Get Ready To Have Your Auctions Cancelled by eBay

eBay now has over 150 official policies designed to regulate the eBay marketplace and to keep eBay a safe place to buy and sell. Many of eBay’s policies are designed to promote eBay’s best business interests, i.e. “Regulate the eBay marketplace,” and the balance are designed to make eBay a safe and fun place to buy and sell. I don’t say this as a criticism. eBay has a right to regulate their marketplace and a duty to their stockholders (of which I am one) to make money by keeping people buying on eBay rather than having sellers using eBay as a gateway to drive business to other sites. In a recent announcement by Matt Halprin who runs global policy management, eBay recognized that some of their policies were hard to understand. eBay spent the last several months rewriting the policy pages to make them easier to understand and follow. Now each page includes:

  • A clear statement of the policy and why eBay has it.
  • Examples that illustrate what is and isn’t allowed.
  • A list of the possible consequences of violating the policy.

eBay also created a new Policy Hub page where you can more easily access all of the policies. Recognizing that some policies are difficult to understand, eBay created five online tutorials covering:

Each tutorial only take a few minutes to complete and each one walks members through the details they need to know in order to stay in compliance.
eBay also announced new “Enforcement policy violation consequences and mitigation” (Boy, does that sound like it was written by a bureaucrat or what?) eBay changed PowerSeller eligibility requirements to include new thresholds on policy compliance. As a result, several sellers have already been removed or suspended who were repeat violators of eBay’s policies from the program.
Frankly, most of these sellers deserved to lose their power seller status, but many were caught up in very minor and innocent technical violations. Often eBay does not warn you that you are in danger of losing your status and give you time to fix the violations before it counts against you. Then if you are suspended or lose your power seller status and you call power seller support to appeal for help, they won’t talk to you because you were suspended and are no longer a power seller.
For other sellers, eBay decided punishment or banishment wasn’t working so they decided to try the carrot and the stick. Besides suspending accounts eBay has come up with new ways to work with sellers. eBay ‘s announcement states:
“Restricting repeat policy violators’ ability to list items for a period of time – Depending on how often a seller has violated our policies in a 90-day period, they may be required to complete a 15-minute tutorial, or they could be restricted from listing new items for up to 3 days. We think of these consequences as “speed bumps” that can slow accounts down just long enough for them to be educated on the policy. Then they can get back on track.
Retaining eBay fees when canceling a repeat violator’s listings for List Practices violations – If a seller repeatedly violates policies in a 90-day period, despite previously having taken a tutorial on those policies, we’re going to keep their listing and feature fees on subsequent listing cancellations that violate policy. We feel it is important to instill a financial penalty to protect the level playing field when our other efforts to educate and change behavior have failed. ”
The last and most troubling part of the new policy is making it easier for people to report violations. Right now you have to jump through several hoops (pages) to send eBay a message that reports a violation. To make it simpler to report an auction that violates any one of the complex 150 policies, starting in the spring of 2006, every item page will have a Report this Item link at the bottom of the page.
This link will bypass the normal Contact Us process and take you directly to a list of reasons why a listing needs to be reported. If you are someone who is frustrated that it is so hard to report an obvious fraud or phony auction or someone egregiously breaking the rules, this new feature will make it very easy. On the other hand, there are thousands of eBay members with too much time on their hands who spend hours every day searching eBay for violations – both major and minor – and are gleefully reporting them to eBay. These folks even have chat rooms where they place bets and run contests to see how many auctions they can cancel in an hour.
Your only defense is to learn and follow every eBay policy to the letter. With 150 complex policies, and eBay’s attitude that a violation no matter how innocent or how minor is a violation to be punished, this new reporting feature will soon begin sucking the fun and a lot of the profit out of selling on eBay. Increased enforcement will in turn frustrate and deter the many small sellers (who originally built eBay) causing them to give up and leave eBay to the major corporations and the Titanium power sellers with deep pockets and dozens of employees.
Don’t get me wrong. I support anything reasonable eBay does to prevent fraud and to remove sellers using unethical techniques to get bids and win auctions. Also, I understand eBay’s need to protect their marketplace. The problem is the platform and the rules have grown so complex, the number of reports eBay receives have grown so large that Trust & Safety simply cannot look at each report intelligently – electing instead to accept a report, make a cursory glance at the auction and send out a form email written in bureaucratese that no one can understand and terminate the auction. There has got to be a better way !!!
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