EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 435 - December 02, 2002     1 of 3

eBay Bans Auctions Containing Links to Sniping Service

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Chuck Eglinton is feeling a bit singled out by eBay these days. Eglinton owns BidRobot (http://www.BidRobot.com), a company that provides tools to online auction buyers and sellers. One tool is a sniping software program called BidRobot that allows buyers to set last second bids on auctions in advance and have them go off automatically. On Wednesday evening, Eglinton began to receive emails from his customers whose auctions had been ended by eBay because they contained a link to the BidRobot Web site.

The customers received an email from eBay Customer Support (Trust and Safety Department) explaining the reason for pulling the auctions as, "This and other type of software sites are not permitted as they solicit eBay User Ids or passwords from buyers and encourage buyers to place their eBay bids through a site other than eBay."

eBay prohibits the inclusion of third-party hyperlinks in auction descriptions with some exceptions. One exception is if the link "gives acknowledgement to a company that provided services related to that listing (such as counters, auction management tools, or payment and mediation services)." Eglinton said his customers are in compliance because they were using the company's program called EZAd, which creates fancy eBay listings. The listing tool is available for free at the BidRobot site. "Thousands of users were left in the lurch unfairly and with no warning." Eglinton said.

eBay's Links policy also prohibits links to "sites that solicit eBay User Ids or passwords from buyers." Since most third-party services that access eBay - those using eBay's Application Programming Interface (API) and non-API services - require that an eBay user's ID and password be entered, it could be argued that any auction containing a link to these services are also in violation of this policy.

"Instead of contacting the few dozen vendors with links in violation, eBay chose to end the auctions of thousands of our users," said Eglinton, "It isn't just sniping services that ask for a user's information, but also payment services, auction management services, and I see plenty of links to them."

A spokesperson for a company that licenses eBay's API told AuctionBytes that although their service does require a user to enter their eBay ID andpassword, their API contract stipulates that the company cannot use the information in any way, and that is how the policy is circumvented. eBay did not return messages to comment.

Many vendors and users fear that eBay will some day ban sniping services. Others fear eBay will ban all non-API licensed vendor services from the site. Other sniping services have reported having auctions pulled by eBay in the past for containing links to their sites. They now tell customers not to include links in their auction listings. And in October, eBay Germany banned automated sniping services from their Site, citing that members who "used sniping services had an "unfair advantage" over people who were sniping manually."

eBay charges fees to vendors for licensing its API and requires them to sign a contract that contains rules and restrictions on what those vendors may do. eBay does in fact prohibit companies from interfacing with its site without a license, but has not widely enforced the ban. As it continues to sign up vendors to its API program, it may just be a matter of time for those vendors who choose to hold out.


About the author:

David Steiner is President of Steiner Associates LLC, publisher of EcommerceBytes.com and the EveryPlaceISell.com merchant directory. David, a former television producer, handles business development and advertising for EcommerceBytes. You can reach him at dsteiner@ecommercebytes.com


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