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Mon Apr 12 2010 11:37:21

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay seller Elliot Miller filed a lawsuit last year against a buyer who left him negative feedback, and an article from the Associates Press about the case is causing a stir among eBay users. According to the news report, the seller filed a $15,000 defamation lawsuit because the buyer, who said he has spent $7,000 defending himself so far, left him negative feedback that harmed his reputation.

The feedback, "Bad seller; he has the ethics of a used car salesman," certainly sounds like an opinion, but the seller is upset, according to the reports, because the negative spoiled his otherwise perfect eBay feedback.

The publicity from this case is not going to help his reputation - and it could certainly harm eBay, since it makes buyers think twice about the company's feedback system. This television news report has more details - the buyer is shown saying eBay is giving him the run-around and  refuses to communicate with him.

It's not the first lawsuit over eBay feedback, and won't be the last. In 2006, eBay seller Kiel Sturm sued a buyer over a $2.33 transaction (link and link). In another case, a user included eBay in a libel lawsuit. In 2003, Robert Grace, publisher of a Los Angeles legal newspaper, sued eBay and Hollywood memorabilia dealer Tim Neeley in California Superior Court after eBay refused to remove negative comments Neeley made after selling Grace six vintage entertainment magazines.

More information about the complicated outcome of "Robert M. Grace v. Tim Neeley" is available on the citizen Media Law Project site.

eBay users are not the only ones at risk of lawsuits over feedback - Yelp has been in the headlines over its user reviews. Last year, a user who left a negative review of a business on Yelp was sued for defamation.

It would be a shame if the threat of lawsuits kept people from leaving feedback and reviews on the Internet. On the other hand, there are probably a lot of readers who have been on the receiving end of unjustified negative reviews!




Comments (42) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: eBuyer Feedback This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Apr 12 12:27:14 2010

There's a really simple solution that the buyer can use to help fix the problem.

1)  Create a listing.
2)  Shill that listing.
3)  Leave himself positive feedback.

If eBay is doing their job they'll immediately suspend his account which will remove the negative he left years ago.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 12 13:08:07 2010

I want to see the seller win this lawsuit.  Buyer received a refund and had the right to leave a negative - but he did not complain about the condition of the item in his feedback - instead he directly attacked the seller's character.  Unfortunately, he ran up against a lawyer living in a 3 million dollar home who has the means to take down this buyer - and try to make a dent in ebay and its ridiculous policies as well.  I can't help but feel that was the lawyer's intent in filing a lawsuit.  I feel sorry for the buyer who unwittingly fell into this net but I cheer on the seller!  When feedback was a two way street, buyers had more sense then to directly attack a seller...and vise-versa.  Handing this much power to the buyers is wrong and if Ebay doesn't want to do its job of mediating between buyer and seller then it needs to stand back and simply become a venue again!

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: Beads

Mon Apr 12 13:51:52 2010

Now I am all for free speech but sites like Yelp and even Ebay/AMazon encourage people to post things they'd NEVER say to somebody in person.

I eat at what many call a wonderful restaurant but if you went to Yelp, it gets 4 stars because 2 people decided to slam the place and never made any case why in their posts.  How is that fair to the restaurant?  Seems to me it's intentional.  

Both of my accounts at Ebay and Amazon are 100% and I work very hard at maintaining that.  There needs to be a cooling off system that asks a pissed off customer a series of questions starting with "did you contact the seller to discuss the issues with your item".  If the customer says they did but the seller (in their rebuttal) finds that they didn't, that feedback should be denied.

Same goes for when sellers neg'd buyers because of constructive criticism (Positive left for seller with comment wondering why they have such high shipping for example).   Some sellers took that the wrong way and retaliated back in the day.

So if the sites would just create a system where maybe a neg can be held, the buyer has xxx days to respond and address and if both sides are happy, positive feedback goes up.

I can't understand why they don't have something like that.  I got a ding on Amazon from a buyer who complained about a crushed spine on a DVD I sold them.  Not once did the buyer contact me about it.  Makes you wonder if it's a competitor messing with your rating as that DVD was under $2.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: Lisa

Mon Apr 12 14:06:33 2010

There are two absolute defenses for a libel, slander or defamation lawsuit; and that is that the comment in question was the truth or was the opinion of the person who made the comment.  The buyer felt the seller had the ethics of a used car salesman, that's his opinion.  The first amendment guarantees our right to free speech.  However, eBay's gagging of Sellers did not provide the seller with the same freedom of speech it afforded to the buyer, and if anybody should be sued, it is eBay for denying that right and allowing the comment to be left which might not otherwise have been left had the buyer feared the seller would also leave negative feedback.  The seller has the burden of proving that the comment, even if it damaged him in his work or employment, was untrue.  I have no idea why the buyer had to incur any legal fees as this is a civil rights matter, the ACLU usually handles this stuff pro bono.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: Lisa

Mon Apr 12 14:14:45 2010

Oh okay, now it makes sense:

"It turned out that emiller1313 was a Miami Beach lawyer, and he wanted damages for ruining his 100 percent customer approval rating and "commercial reputation.""

Can a lawyer be damaged in his REGULAR business or occupation if a comment was made regarding something he sold on eBay?  No.  Because he is an attorney by practice and occupation and is not known on eBay as an attorney.  Not until he decided to file the lawsuit.  He's now invited the State of Florida to examine his tax returns, subpena eBay's records of his sales, etc.

His biggest problem, obviously, is that he's been a member since 2003 and has a total feedback of only 330.  And according to Toolhaus, this is not this seller's first negative.  His "perfect feedback" was again damaged in 2009 by another buyer who suggests that the seller is unethical.  That can't help the seller much either.  Another litigious lawyer, go figure.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: Lisa

Mon Apr 12 14:25:12 2010

This guy has issues!  As a buyer, he's got 301 FB.  As a seller he's got 42 and two negs on the first page.  I hope when he loses, he's forced to pay the buyer's legal fees.  42 does not constitute a commercial business reputation after 7 years and only 42 items sold is about 7 items a year sold.  Is that even enough to be a hobby?

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 12 14:30:36 2010

Seller passed the bar in 1965 - I'm betting he's retired, has time on his hands, money to burn and sees Ebay as a great source of entertainment.  Its obvious he intends to "test" Ebay's feedback system and I'm betting that's his ulterior motive.  I'm hoping he wins it.  Somebody has to show Ebay they are not the almighty when it comes to buyer/seller relations and leaving seller with no mediation and no means to tell their side of a transaction - hence this well-deserved lawsuit.  Unfortunately, buyer simply fell into the net - so to speak.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 12 14:33:56 2010

Actually - as I think of it...when a buyer recieves a refund that should be the end of the transaction.  He was (as they say legally) made "whole" again.  Feedback should not be allowed in such a case...but we know that will never happen under present Ebay management.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 12 14:36:07 2010

@Lisa - I know a top Ebay artist....works that sell in the thousands.  His 42 items would be worth more than the average seller's 42 items...and what of those sellers selling cars only?  You can't count items sold and make a case of it.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: RicRoe This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 12 16:19:47 2010

eBay's insistence that they will only remove a negative by court order is probably what motivated this retired lawyer to take the buyer to court, that and the fact the seller has the ability to represent himself.

If he wins the suit, he will likely request that the court order the negative removed, and eBay will be forced to comply.

This is what happens when a level playing field is tilted unfairly to favor one party over another.

The unfortunate buyer is being made an example of, largely due to eBay's own deficient policies.

Blame eBay's unfair and unequal policies colliding with an eBay seller that just happens to be an attorney who has enough time on his hands to make a very expensive point.

eBay desperately needs buyers to be all warm and fuzzy when purchasing on eBay with 100% feedback. And look at how much sales have grown since this policy was changed. eBay is in a steady decline even with perfect buyer ratings.

As usual, eBay leaves sellers to keep a jar of Vaseline next to their keyboard and monitor.

Here is another example of eBay's success under the leadership of John Donahoe.




Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: unusual1
Web Site

Mon Apr 12 16:29:39 2010

I had a buyer leave  neg. feedback because I do not accept paypal. Naturally he was to stupid to see the flaming NO PAYPAL under the pictures or again the "I DO NOT ACCEPT PAYPAL" after the description.  Ebay refused to remove the negative feedback after the buyer refused to pay via  two other payment options. That's when I left ebay.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: GoGetEm

Mon Apr 12 16:48:59 2010

"Seller passed the bar in 1965 - I'm betting he's retired, has time on his hands, money to burn and sees Ebay as a great source of entertainment.  Its obvious he intends to "test" Ebay's feedback system and I'm betting that's his ulterior motive.  I'm hoping he wins it."

That makes him Philip Cohen!

Seriously though, I hope the seller wins, because the feedback isn't constructive - as someone earlier pointed out, it just attacks his character and casts aspersions on his morals and ethics.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: john

Mon Apr 12 17:04:00 2010

Good....hope the seller wins. The biggest travesty with DSR's, feedback, etc. is the fact that Ebay allows buyers to leave them without any contact whatsoever to the sellers.

None of you sellers would care about how tight Ebay's restrictions on selling would be if Ebay simply required that buyers contact sellers first or else remove the feedback. This is because any good seller would respond and take care of the problem and everyone would be happy.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: cypher

Mon Apr 12 18:12:44 2010

First of all, I didn't know you could insult a lawyer or ruin their reputation.  Secondly, like Lisa wrote earlier, I had no idea who the seller was until he filed his lawsuit, and I still don't know his eBay ID so where's the damage?  Third ... I think he's just pissed cause he lost his 100% rating and frankly am surprised he made it this far.  What a jerk!  Finally ... only because it's too stupid to continue with ... any judge that lets this litigation waste one penny of taxpayer money should be removed from the bench, AND THAT'S JUST MY OPINION!.  Is the seller related to any of the Westboro Baptist Church lawyers?

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Mon Apr 12 18:31:31 2010

Actually, I did recently neg a seller without bothering to contact him beforehand. I bought a Maxtor 1.5TB twin disk (2 x 750MB) external back up drive for $150 which was a fair used price. I picked it up personally and paid cash (should have paid by PayPal) but when I installed it, one of the disks was fatally inoperative (the set up immediately tells you so). That was a material aspect of the goods and was not disclosed by the seller. In effect I paid too much for a single 750MB back-up disk. The seller must have been aware of the material defect and was apparently unethical enough to think that it was OK to not disclose same, and for the relatively small amount of money involved I could not be bothered attempting to debate the issue with him, I just negged him on all points except postage and commented “Seller failed to disclose material defect”. He did not attempt to contact me thereafter.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: Another Wronged Seller This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 12 22:40:21 2010

My first negative about 10 years ago was from a buyer with very limited english who thought that leaving a negative feedback 3 days after he paid was the correct way to ask when they night receive it.

I received a negative from a buyer who said that the top I sold her looked darker on her monitor and therefore ''didn't match my pants''. She admitted that her monitor was really old and ''everthing looks dark''

About a year ago, I received one from a buyer that objected to the sales flyer I enclosed in their box. Product was fine but didn't like the flyer with the 20% off coupon for my website, my links to my ecrater and bonanzle stores, and objected to my asking them to take a moment to leave a positive feedback and 5 stars is all was well and they were completely satisfied. His argument was that he didn't like me asking for feedback and advertising other sites for an ebay transaction. He was also an ebay seller!

As long as ebay judges us, disciplines us and removes discounts for what are essentially completely subjective opinions, these boneheads deserve to be sued. If ebay had one iota of common sense, they would put in a two way, real, transparent feedback system that is grounded in FACT and not touchy feely opinion. Frankly, I am amazed that there aren't tons of these lawsuits both against buyers AND ebay.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: Jim This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 13 00:59:04 2010

We have do not contact buyer about feedback as an eBay restriction.

Next will be do not sue buyer about feedback as an eBay restriction.

 

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: mickeyfinn This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 13 03:16:50 2010

''Another Wronged Seller'' mentioned 'two-way' feedback .... we used to have that - and it wasn't all that long ago.

As a buyer, I was quite happy to negotiate through the range of pos/neut/neg feedback. Reading between the lines, digging down two or three levels and puttting together a broad picure.  This, plus understanding the real world is made up of differing attitudes made it relatively easy to identify unwarranted negs - but even these were VERY informative!!

I quite liked the ability of a seller to leave a neg - it made it very easy to spot a potential problem.  Just have a look at ''Feedback left for others'' and you get a direct insight into how they think - great for picking the nut jobs.  They can't help themselves!

Well, that was in the past.  Now, sellers are prevented from even suggesting anything less than perfect for any buyer - irrespective of how painful the experience...

... which also means the nut job sellers are protected against themselves from lashing out.  That's one less means I now have to identify a potentially problematic seller.

Which is one reason my buying has fallen off over the last 2 years.


Maybe I'm just romanticising the past, but it seems there was less of a problem with feedback extortion and lawsuits and such when both sides had the same power.  People thought twice about leaving negs. Now they just don't think at all.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: Marvin This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 13 04:09:24 2010

Easily implemented checks and balances to avoid abuse of a feedback are seldom used simply because there is just to much money to be made off negative feedback. People are sometimes very irresponsible, they react without thinking, make no attempt to contact the other party when there is a problem or have ulterior motives for the comments they leave. A company motivated by greed will prey on this and allow unrestricted comments to be left and reputations ruined because they know the person getting negative feedback will try to make more sales to offset it.

Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!   Leaving Feedback on eBay? Get a Lawyer!

by: eBay Turn to get it

Tue Apr 13 07:36:30 2010

Time to turn the tables on eBay and revaluate how corruot eBay really is. Please sound off with your eBay horror stories and Paypal nonsense at
http://blog.timesunion.com/parenting/7438/a-chance-to-study-unde
r-the-ebay-master/

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