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Facebook expands Marketplace trading service across Europe

[FRANKFURT] Facebook is stepping up its modest moves into e-commerce by expanding its service for connecting local buyers and sellers into 17 new European markets, the US company said on Monday.

Marketplace, which sits alongside Facebook's mainstay newsfeed, photo, video, messaging and other services, marks fresh competition for community-based e-commerce pioneers such as Craigslist and eBay's classifieds business.

Marketplace is being introduced this week in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Launched 10 months ago, Marketplace charges no fees to buyers or sellers and aims to make it easy for users to trade mostly second-hand goods, with the ability to post items for sale via smartphone or computer in less than 15 seconds.

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Marketplace, already up and running in a handful of markets including the United States, Britain and Australia, is building on Facebook's buy-sell groups. These draw in about 550 million monthly visitors, accounting for more than a quarter of Facebook's 2 billion global users.

"We want to make it easier to buy and sell, but we also want to make it community based," said Deborah Liu, vice president of Facebook Marketplace.

Prospective buyers can pick a radius for how far they wish to travel to collect purchases, but most transactions are local.

Marketplace restricts searches within national boundaries, mainly to avoid language confusion, Ms Liu said.

Facebook's e-commerce push has yet to make any significant financial impact. The company posted a 45 per cent rise in revenue to US$9.3 billion in the past quarter, nearly 98 per cent of which came from advertising on its free services.

The low-key Marketplace service had 18 million items posted for sale in the United States in May, the company said, though it was unable to disclose how many items were sold because most transactions take place offline and are paid in cash.

While not an exact comparison, eBay, which operates in more than 30 countries, counted 171 million active users who completed at least one transaction in the past quarter.