Antique violin 'smashed on PayPal's orders'

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Paypal's been accused of ordering the destruction of a valuable violin after a dispute over its authenticity.

In a letter to the blog Regretsy - which normally highlights weird arts and crafts such as Star Trek cookies and knitted 'taxidermy' - a reader complains that the company declared the $2,500 violin a fake - without ever seeing it.

"I sold an old French violin to a buyer in Canada, and the buyer disputed the label," says Erica in the letter.

"Rather than have the violin returned to me, PayPal made the buyer destroy the violin in order to get his money back. They somehow deemed the violin as 'counterfeit', even though there is no such thing in the violin world."

Paypal's terms of service covering dispute resolution do include a warning that this might happen. "PayPal may also require you to destroy the item and to provide evidence of its destruction," they read.

Indeed, it's actually illegal in the US to mail counterfeit goods back to a vendor.

The issue here, though, is what gives PayPal the authority to decide that the violin was a fake - after all, Erica claims to have had it examined and authenticated by an expert before the sale.

"In the violin market, labels often mean little and there is often disagreement over them," says Erica. "Some of the most expensive violins in the world have disputed labels, but they are works of art nonetheless." 

PayPal's promised to investigate the issue.