04/01/2012 12:30 GMT | Updated 06/01/2012 11:51 GMT

PayPal 'Forced Online Buyer To Destroy Antique Violin Amid Counterfeit Claims'

An online seller endured a “heartbreaking” experience after claiming PayPal made a buyer destroy her $2,500 violin because it was deemed “counterfeit”.

The owner, named only as Erica, made the sale to a buyer in Canada, who requested a refund, having disputed the authenticity label.

According to Erica: “This is not uncommon. In the violin market, labels often mean little and there is often disagreement over them. Some of the most expensive violins in the world have disputed labels, but they are works of art nonetheless.”

In order to get his money back, Erica claims the buyer was ordered by PayPal to destroy the instrument – which bore the label -Bourguignon Maurice - and send a photograph as proof.

Erica shared her story with , where she wrote: “The buyer was so proud of himself, he sent me a photo of the destroyed violin.

“I am now out a violin that made it through WWII as well as $2,500. This is of course upsetting.

"But my main goal in writing to you is to prevent PayPal from ordering the destruction of violins and other antiquities that they know nothing about. It is beyond me why PayPal simply didn’t have the violin returned to me.

“I spoke on the phone to numerous reps from PayPal who 100% defended their action and gave me the party line.”

Despite Erica’s heartbreak, PayPal’s terms and conditions do include a paragraph about the destruction of goods deemed to be counterfeit.

It says: “ For SNAD (significantly not as described) claims... PayPal may also require you to destroy the item and to provide evidence of its destruction.”

A spokesman for PayPal said: "While we cannot talk about this particular case due to PayPal's privacy policy, we carefully review each case, and in general we may ask a buyer to destroy counterfeit goods if they supply signed evidence from a knowledgeable third party that the goods are indeed counterfeit.

"The reason why we reserve the option to ask the buyer to destroy the goods is that in many countries, including the US, it is a criminal offense to mail counterfeit goods back to a seller."

Antique violin dealer Andrew Hooker told the Guardian only an “imbecile” would buy a precious instrument without playing it first.

He added: “I sympathise with the wronged party but a fool and his money are easily parted.”

An earlier version of this story made reference to 'Erica' as an eBay user. eBay was not referenced in the original article and we were happy to amend this.