getting started

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There will be few internet users around today who haven't heard of the online auction site eBay. The brainchild of founder Pierre Omidyar back in 1995, eBay spawned the online auction phenomenon, using the web to create the perfect platform for a trading community and appealing to bargain hunters across the globe.

Today, more than 114 million of us use eBay to buy and sell up to 25 million items at any one time across a global market spanning 29 countries, including the UK, the US, most European countries, Australia and China.

EBay is not just about bagging a bargain; it's also a great way to track down obscure items and can be used to make money from items you no longer either want or need. It's about as close to alchemy as you're likely to get and if ever you needed an incentive to clear out the loft or sort through the junk in the garage, this is it.

In this eBay special, we'll guide you through the process of setting up an eBay user account and help you get to grips with the processes involved in buying and selling items at online auction. We'll also set out your rights as a buyer and your obligations as a vendor as well as providing tips on dispute resolution so you can trade on the site with confidence.

Getting started
Before you can sell or buy items on eBay you need to set up your own eBay username and password. Once this is done, it's worth taking some time to explore the website and get a general feel for how it works and what it offers.

If you are hunting for a specific product, use the Search tool to see if it is available. The Search tool sits just underneath the 'Welcome to eBay' heading on the homepage.

Once you've found an item you want to buy, actually placing a bid is pretty straightforward. Just click on the 'Place bid' button and you'll be asked to log in with the username and password you obtained during registration. You'll then have to confirm the maximum amount you want to bid.

It's absolutely vital that you are sure that you want an item before you place a bid on it as by doing so you are entering into a legally binding contract. We'll go into this in more detail later in this feature, but you may also want to refer to eBay's buyer's guide, which can be found . You will also find answers to virtually everything you need to know, from using the feedback facility to familiarising yourself with eBay etiquette.

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