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IQ test maker, worried about misuse in wrong hands, wants eBay to restrict sales of tests

December 18, 2007

SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Intelligence tests widely used in the United States to help determine the competence of criminal defendants and the placement of students are for sale on eBay Inc.’s online auction site, and the test maker is worried they will be misused.

The series of Wechsler intelligence tests, made by San Antonio-based Harcourt Assessment Inc., are supposed to be sold to and administered only by clinical psychologists and trained professionals.

The tests are given more than a million times a year across the U.S., according to Harcourt, and are often among numerous tests ordered by prosecutors and defense attorneys to determine the mental competence of criminal defendants. A low IQ, for example, can be used to argue leniency in sentencing.

Schools use the tests to determine whether to place students in special programs for gifted or struggling students.

Harcourt officials say they fear the tests for sale on eBay will be misused for coaching by lawyers or parents.

But eBay has denied their request to restrict the sale of the tests.

EBay officials say there is nothing illegal about selling the tests, and it cannot monitor every possible misuse of items sold through its network of 248 million buyers and sellers.

Company spokesman Hani Durzy said eBay does prohibit the sale of items that are illegal in some states, even if they’re legal in others. And it prohibits the sale of some legal items, like teachers editions of textbooks, as matter of public good.

With regard to the Harcourt tests, he said, however, ”at this point, this is our response.”

Five of the tests were listed for sale Tuesday for about $175 (euro121) to $900 (euro624).

The latest edition of the adult test, which retails for $939 (euro651), was offered on eBay for $249.99 (euro173.41).

The tests generally involve a series of questions and tasks like putting blocks together. Misinterpreting the results, even without malicious intent, could lead to mistakes in assessing a child’s intelligence, said Aurelio Prifitera, the president of Harcourt’s clinical division.

If there were a violation of intellectual property rights, eBay would remove the items, Durzy said. But he said Harcourt has not lodged that complaint.

Schweiss said Harcourt was still considering how to respond to eBay’s refusal.

——

On the Net:

Harcourt Assessment Inc.: www.harcourtassessment.com

EBay Inc.: www.ebay.com

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