eBay offers 50 free listings per month

The world's biggest online car boot sale, auction site eBay, is offering all sellers 50 free listings per month starting in April.

The giant Internet outlet for pre-loved tat and cheap Chinese knock-offs doesn't seem to be struggling too much, the marketplaces unit in question having recently been valued at $5.7 billion, but something is obviously afoot.

Companies the size of eBay, which also owns online payment giant PayPal, don't give anything away for free without an ulterior motive.

It's true that eBay no longer enjoys a virtual monopoly when it comes to flogging stuff on the Internet and the move may simply be a away of tempting smaller traders, which have been eBay's bread and butter in the past, away from competitors like Amazon Marketplace.

The move could also lead to an avalanche of junk listings on the auction site as sellers will not have to pay a fee whether an item sells or not.

eBay has struggled to drag its reputation out of a slightly grubby mire in recent years, being seen by many as a poorer relation to shiny, corporate offerings like Amazon's, so we can't quite see how further cheapening the brand will help.