Is eBay's Advertising Policy Disingenuous?

I have long been a critic of eBay’s policy of placing non-eBay ads on search results and other eBay pages.
This week Steve Hartman, the Director of On-Site Advertising for eBay sent out a message trying to clarify eBay’s policy of placing ads for non-eBay services on the site.  Here is part of what Steve said:

“From the beginning, we’ve approached on-site advertising with the belief that displaying some types of ads to the right people at the right time would benefit buyers by providing them with greater opportunities to find what they were looking for. By satisfying needs this way, we add value to the overall marketplace and further establish eBay as the first and best place to shop.”

You can read his full comments on the eBay announcement board.
It’s great that Steve is trying to explain the policy and if you read the full announcement he does say that eBay tries to not place ads that are directly competitive with your listings, but let’s face it; eBay places ads on the site because they make millions of dollars in income doing so –not because they want to “provide greater opportunities to find what they were looking for.”
Just think about this a minute. You have listed your Halloween costumes on eBay and your auction comes up at the top of the search listing.  A potential bidder who happens to be unhappy with her job is just about to click on your listing when she sees an ad for the job listing site, Monster.com.  Instead of looking at your listing, she spends the next half hour surfing job opportunities on Monster.  Well I guess that helps her find what she is looking for (a job) but now you have to hope that someone else clicks on your auction.
Not only does eBay place ads for non-eBay companies at the top and in the sidebars of results, if you scroll to the very bottom of the page, they are selling pay-per-click ads for directly competitive products.  I did a search for a Nikon D200 camera.  When I scrolled to the bottom of the search results page, I first saw listings for D200s on eBay Express and below that a list of Sponsored Links.  Here is what was displayed:

Nikon D-200 $699.00
Free Shipping + A Free Starter Kit, $200 More To Get 12 Accessories.
www.USAPhotoNation.com
Compare Prices Nikon D200
Find a price on Nikon D200 – at Shopcartusa.com.
www.ShopCartUSA.com
D200 Nikon
Compare Prices on d200 nikon at FlyingPrices.com.
www.flyingprices.com
Nikon D200 Deals
Save money- Don’t buy a Nikon D200 before you PriceSCAN it.
www.pricescan.com

So now someone looking for a great deal on a camera, is given links to price comparison websites so they can make sure they are getting the cheapest price – GREAT !!!  Just what I want my customers to see.
I can understand eBay placing ads for other eBay companies such as Skype or Stub Hub, but collecting listing fees from sellers and then making money sending buyers to competitive web sites just doesn’t make sense.  Additionally eBay has no control over the sponsored sites. Anyone can purchase a keyword.  How does eBay know their members are not being directed to scam sites.
For example I typed eBay Wholesale into the search engine and got the following results at the bottom of the search results page:
Sponsored Links
eBay Wholesale Products
900,000+ Products to Choose From. We Store, We Ship, You Profit.
www.Shopster.com/ebaywholesale

Wholesale Items for Ebay
Get Access to Wholesale Sources. Save up to 90% Off Retail Prices on a Huge Range of Top Brand Products. One-off Cost of Just $49.95.
www.SaleHoo.com
Dropship Wholesale Ebay
Over 1 000 000 products: 1-time fee. eBay certified. Get them now.
www.dropshiparea.com
Wholesale Drop Ship for eBay
Take a no obligation free trial. 90,000 low priced wholesale products.
www.ehostclub.com
Top eBay Secrets Declassified
Discover the facts about earning $2958 per month on eBay.
www.DiscoverTheFacts.com/ebaymoney

I don’t know if any of these sites are scams, and I suspect neither does eBay.

If you have any thoughts on this subject or would like eBay to know your opinion, place a comment on the eBay Message Boards.  eBay does have employees monitoring the boards and it is one of the places where management gets input from members.

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