EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2817 - June 01, 2012     2 of 4

eBay Quietly Relaxes Policy Barring Gun Part Listings

By Kenneth Corbin

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In a significant reversal of a policy that rankled many sellers, eBay has ended its prohibition on listings of firearm parts and accessories, and is now allowing sellers in the hunting category to post images of guns to illustrate the products in use, though the sale of the weapons themselves is still not permitted.

The company quietly implemented the change on Dec. 8, 2011, following a "recent internal policy review," according to spokesperson Amanda Miller, but word has only gradually been circulating throughout the hunting and shooting community on various online forums. eBay made no formal announcement about the policy reversal, and has only been gradually letting affected sellers know, with notifications going out at least as late as April.

"These are parts and accessories that are legal to sell in the U.S. without restriction and are widely available at a range of online and offline stores," Miller told Ecommerce Bytes in an email. "We made this change to more closely align our policy with legal requirements and to give sellers opportunities to offer more products in the hunting category."

But it remains to be seen whether eBay can lure buyers and sellers back to its site after niche players such as GunBroker.com and GunsAmerica.com have staked out strong shares in the online firearms market.

In July 2007, slightly more than three months after the shooting at Virginia Tech that left 32 victims and the lone gunman dead, eBay announced that it would prohibit listings for firearm parts required for the firing of a gun. In announcing the ban on gun parts, eBay acknowledged that some items used in the Virginia Tech shooting had been purchased on its site.

Critics of the policy have objected to uneven and at times overzealous enforcement, with items such as patches or T-shirts with images of firearms or listings simply containing words describing guns apparently having been removed. Speculation has also circulated about eBay's rationale for banning the items, as some firearms enthusiasts suggested the move was politically motivated.

Now, eBay is welcoming the firearm-related merchandise back onto its site, and allowing sellers to display the parts in place on an actual gun in images on their stores' pages, though of course the weapons themselves are still prohibited. Additionally, eBay is not permitting sellers to post images of assault weapons or mention that an item is compatible with an assault weapon.

The list of items that are now permitted on eBay seller pages includes, barrels, bolts, choke tubes, cylinders, en bloc clips firing pins, hammers, magazines with capacities no larger than 10 rounds, slides and trigger assemblies. Both the sellers and the merchandise must be located within the United States, and international sales are prohibited.

Ammunition and replica firearms remain prohibited.

"eBay frequently reviews its policies to ensure they are lawful, compare them to industry standards, and make sure they meet consumer expectations," Miller said of the decision to revisit the policy.

"The review found that the firearms parts policy was generating a number of customer service cases and some confusion among sellers in the hunting category. Because these items are legal and sold on other mainstream sites, eBay decided to adjust the policy and allow those items to be sold in the U.S. only," she added. "This change offers buyers and sellers a marketplace for legal items that they can buy elsewhere online."


About the author:

Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects since 2007, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here.


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