A Canadian Internet entrepreneur hopes to make money by allowing his customers to exchange goods and services for free.

eBarter.ca made its official launch Tuesday after going live about a week ago. The site is aimed at consumers who

can create an account in order to trade a CD, for example, for a book. Small businesses could also use the site to provide services for one another. A manufacturer of white box PCs, for instance, could supply a marketing firm with desktops in exchange for some advertising help.

Shael Brudner said he came up with the idea for eBarter.ca after seeing a number of similar sites aimed at the business-to-business market.

“”It just seemed a lot more complex — registrations, and sign ups and things like that,”” he said. “”Bringing it down for the consumer we wanted, at least initially, to make it as simple as possible.””

eBarter.ca will charge users $9.99 to list an item for exchange. Services can be listed for a $49.99 annual fee.

According to the International Reciprocal Trade Association, more than US$7.87 billion was traded through barter companies in 2001, up 12 per cent from the year before. The potential for moving these transactions to the Internet attracted companies like BarterTrust.com, acquired trade exchanges in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

“”On the business side of things, bartering is a growing trend,”” said Brudner. “”People don’t even know that they are bartering. I hear stories where people trade services, and they don’t even know what barter is. That’s just part of their business.””

Andrew Fenyes, founder of Trade Business Exchange in Richmond Hill, Ont., doubted the online barter industry is mature enough to move into the consumer space. He noted high-profile early entrants, like BellZinc.ca, which faltered despite the backing of Bell Canada.

“”During the dot-com days, there were a lot of players in the marketplace that tried to take the industry to a different level. They quickly realized that the Internet (by itself) is not conducive to barter,”” he said.

The problem, said Fenyes, is that barter companies often need “”horsepower”” in the form of live sales agents that can facilitate the service.

“”If I’ve got a sofa I want to get rid of and you’ve got a DVD, you’ve got a difference in the value of the goods,”” he said. “”Who accumulates the difference, and how do you deal with that?””

Brudner said eBarter.ca may eventually move to a barter-buck system where users with more expensive items could accumulate points that would go towards other goods and services listed on the site.

“”I’m hoping to leverage the eBays out there too, and maybe find the people who couldn’t get rid of their stuff,”” he said.

As an incentive, eBarter.ca is waiving all fees until July 1.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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