Is using a false name on Trademe and in related correspondence illegal?

Question Details: When trading an item on Trademe I used a made up name during the correspondence with the other person and for postage. This was so that they would not try and contact my home address should things not go well. Needless to say, things did not go well and now I have a summons to the Disputes Tribunal. I did not intentionally try to deceive and remained in correspondence with the person. How will this impact my case? Have I broken any laws? How should I approach this?

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Answers by Lawyers

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

Generally using a false name is not illegal under criminal law. For any criminal charges to apply, you would have had to intentionally have used the false name to deceive the person into entering into the contract, which does not appear to be the case.

You should be aware however that the use of the false name may affect your credibility in the Disputes Tribunal, if the issue came down to the referee having to prefer one version over another.

We suggest you may want to consider resolving this issue during the initial settlement discussions which will occur in the Tribunal at the start of the hearing. Further information on the hearing process is available here: www.communitylaw.org.nz.

Using a false name may be also be a breach of Trade Me's Code of Conduct which requires honesty from Trade Me users. This could also affect your credibility in the Tribunal, and may result in Tade Me closing your account and/or banning you in future. For Trade Me's relevant terms and conditions, see www.trademe.co.nz. Many people use false names on Trade Me, but you may be better off using a clearly fake name, like Squirrel300, so that your honesty is not brought into question.

Answered 7 Oct 2013. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

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