An online seller has claimed that the money-handling company PayPal ordered the destruction of a $2,500 French violin that she sold to a buyer in Canada. The seller, known as Erica, told the website that the buyer had disputed the violin's Maurice Bourguignon label, and said that because PayPal had deemed the violin 'counterfeit', it had ordered the buyer to destroy it in order to get their money back.

Erica wrote: '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.'

PayPal's terms and conditions include the following reference to the destruction of counterfeit goods: 'For SNAD (significantly not as described) claims... PayPal may also require you to destroy the item and to provide evidence of its destruction.'

When asked for comment, a PayPal spokesperson 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 offence to mail counterfeit goods back to a seller.'