Virgin Net offers auction service

The UK online auction market is hotting up. Virgin Net is to offer a competing service with those of more established auction players, such as QXL, Yahoo! and eBay.

Virgin Net has linked with US company FairMarket, which provides both technology and its own auction network. The network is potentially more important since it means that an item placed for auction on one site will also be featured on other sites.

FairMarket’s US network includes big portal names such as MSN, Excite and AltaVista. In the UK, it includes News International’s FiredUp.com, Dell Computer’s Dellauction.co.uk, and Autotrader.co.uk.

The Virgin Net service is expected to launch imminently. Simon Martin, Virgin Net head of e-commerce, expects the auction facility to “contribute significantly to our bottom-line e-commerce revenues”. He notes that Virgin Net has 750,000 registered users, compared with QXL’s last stated figures of about 330,000.

FairMarket believes its outsourced auction service will appeal to offline brands which don’t want to play second-fiddle to new online names such as QXL. Adam Dorrell, FairMarket head of marketing, says: “We offer them a way to get their own online brand equity very quickly.”

Things are beginning to move rapidly in this still young market. Loot has announced that its subsidiary Loot.com is up for sale, while QXL continues to buy up online auction companies on the Continent.

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