eBay has apologised for barring gay couples from a competition.

The French version of the auction site was accused of discrimination this week after it stated that a competition prize could only be won by a male and female couple.

The competition gives two winners the chance to live for free in a Paris apartment for a year. They will be given 8,000 euros to furnish the flat solely with items bought from eBay.

eBay initially said it had done “nothing wrong” and claimed that the one-bed apartment could be shared by friends or a mother and son.

But the company apologised today and promised to extend the closing date of the competition to allow gay couples to enter.

A spokeswoman said the ban on gay couples was “unintentional” and that the company wanted to “attract entrants who would buy the broadest selection of goods on eBay from women’s shoes to electronic gadgets”.

She added: “However, on reflection and thanks to feedback from many members of our community, we realised that the requirement for a male and female couple was too narrow, and that couples of the same sex could, of course, buy in such a broad and varied manner online.

“eBay deeply regrets the offence this mistake has caused, and as a result has clarified the rules of the competition so that it is open to any couple of any gender.”