Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed Sept 11 2013 23:16:08

eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay updated its User Agreement with a number of changes that are proving worrisome to sellers. The one most sellers are keying in on is eBay's provision that allows it to hide listings in search results for any reason.

"To further create a marketplace where buyers find what they want and drive positive user experience, we updated the provision regarding listing conditions to recognize that the appearance and placement of listings in search and browse results will depend on a variety of factors.  So, in some situations a listing may not appear in some search and browse results regardless of sort order."

Sellers pay eBay fees to have their listings appear on the site, so were not happy at the prospect of potentially paying fees for zero exposure. eBay has muddied the water by granting sellers a certain number of free listings each month in addition to running certain free-listing promotions, many of which apply only to one subset of sellers at a time.

eBay spokesperson Ryan Moore said eBay would not be refunding any listing fees for sellers impacted as a result of the policy.

Some sellers are cynical about whether eBay had already been hiding some listings in search results. Others blame eBay's new Cassini search engine for the company having to create the new policy.

One can only wonder if eBay is poised to push a button and change its search algorithms once the agreement takes effect for all users in October - as the all important holiday shopping season is underway.

eBay also made changes in its User Agreement that some sellers fear will mean its Managed Returns program will soon be mandatory.

And eBay changed its Buyer Protection policy: "if as a seller you choose not to engage with the eBay Buyer Protection process on an item not as described case, we may seek to carry out a reimbursement from you without asking the buyer to return the item to you."

Read the eBay announcement board post and look for Thursday's Newsflash news article for more details, and let us know what you think.

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Readers Comments

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Thu Sep 12 11:21:11 2013

While certainly the news is disturbing, but only for the fact that they have actually put what they've been doing for a long time in writing.

Personally I think some are over-reacting about departing Ebay. Even the title of this article is a bit dramatic.

Yes this is concerning and yes we all need to be aware of it.  Yes Ebay is overstepping in my opinion, but very little of this is really news.  

Dropping things out of searches has been around for years.

Auto enrolling new members to the Managed Returns program was previously announced a long time ago, but not put into the UA, now it is.

Ebay auto refunding on some claims has been around for years, it is just now put into the UA.  

Absolutely we all need to be aware of these things.  And some of it needs to be actively complained about to those that might be able to help.  I'm just saying these items are not reason to leave Ebay.  They are reason to be more active in reporting the behavior and doing what we can to cause positive change.

I'm not trying to create conflict on the thread.  I am only saying that the majority of this we were aware of, or at least most of us were aware of, it is just now Ebay has added it to the UA.  

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by: MaysLandingMel This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 11:27:20 2013

What in the world are they thinking? This is the one most significantly insidious actions Ebay has ever undertaken. I cannot abide to this even after 13 years on Ebay and over 35,000 wonderful transactions.  

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by: Linda This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 11:29:50 2013

''To further create a marketplace where buyers find what they want and drive positive user experience, we updated the provision regarding listing conditions to recognize that the appearance and placement of listings in search and browse results will depend on a variety of factors. So, in some situations a listing may not appear in some search and browse results regardless of sort order.''

I wonder if sellers will be privy to the variety of factors? Will Ebay tell us what we need to do to make sure our listings are found? This has got to do with Casini search and how the software is learning to make suggestions to buyers.

Is Ebay is forcing buyers to play by their rules when it comes to searching using Casini? This is very distubing since buyers should not be expected to figure out how to work the system in order to find what they want. If Casini fails at finding what the buyer wants, everyone loses. As a buyer & seller I found Ebay to be much easier to use than Amazon or Google BECAUSE of my FREEDOM OF CHOICE for searching MY WAY as a buyer!

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by: BobNJ This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 11:40:37 2013

For what it's worth I've removed ALL of my listings from eBay since being an active seller on eBay continuously since 1999. My items are now on Delcampe which has turned out to be a much better venue for collectibles.

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by: Linda This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 11:43:07 2013

As a buyer I found Ebay to be much easier to search than Amazon or Google BECAUSE of my FREEDOM OF CHOICE for searching the way I want.

If they are going to take my search preferences and load them into an intuitive search engine, I may as well shop elsewhere. Search engines like Cassini & Google are getting to be a big waste of MY time anyway.

Over the last year my searches on Ebay have gotten considerably HARDER to find what I want, not easier & what Cassini THINKS I am looking for is NOWHERE CLOSE to what I want!!!!

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by: Scotty This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 11:53:51 2013

@ Marie
''After all they are merely venue, not my employer.''

You hit hit the ball out of the park with that statement.  They have for all practical purposes crossed the line that defines employer/employee relationships.  Being in Insurance (my real job), there is no way I would write their Liability or Workers' Compensation policies as they are opening themselves up to claims (of which at the very least, will require judicial interpretation).  There are many states that now allow ''stress'' claims....I can't wait until someone files a WC stress claim and represents themself as an ''employee'' (regardless of whether you are designated as a ''share-cropper'', etc.).  From this Insurance / Legal perspective, this could get real interesting.

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by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 11:54:08 2013

These admissions, in the guise of improving buyer experience, are unsettling. At the end of April, my typically robust sales ended. It was confounding without eBay admitting that it had rigged the market. eBay is not a fair market place, and eBay admits it. Yes, we empiracally knew these things had to be happening, but now that we KNOW there is no incentive to work hard and comply with eBay's dictates. There isn't any "agreement." We are just too heavily invested to risk all on a private website. How can we do business under all these overreaching "conditions"? For me, the thought that my inventory can be sacrificed to eBay's twisted view of customer service, DOES sound like theft. I have never granted a full refund without the full return. My stock costs to much to throw away. This is really bad.

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by: ebay refugee camp This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 11:56:25 2013

How do you prove they are hiding your listings?
This is just absurd that any company would do something like this.
This is going to push small sellers over the edge and that is its purpose.
I am sure there is some legality issues here but the unethical issue is off the charts.
Hence the right to participate in class action lawsuits in their policy.
They knew they were doing this all along.
There are may small businesses on ebay that depend on the income from ebay sales .

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This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Thu Sep 12 12:01:58 2013

Marie observes: ''I'm just saying these items are not reason to leave Ebay.''

True enough. And on an *individual* basis, that statement can be truthfully applied to just about any of the eBay annoyances and risks.

But for many people, when they look at the whole picture, and when they take all factors into consideration, the argument for (or justification for) leaving eBay becomes much more compelling (and appealing).

For those who have left eBay, things like this serve as positive reinforcement that the correct decision was made.

For those who are still unsure, things like this help to paint a clearer picture of where eBay is headed and presents us with unmistakable evidence of how little regard eBay has for the rank-and-file sellers.

As you (and others) have correctly observed... we've ALL known these things to be true all along. The only difference is that now eBay is being honest about it.

That makes me ask ''why'' and ''why now''. If eBay has been getting away with this type of unofficial policy for so long, why make it official? Why put it in writing?

Well, my instinct tells me that by putting it in writing, they have a better defense against anyone who wants to make an issue of it.

Why now? My guess is that there's MORE TO COME.

For all practical purposes, there's only ''so-much'' that a company can get away with when it comes to ''unofficial'' and unwritten policies. --- In this case, eBay pushed the limits... and they eventually found what the limit is.

Having found that limit, they couldn't proceed any further... UNLESS... they were to go ahead and reset the baseline of what's actually ''official'' and understood to be actual policy.

Now that the baseline has been reset, eBay now has a NEW STARTING POINT from which to start testing the boundaries and pushing-the-envelope.

And, if past behavior is any indication of what we can expect in the future, it's quite obvious that eBay ain't finished yet.

There's more to come.

Stand by.

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Thu Sep 12 12:17:14 2013

Marie says: "I am only saying that the majority of this we were aware of, or at least most of us were aware of, it is just now Ebay has added it to the UA."

Very true. But I think there's a vast difference between all of us guessing or assuming, something we really couldn't prove, and eBay actually declaring it is so.

Annie says: "And, if past behavior is any indication of what we can expect in the future, it's quite obvious that eBay ain't finished yet."

Also true. If eBay doesn't rid itself of all small sellers with the latest up-date, then they will have to come up with something even more heinous to remove the "noise."  

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by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 12:22:49 2013

I wish Annie were just congratulating herself again on her own website, but she is right that there is more to come. eBay can do WHATEVER IT WANTS to do. It wants to maximize profits for the short term. I'm unhappy because I worked there so hard and long to build my little ''eBay business'', and my problem is I don't need positive reinforcement; I need sales. So many websites are stale, unattended, and infrequently found. It takes a LONG time to build a successful one. I am sure there are sellers who just haven't the appetite right now for any more risk. eBay is eating the hands that fed it.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Thu Sep 12 12:39:38 2013

@Annie

But these aren't new things with a exception of the timing of claims.  All the other stuff they have been doing for a long time and it has been known.  The only thing that is new is that they put it in writing and as part of the UA.

So if this is so upsetting to some, why didn't they leave before this.  That is all I'm saying.  It isn't new stuff.  It is old stuff.

I look at the whole picture.  To not do so would not enable me to be at my best in business.  This stuff stated in the announcement has been in my picture / overview of Ebay for a very long time.

I disagree.  Ebay has previously stated much of this, they just had not made it part of the UA.  Being part of the UA is the only difference.

With Ebay there is always more to come.  That is a safe bet and there will be more before the holiday season gets in full swing.  For whatever reason they have, they like their sellers off balance during the season.  Makes no sense to me, but history proves they do it year after year.

Ebay previously stated that the managed returns policy was getting auto turned on for new members.  Ebay has never made it a secret that they refund some buyers.  And I believe a few months ago the article was here regarding hiding stuff in the searches.  Nothing new, just now part of the UA.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Puck

Thu Sep 12 12:43:33 2013

@ Marie
''After all they are merely a venue...''

That argument closed out of town years ago.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Thu Sep 12 12:54:22 2013

@puck

Closed to / with whom?  Ebay says they are a venue even now.  I am not sure what your point is.  They are a venue.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Map

Thu Sep 12 12:54:29 2013

Here it comes another holiday season with sales cut in half again.

Two years of this in a row!

Most of us here now talking about what ebay has been doing are going to be extinct as sellers very soon because ebay has eliminated our voices by taking away our sales.

Silence your enemies with unconventional warfare! Because bankrupted small sellers equate to dead men don't tell lies.

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by: Yancy This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 13:19:16 2013

Calculate the amount of listing fees you were going to spend on ebay.  Send it to me. I won't list your stuff either.  

I would not have believed such stupid decisions could have been made anywhere (with the exception of Washington)

Then, the forced participation in ebay taking my money without them sending the stuff back?  Ain't gonna happen.  

So glad I quit some time ago.  

I'm hoping for a decent place with someone with a brain cell running it so I can go back in business. Anyone have a suggestion?

/

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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 13:24:02 2013

Well!  At LAST something HONEST from ebay!!!

Not fun--not good--not good FOR us--but--honest.

Despicable?  Yep.  But--honest.

Just exactly how MUCH they HATE their own sellers has become PUBLICLLY apparent now--no more hiding this in just the way the site functions.

Nope.

Now it is right out there for God and all to see.

I DO agree with whoever made the analogy to ANIMAL FARM---I have thought this for a LOOOOONG time now.  A grand psyche experiment--with US as the lab rats.

I did not sign up to be a LAB RAT.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Map

Thu Sep 12 13:24:30 2013

JD has been selling his ebay stock.

He is about to flee with all our money.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Thu Sep 12 13:38:36 2013

I suspect they'll be taking a page out of Google's book when manipulating search results. They'll assign the most popular search keywords to their favored users, then the ones who don't meet their lofty standards will be relegated to the lesser search terms. Sort of like how the highest bidder gets the best keywords when doing Google's ad program. That way eBay can claim you're still getting exposure. Sneaky buggers.

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by: blaumann2 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 13:48:18 2013

I have 4 ebay accounts. I occasionally thought about a fifth. I see I must do that before November.
Ebay management is beyond belief. Beyond comprehension.
The beatings will continue until morale improves.

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