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Did eBay Open the Door to Off-Site Sales?

eBay prohibits users from including their email addresses in messages sent to other users through its messaging system. But a reader wrote last week to say they had begun receiving messages that include email addresses from members asking to conduct transactions off of the eBay platform.

The policy against offering to buy or sell outside of eBay is spelled out on this page: “We don’t allow our members to use eBay to contact each other to make offers to buy or sell items outside of eBay. Also, members can’t use information obtained from eBay to contact each other about buying or selling outside of eBay.”

According to eBay’s Member-to-member contact policy, messages that include email addresses are not allowed. But does eBay actually use technology to prevent it from happening?

There have been instances over the years where readers have said eBay had either removed email addresses from their messages or declined to send those messages. Sellers complained about such practices as early as 2011, for example.

But including emails in eBay’s messaging system isn’t always about fee-avoidance – it can be a way to speed up communication with a buyer over a custom order, for example. And in a discussion about the issue in 2013, readers discussed how it prevented them from socializing with other members. “I did not realize until you wrote this how I used to make friends with some of my customers and we used to be able to exchange email addresses to communicate and share photos. I have all but halted any socialization with buyers in recent years. They order, I ship, that’s it. It is a shame. eBay was social media before FB and MySpace. Sellers and buyers had friendly communication and banter back then.”

But as eBay notes in its policy, offers to buy or sell outside of eBay are also a potential fraud risk for both buyers and sellers.

There’s a lot at stake for eBay in terms of lost fees; when it owned PayPal, there was a good chance eBay would still make money from payment processing, but that’s no longer the case.

Of course, there’s another way sellers can provide buyers with their contact information, and that’s by publishing it right on the eBay listing page. In fact, a member of the EcommerceBytes team recently contacted a seller with a post-purchase question by calling the phone number provided on the listing page. The seller mentioned another auction he had been running that he ended early and sold to the customer directly – apparently seeing nothing wrong with the practice.

There’s an animated discussion taking place right now on the EcommerceBytes Blog about the policy, where we noted that eBay CEO Devin Wenig said he was recently approached by a member asking him to take the transaction off-eBay.

Have you seen a change in eBay’s messaging system, and have you seen an increase in off-eBay propositions?

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.