Last week a portion of this space featured an outdated North Dakota regulation that came to the fore because an honest eBay seller wanted to comply with the law. Today, we have an update and a happy, if only partial, conclusion to the story.
All in all, eBay sellers in the Roughrider State are in the clear. According to a letter opinion released on Friday by Attorney General Stenehjem, an auctioneer's or auction clerk's license is unnecessary for sales completed through Internet auction sites such as eBay. The seven-page letter leaves some wiggle room for licensure depending on the facts of a specific case, but it is clearly a blow for common sense and against the application of old regulatory models to new technologies and services. As one Internet denizen once famously observed in a different context, there is now a "controlling legal authority" for North Dakotans on this question.
I note that the conclusion is partial only because the question is certain to come before the legislature soon. Other outcomes are clear. Among them, the PSC members -- who are elected on a statewide basis -- sidestep an obligation to enforce the law on eBay sellers. Invariably, this would make them look like regulatory zealots. The Attorney General comes out with a pro-consumer position that is easily understood on the stump. Finally, eBay builds some traction to make this type of nuisance go away in other states that have similar laws.