The Truth in Path of Exile Real Money Trading
Perhaps it can be said that it's pretty much unavoidable, especially for a prominent online game such as Path of Exile. With so much time and effort put into a character and its Path of Exile items, there is actual value in it. The currency items in this game are themselves valuable enough to be bought with real money, and that's where worlds seem to collide. If you think it's absolutely wrong to buy game items for real money, then you may need to brace yourself for a bit here.
The truth of the matter is that no matter what, there will be those who look for ways to circumvent the extra time and effort necessary to acquire items in the game by buying them with real money. It has been true for other online games, and it will always remain true. Certain publishers have since embraced the demand for such a market, and they've delivered to some degree with mixed results. Some have maintained such markets, while others have removed theirs from their game.
As for Path of Exile, the only PoE items sanctioned by Grinding Gear Games that can be bought with real money are the so-called ethical microtransactions, which are special items that are merely for cosmetic purposes to make sure that there's no "pay to win" element in the game. It does well enough to finance a good bit of the game's continued development, but it's surely not enough for some players who are willing to invest money into the game in order to get a more rewarding experience.
Of course, most would think that it's the chase that's better than the catch, but it's understood that most don't have the patience to build up the wealth and arsenal for gaining access to the really good stuff. Real money trading through various channels, including so-called black markets, are still fairly common. Despite being discouraged by the publisher, preventing it from happening is like keeping a hungry cat from killing a mouse—somehow, it'll find a way in time.
It can be said that it's hard to get banned for real money trading, but it does happen. Even those who don't engage in it at all seem to get banned, but that would be due to scammers and phishing sites. The thing about getting banned for real money trading is that no simple accusation or even multiple ones can constitute an immediate ban. There has to be explicit and concrete evidence in you engaging in such activities. As long as you maintain a fairly low profile, you won't have to worry too much about getting caught.
Then there comes the obvious topics of scamming and cheating. Those you indeed can get banned for, but it seems that things are more complicated when real money trading is involved. It's less malevolent since you're not stealing and the ones more at fault are the sellers, but even that can be a challenge to deal with since they have to be tracked down and banned, and the items being sold are rarely in a single account. They're more likely to be scattered throughout multiple accounts, and those who control them to deliver the goods may be playing behind a VPN or so on.
Suffice to say, it's a rather complicated topic that hardliners can't really get a solid grasp on. It'd be easy to say that the game should be treated as intended, but that's ignoring the reason why a lot of people like the game in the first place—an action role-playing game where the aim is to get stronger.