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eBay and Etsy Send Urgent Pleas to Sellers on Saturday

eBay Etsy
eBay and Etsy Send Urgent Pleas to Sellers on Saturday

eBay and Etsy sent urgent emails to sellers over the weekend about legislation in Congress that the marketplaces say would harm small sellers and that Etsy says would put sellers’ safety at risk.

eBay warned, “Tell Your Senators Not To Harm Local Small Businesses!” in the subject mail of its email, and it said:

Under the bill, sellers would have to:

  • provide online marketplaces with extensive personal information, including tax ID numbers and government-issued identification cards in order to be verified to sell on an online marketplace;
  • certify annually – at the risk of account suspension – that their information has not changed; and
  • publicly display their full name and contact information, including address, email and phone number, on each product listed for sale.

Etsy’s email also asked sellers to contact their senators about the bill that it said would put the privacy, safety, and security of home-based sellers at risk.

On a page on its website, Etsy stated:

“The US Senate is considering new legislation called the INFORM Act, which would require Etsy to collect, verify, and display seller contact information on product listing pages. For many home-based business owners, this legislation would mean sharing your personal information widely online, including your full name, home address, telephone number, and email address.

“Lawmakers have simply not considered how this bill would impact the privacy, safety, and security of Etsy sellers who run their businesses from their homes. That’s why they need to hear from you!”

An EcommerceBytes reader forwarded the email that sported the subject line, “Etsy sellers: Protect your privacy by opposing the Cassidy INFORM Amendment.” The seller wrote, “I’m thinking of contacting the Senators sponsoring this and asking for their home address and phone number. Think they’ll comply?”

Both emails linked to pages on the respective marketplaces’ websites that allowed sellers to easily contact lawmakers about the issue through an online form.

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
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/.

26 thoughts on “eBay and Etsy Send Urgent Pleas to Sellers on Saturday”

  1. I’m TELLING MY SENATORS to pass a law prohibiting American Selling venues from Gouging us for more than 3%.

    1. I wish it were easy to find out who the seller is, so I can buy direct. Many sellers for whatever reason want to keep giving Ebay their fees. The downside is for those that arbitrage there are some retailers that will stalk you online and get you in trouble and then ebay or amazon will kick you off. Think about it, if Ebay or Amazon does not like something it is more about them then you.

      1. Alot of People have a Instagram or Facebook page to at least advertise their current stuff for sale, but it is risky for the seller to do business off the site. Bigger chance of getting scammed.

  2. If you want to get paid for your stuff then most platforms and payment processors are going to want to know who you are so the first two points I think are being done anyway. Shopify will ask for a scan of your passport to let you sell. Not that any of that stops scammers from hijacking an account with poor password security and using that to rip people off, which seems rife.

    But I’m against having my personal data splashed across every listing I post. I’ve had someone from eBay unhappy with the feedback they received turn up at my home in the middle of the night, so I don’t think that making that easier is a useful step forward.

    In any case what problem is this brilliant idea trying to resolve?

    In almost all cases payments for on line purchases are made by credit card. If there’s an unresolved issue, the buyer can just have the bank take it up on their behalf if the marketplace doesn’t solve their issue. Why does having my personal data help you as a buyer? Are you going to drive across the country to door-step me with your gripe?

    All it means in reality is that I’ll get more unwanted crap coming my way. Endless spam emails and fake deliveries from people trying to create a phony track record of ecommerce transactions that they can then sell on to a scammer. Seems counter-productive to me.

    I don’t have a problem with making sure that revenue is visible and people pay their taxes. Do the politicians want to give out their home phone numbers, addresses and emails on every document they publish?

    If ‘yes’ then I’ll shut up.

  3. You could include the fact that the bill provides an exception for sellers who work from home – these sellers do NOT have to provide their personal address or phone number.

    They will be required to provide an email address ONLY. I think the bigger story here is how Etsy sellers are being misled by Etsy.

  4. Tax ID and identity verification are already required for online sellers so that probably wouldn’t be an issue – and sellers understand why the platform needs that information for payment and tax reporting purposes.

    But when it comes to publishing seller contact information, then there will be serious backlash because handling customer service is supposed to be part of the fee sellers pay for. Are these platforms ready to reduce their fees? I think not.

    Smart sellers will just get a PO Box and VoIP phone # to post on their product listing pages. Already there have been problems with seller addresses being printed on shipping labels (Poshmark) and it’s only a matter of time before someone gets injured/harassed by a buyer and then sues the online platform for damages. I wonder how this legislation intends to protect reputable sellers?

  5. cjpaper is correct. The proposed law reads that if a seller only has a residential address, said seller only has to disclose the country they are located in and, if applicable, the state. Also, if a consumer makes an inquiry, the marketplace is to inform the consumer that there is no business address, and that said consumer must make contact with the seller via telephone or email.

  6. More hogwash from eBay and Etsy.

    Per an 03-10-20 press release from the bill’s sponsors, U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) :

    :The Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers (INFORM) Act would mandate online retail marketplaces that include third-party sellers of consumer products to authenticate the identity of “high-volume third-party sellers,” which will help equalize transparency among brick-and-mortar retailers and prevent organized retail crime rings from stealing items from these stores to resell those items in bulk online.”

    “The INFORM Consumers Act will verify high-volume third-party sellers by acquiring the seller’s government ID, tax ID, bank account information and contact information. High-volume third-party sellers are defined as vendors who have made 200 or more discrete sales in a 12-month period amounting to $5,000 or more.”

    “The legislation instructs online marketplaces to order their high-volume third-party sellers to disclose to consumers the seller’s name, business address, email address, phone number and whether the seller is a manufacturer, importer, retailer or a reseller of consumer products.”

    “The online marketplace will also need to supply a hotline to allow customers to report to the marketplace suspicious marketplace activity. The bill presents an exception for individual high-volume third-party sellers that permits them not to have their personal street address or personal phone number revealed to the public if they respond to consumers’ questions over email within a reasonable timeframe. The bill’s requirements would be implemented by the FTC and violations would be subject to civil penalties.”

    https://www.cassidy.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cassidy-durbin-introduce-inform-consumers-act-to-require-greater-transparency-from-third-party-sellers-for-online-products

  7. Can you imagine eBay having to display a sellers email or phone number? Then buyers could contact them directly and bypass eBay and their fees. Oh the humanity!

    1. Yup. You could have all the items you sell on all the online marketplaces and sell everything for prices that exclude marketplace commissions and all with ebay et all knowing nothing about it. No more bot to catch ya. List 250 items for free per account every month on ebay and sell it elsewhere. Oh my! Ebay is going to do everything possible to prevent seller info from being displayed.

    2. Good point. I guess that is the silver lining. If this goes into effect, everyone of my listings is going to include “e-mail me directly for special deals”. And my e-mail address will be right there.

      Then I’ll just offer a 5-10% discount to purchase off site using Paypal.

      Then I get around managed payments, and make more money in the process.

      Maybe I’m in favor of this legislation now!

    3. This already happens at eBay UK; all listings posted by a business have to display the business address and phone number and VAT registration information. I don’t know whether UK sellers have a problem with that, but I do know trhat, as an occasional UK buyer, I have found it very useful, especially if I need to contact a seller during or after a purchase.

  8. Their only concern is losing new sellers from the platform, and are using existing and loyal sellers to change the bill.

    Why is it okay for ebay to take SSN’s for MP just to hold on to money that is not theirs?
    No questions answered, service provided, protections given.

    I would rather listen to a venue who isn’t milking the profits just to crash their business.
    One who doesn’t have executive flunkies who are nothing but freeloading dead weight, taking everything they never deserved by extortion.

    They are ruining economy, and want us to bail them out.
    Ungrateful punks.

    Will the public also get their personal information and addresses?
    Wouldn’t that be interesting?

  9. I rather think Etsy and Ebay are more concerned with sellers making direct sales to customers once their contact details are out there in the ether and cutting them right out of the equation, than our individual privacy. As @vigilant seems to have actually read the bill and it won’t apply to us small home based sellers, you have to wonder whether the big E’s are trying to get us all stirred up to muddy the waters for THEM. I certainly don’t think either company has OUR best interests at heart. Color me cynical…..

  10. If this isn’t yet a law, why is Amazon already publishing sellers contact information????? I discovered this last Fall!

  11. I sell internationally and my name, return address, email and phone number are already on everything that is shipped. I have always have my phone number in email signatures, and part of my shop information because I feel it helps create trust. I have never had anyone abuse any of this information (knock on wood!)

    If anything it may work to everyone’s benefit because people can actually contact us directly – probably whey Etsy is freaking out over this. I say let it go forward!

  12. Probably trying to avoid selling off platforms. Law proposal states home business addresses do not need to show. This would be great for sellers who want to promote via these platforms and refer traffic to their own web stores.

  13. @Sierra, many states have already passed a similar law. This is why marketplaces are starting to publish contact info. I disagree with the bill’s definition of high volume seller – only 200 items or $5,000 in sales is not high volume.

    I am not in favor of this bill, but not for the reasons Etsy and eBay are against it. Here are my issues with this bill:
    1) It does absolutely nothing to deter organized crime from stealing goods and selling them online. Criminals use shell companies and fake IDs. There is nothing to address shell companies in this bill. intereference. Ebay will still continue to be the world’s largest fencing operation.
    2) The definition of high volume seller is insanely low. Only 200 items in a 12 month period or $5,000 in sales. This breaks down to 17 items per month, or $417 in sales per month. You could sell your used car on Facebook marketplace and qualify as a high volume seller in a single transaction.
    3) I expect marketplaces to raise their fees to sellers in order to comply with the expense that the hotline and following up will involve.
    4) It does nothing to level the playing field between companies that sell only online and those that have brick and mortar locations.
    5) It does nothing to keep international sellers from selling stolen, counterfeit, and illegal goods online. U.S. laws are not recognized in other countries. How are you going to fine a Chinese seller for violating this law? You can’t. The U.S. has no legal recourse against individuals residing in other countries. We have laws pertaining to international businesses and corporations, but not individuals.

    What is good about the bill:
    1) It negates the terms of service that prohibit contact outside of the selling platform. This benefits sellers and really impacts the marketplaces.
    2) It gives the buyer some form of contact–in theory, eliminating the “ghost” seller who sells crap and vanishes after the sale – but only if they meet the high volume seller definition. Unfortuately, this will send those sellers to Craigs list and other listing services that are not true “marketplaces”.

  14. (2) EXCEPTION.—

    (A) IN GENERAL.—Subject to subparagraph (B), upon the request of a high-volume third party seller, an online marketplace may provide for partial disclosure of the identity information required under paragraph (1)(A) in the following situations:

    (i) If the high-volume third party seller demonstrates to the online marketplace that the seller does not have a business address and only has a personal street address, the online marketplace may direct the high-volume third-party seller to disclose only the country and, if applicable, the State in which the high-volume third-party seller resides on the product listing, and may inform consumers that there is no business address available for the seller and that consumer inquiries should be submitted to the seller’s email address.

    https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3431/text#idcd24a3a59c4d41288a3cbcafbbe272dd

  15. (3) HIGH-VOLUME THIRD PARTY SELLER.—The term “high-volume third party seller” means a user of an online marketplace who is a third party seller and who, in any continuous 12-month period during the previous 24 months, has entered into 200 or more discrete sales or transactions of new or unused consumer products resulting in the accumulation of an aggregate total of $5,000 or more in gross revenues.

    (2) EXCEPTION.—

    (A) IN GENERAL.—Subject to subparagraph (B), upon the request of a high-volume third party seller, an online marketplace may provide for partial disclosure of the identity information required under paragraph (1)(A) in the following situations:

    (i) If the high-volume third party seller demonstrates to the online marketplace that the seller does not have a business address and only has a personal street address, the online marketplace may direct the high-volume third-party seller to disclose only the country and, if applicable, the State in which the high-volume third-party seller resides on the product listing, and may inform consumers that there is no business address available for the seller and that consumer inquiries should be submitted to the seller’s email address.

  16. This is great if it will ban Chinese sellers pretending to be here but my guess is it will not.

    With uploading our DL numbers, it is likely just a way for them to cross platform ban people who they feel should be “fired” from their jobs for saying something they do not agree with on another platform.

  17. Im actually for it. My business will go up as people would be able to contact me directly. It drives me crazy already that I cant even talk to my own customers…..unless it is approved by ebay? The crazy thing is folks…..it works in your favor if your legit. Sure, we can come up with a hundred reasons it isnt also….but I am telling you right now that if ebay is against it….i am probably for it. They are only looking out for their interests…..then they scare you…..give me a break. Im not helping them anymore with their legislative agenda. I pay my taxes. Im not scared of legislation…..but they are? Think about it. Dont give me the govt doesnt belong in your business……they are our business in case nobody has figured that out. Simple ideas folks…..think it through. I understand security concerns…..but you can always have a po box.

  18. Has Ebay done anything outside of “advertisements” to help my business since 2008?….not really. If they are for it….im probably against it. I see the other cynics up there, and I feel you. I pay my taxes and am legit…..and yes, I sell out of my house….my info is very public and I wish it was more public, and there may be some folks that live in really BAD neighborhoods…..but otherwise…..what is the fear about? Is someone going to come with a really big semi, and a bunch of people to help carry my stuff out of my house one night???? Good luck!~ Anyway, I just think transparency is good….kind of like facts and stuff…..science, time, light…….all that is good right? I live in a good location…..if not…..get a p.o. box….it even works for taxes, as long as you pay them!~

  19. I don’t see what the problem is. When you establish a business you must provide basic information so that you can register with the state and federal governments. Why would anyone be opposed to providing a customer with basic information? Our business name, physical address, email address and telephone number is posted on our website. I’d much rather purchase a product from someone that isn’t afraid to provide basic business information as opposed to someone hiding behind an avatar. Legitimate businesses have to pay fees and taxes, and it doesn’t matter if you generate $500 or $5 million in revenue. I’m all for Congress forcing eBay and other sales channels to ensure that those selling products on their platforms are legitimate.

  20. Of course Ebay is scared. Ebays fees are way too high. Really cute how they charge a fee for shipping. What a scam to get a higher kickback. And now with taxes being charged. Ebay has priced it self out for most sellers. It just isn’t worth the hassle anymore. Facebook Marketplace is free and is cutting into their profit. Although the secret sell through contracts they signed with Chinese Corporations will keep them happy. Hell, just the advertising on the site makes them plenty of money to stay afloat.

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