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eBay Lifts Ban on Empty Boxes for iPhones and Designer Goods

eBay has lifted its ban on listing empty product boxes for sale. The marketplace had previously prohibited sellers from selling empty boxes because some buyers felt scammed when they realized they had paid hundreds of dollars on an empty box when they thought they were buying a product in such categories as high-end electronics, fragrances, and jewelry.

eBay seller advocate Griff (Jim Griffith) revealed the policy change in response to a question from a user in last week’s eBay chat session.

A user had asked, “Are empty iPhone, iPad, iPod, Samsung Galaxy etc.. boxes now allowed to be sold on eBay?” Griff replied, “yes. Empty brand name boxes are allowed for sale on eBay,” and he printed a response he received from eBay Customer Service:

Hi Griff,
On May 1, 2015, we removed our Prohibited Accessories policy, which didn’t allow the sale of branded empty boxes, pouches, tins, and other accessories. Through improvements in our detection to catch counterfeit concerns, we will now allow the sales of these types of items now. Though, our teammates will still remove items where the seller encourages them to be used for counterfeits.
Please let me know if you have any additional question.
Office of the President

But that doesn’t address the “empty box” scam, of which there are several variations. In 2007, Judge Judy featured a case where a woman and her daughter had bought cell phones from an eBay seller for over $400, but instead of getting the cell phones, they got photos of the cell phones.

Another variation was the Wholesale List scam where people thought they were buying a product, but instead, received a compilation of contacts of wholesalers that provided the products in bulk for a discount.

Empty product boxes and wholesale lists can be useful – for example, in a 2013 thread a seller had written, “I was looking for some iPhone 3gs boxes since I kind of lost mine. I want to sell my iPhone locally and I’m sure that I would sell it easily with a proper box and accessories. Now that I know that those are against eBay rules I guess I’ll be looking elsewhere.”

The problem comes in when a buyer doesn’t realize that’s what they are purchasing. This article from The Register details a case back in 2001 involving a PlayStation 2.

Griff did not provide sellers with details on how best to sell empty boxes – there doesn’t appear to be a category for empty boxes on eBay’s list of categories.

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.