you enforce such a law, “when all you need is an email address, and within three minutes you can be selling online?”

Auctioneers oppose the bill, said Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge, but what about the “grandmother bringing the family relic on consignment and the shop says, ‘I could get a broader audience’ if it goes online?’ And the grandmother, who’s not comfortable with computers, asks for the consignment store to do it for them.

“You should not need a license to do that,” said Hunt.

The House passed the bill, 192-137, sending it to Governor Sununu for his signature. 

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