Wednesday, August 18, 1999 Published at 01:30 GMT 02:30 UK
Web trader spills beenz
beenz are rewards for visiting Websites and promote e-commerce
By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
Beenz.com has been threatened with legal action after taking back millions of units of its web currency, which were given away by mistake.
A US trader of beenz, Innerspace Intermedia, registered in Florida, somehow made the error of offering 100,000 units instead of 50 on its website on Friday. Beenz are sold at one cent each to traders, making 100,000 worth $1,000.
They are the leading electronic currency unit, given away to users as rewards for visiting sites and can be used to buy actual goods.
Beenz followers were soon on to the error and enjoyed a feeding frenzy on the beenz before heading off to other sites to spend them.
Beenz are toast for users
A software fraud monitor was triggered after 1.5m beenz had been collected and redemption sites reported trades had risen enormously. Anything from fridge freezers to Toys R Us items can be bought with beenz.
After consulting with its partners, Beenz.com, a UK start-up now headquartered in New York, decided to take back the Innerspace units collected in users' accounts.
"The group determined that the beenz were illegitimate under the terms and agreements of both users and merchants, and all transactions involving these particular beenz would be cancelled," said Beenz.com in a statement on Tuesday.
"To ensure this does not happen again, an additional layer of security has been added to the beenz trader transaction setting. This means that all traders must now confirm the number of beenz they are offering before they are able to trade."
Class action lawsuit considered
But the move has led some members of a Beenz bulletin board to consider a class action lawsuit against the company. Mariah Brazil, a paralegal with a law firm in South Carolina, says she "lost" more than $5,000 when Beenz deleted her collection of units on Monday.
"Statements which compare what happened to us with a bank 'accidentally' giving us money do not apply here. The beenz did not magically appear in our account. We did not click on a banner that said '50 beenz have been applied to your account'. My applet said '100,000 beenz have been applied to your account'," she said in a posting.
But many others in the thread disagreed with the notion that they had lost money - they had never paid anything for the beenz in the first place.
The Beenz e-conomy
The Beenz.com statement said it was "encouraged by this unusual example of the enthusiasm and zeal that beenz users are demonstrating in collecting and spending beenz and have apologised to all concerned."
Beenz founder Charles Cohen later told News Online: "We are aware of the legal situation but are not concerned about it. It's well within our contracts' terms to take the beenz back."
"This shouldn't have to ruin it for everybody, we want to be as straight down the line as we can, but we're trying to run an economy here."
Around 200 businesses and thousands of Net users are currently trading beenz , according to the company. It says it is nearing two million transactions and more than 100m beenz have been put into circulation since its launch in March.