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Suspended eBay Sellers Suggest Widespread Purge

Since early October, numerous eBay sellers with generally strong buyer feedback have been reporting that they have received notices from the company that their accounts had been indefinitely suspended, leaving them with little recourse.

On Oct. 8, one seller who trades in computer equipment received a notice from eBay that all the listings in his store had been removed, citing unspecified “violations of our seller performance policy.”

That message directed the seller to eBay’s customer support page, where his inquiry prompted this response from eBay: “Because you haven’t met our minimum seller performance standards, you’re permanently restricted from selling on eBay. If you had any active listings, they’ve been removed and your selling fees may be credited. If you recently sold an item, it can be found in the sold section of your My eBay.”

“I called eBay asking why, and the woman … told me that I was no longer allowed to sell on eBay under any user name, or any one in my household. I could, of course, have the privilege of continuing to buy,” said the seller, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“I asked for the supervisor, and she told me this is a final decision, there is no appeal process and nobody else to talk to. As much as I pleaded, I knew I was not getting past this person,” the seller said.

That seller, who acknowledged that he had received a warning from eBay about six months ago about his DSR scores, said he had been working to improve his profile in the time since. As of this writing, with all the seller’s listings now removed, the seller’s ID carries just one negative and one neutral piece of feedback over the past six months, and three of each in the past 12 months. Three of his DSR scores are 4.9; only shipping time registers 4.8.

Another seller whose store sold vintage items and had relatively few instances of negative or neutral feedback received a suspension notice the same day.

Two days later, a top-rated seller with 100 percent positive feedback received a suspension notice, explaining that “even though your selling performance has improved under the US seller performance standards program, it still has not met our standards; therefore, your selling account has been restricted.”

The seller said that when she called for an explanation, she was told that a buyer had left a 1 on her DSR nearly a year earlier, but that that rating should drop off by her next scheduled review, which was coming up in 10 days. Ten days passed, and she was still unable to list. She called again, and was told this time that the restriction was permanent. The representative said he would submit an appeal, which elicited this response:

“Your account was restricted from selling because the requirement for the seller performance standards has not met for past consecutive months. We regret any frustration or inconvenience this matter may cause you. For your account, there is no appeal for this selling restriction. From this point forward, in order to conduct business on the Internet as a seller, you will have to find a different venue,” eBay wrote the seller in an email. “We know this may not have been the answer you were hoping for, but this is our final decision.”

Ryan Moore, a spokesman for eBay, would not confirm or deny that the company is engaging in a wide-scale purge of sellers who have been dinged by low DSR or feedback ratings.

“eBay regularly reviews seller performance and may limit or restrict selling activity for those sellers who do not meet our minimum requirements,” Moore said, declining to answer specific questions about eBay’s customer service operations or seller evaluation process.

“Sellers should regularly check their seller dashboard to monitor their performance and address any buyer issues. Sellers who are not meeting our minimum standards receive communication through eBay’s messaging system and through email. Sellers typically receive warnings prior to any limits or restrictions being placed on their accounts. The number and timing of these communications vary on a case-by-case basis,” he added.

eBay forum pages have lit up with speculation about a fresh seller purge, close on the heels of actions the company took this summer to remove thousands of sellers from the marketplace.

Some commenters speculate that the recent wave of restrictions has been the product of eBay’s “guardrail” program that uses a mathematical formula to identify sellers deemed to be providing a poor buying experience. Many of the sellers who were recently suspended seem to have had issues with their DSRs, which eBay flags in account reviews when buyers rate their experience in any category with a one or a two.

eBay warns sellers about the perils of low DSR ratings on its performance standards page, though Moore notes that there are checks in place to prevent individual buyers from unfairly tarring a seller’s reputation.

“To measure seller performance accurately, we count 1-star and 2-star detailed seller ratings only if they come from at least two different buyers during an evaluation period,” he said.

As for the process of appealing suspensions, Moore explained: “eBay sellers who believe their accounts have been inappropriately limited or restricted have the opportunity to appeal the decision and eBay will review each situation on a case-by-case basis.”

But that may be cold comfort for users who view the latest wave of suspensions as an effort to crack down on small sellers. Some who have gone through the appeals process see it as a rigged game, and hold out little hope of convincing eBay to reverse its suspensions.

The seller with 100 percent positive feedback said that just days after she put in her appeal – which was rejected – she received an email from eBay congratulating her on her top-rated seller status.

“I do not think that anyone there knows what the other is doing,” the seller said. “I have never done anything wrong on eBay. I have no complaints, no open cases – nothing but positive feedback and happy customers.”

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Kenneth Corbin on Linkedin
Kenneth Corbin
Kenneth Corbin
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.