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

Perminate Link for eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement   eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Thu Sep 12 13:54:59 2013

pace says "Yet there are STILL eBay chearleaders who SWEAR eBay isnt bad ... I wonder how they can look at themselves in the mirror!"

Pace, I think eBay could tie some of them to a red ant hill and they'd be singing eBay's praises and lamenting on how "eBay really didn't mean to".

Perminate Link for eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement   eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

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

Thu Sep 12 13:59:10 2013

Marie asks: ''So if this is so upsetting to some, why didn't they leave before this.''

Excellent question! I can only imagine that some were unaware of the little landminds that eBay has laid for them to discover. Others may have been naively eternally hopeful that it wasn't a *real* policy... or that it was something that would self-correct, or simply go-away.

For me and my business, I *did* leave. Slowly... methodically... cautiously... and sometimes timidly... but eventually I did leave. For good. Permanently. ~ Truthfully, when I initially made my decision, I had a twinge of self-doubt. But every week, we learn something that justifies my decision, and validates all of the fears about the fact that the worst is yet to come.

Marie tells us: ''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.''

Of course! You're one of the most level-headed businesspersons I know... confident, logical, methodical, rational, analytical. And for your business, staying (and coping, or compensating) makes sense.

I look at the whole picture too. What's right for you, isn't right for me. I hope that nobody is suggesting that those who leave eBay, or who are disappointed in eBay (or who are *considering* leaving eBay) are being irrational or that they are over-reacting.

Believe me, I was as patient as I could be... I thought long and hard. And had I not had an ''out''... an alternative... I'd have probably been a seller who resentfully stayed in an abusive relationship.

--- ''Nothing new, just now part of the UA.''

And as such, they can proceed with impunity. No need to deliberate or deny. No need to examine the evidence at hand, or the history of the seller in question, or the pattern of behavior of the buyer in question.

Snap judgements all around! Quick! Easy! --- No need to save those types of decisions for special cases... it's now the new-normal. The new baseline.

Time to push the envelope even further to see how much they can get away with. Then, when everyone has become accustomed to eBay's unwritten-policies, they'll become official written policies... and the whole thing starts over.

--- ''Ebay previously stated that the managed returns policy was getting auto turned on for new members.''

Indeed. But the fact that they stated it doesn't make it any more palatable or right. Also, the fact that it's the ''new member default'' is a strong indication that it will eventually become the ''ALL member default''.

Oh, you know how this works. They can't get enough seasoned sellers to voluntarily enable it, and based on the initial rejection they fear that it may become an outright failure. So, instead, they default-it to unwary newbies... who don't know it's on, or who are too naive to understand what it's all about.

Eventually, in time, someone at eBay decides that the program has enough ''defaulted-in'' participants and that it's reached some sort of critical mass. They'll use all of the defaulted-in participants as some justification that the program is working, and it will become the default for everyone.

Perminate Link for eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement   eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

This user has validated their user name. by: Jessy

Thu Sep 12 14:03:02 2013

We should report it to the FTC is so that someone can get to the bottom of  a possible illegal policy change.  Some government agencies exist to keep companies honest.

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by: thekloset This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 14:03:33 2013

I didn't realize that the definition of honesty hinged on telling the truth *only* when you get caught.....
In fact, i'd punish that kind of ''honesty'' right out of my kid...

Perminate Link for eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement   eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

by: Xander This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 14:05:22 2013

It’s the accumulation of all these lopsided policies which have built up to this point that ARE grounds for leaving. How can anyone be at their best for business when their trading partner is shamefully unethical?

Ebay has used a “slow conditioning” method by making unpopular changes every number of months as to allow sellers to adjust their mindset into accepting them without driving them away.

At what point does a seller say “I’ve had enough” and make a change to move their merchandise elsewhere? The more who leave the stronger other venues and websites will become while ebay will have a smaller market share.

It’s only a matter of time before ebay gets even worse. Now is an excellent time to exodus ebay, time to set up shop elsewhere, into a new sales venue or site where the actual seller decides how to run their business and write their own policies.

To say “people are overreacting “or it’s been this way for a long time, what’s the excitement all about now that it’s in writing is nothing more than accepting ebay’s terms, while leaving sends an opposite message; that some have had enough and will no longer participate in ebay’s shenanigans.

Staying can be justified any way remaining sellers want but be assured as the sun will shin, ebay will continue their hostile takeover of your business while you do all the work and take all the risk.

Perminate Link for eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement   eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

by: Santini This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 14:12:50 2013

Hmmm...this sounds like it can be useful...what better place to store sensitive data, than a place that can't be found. Have SS, account #'s, and passwords to protect from prying eyes? Put it in an ebay listing of course! Genius!

Perminate Link for eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement   eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Thu Sep 12 14:19:15 2013

@pace306: You're right. We're all paying for space on their servers for our listings. That's it. They even make us agree in the UA that they aren't responsible for our lack of sales. Sneaky sneaks.

Perminate Link for eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement   eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

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

Thu Sep 12 14:20:25 2013

Xander tells us: ''Staying can be justified any way remaining sellers want but be assured as the sun will shin, ebay will continue their hostile takeover of your business while you do all the work and take all the risk.''

In a way, those who stay are rewarding eBay's bad behavior. In staying, they encourage more of the same from eBay.

Parents who give-in to their petulant, demanding, whining, tantrum-throwing children will tell you the same thing. --- The child will learn what ''works'' and will push the limits to discover exactly what they can get away with.

To continue the parental analogy... In time, the beleaguered parents of the tantrum-throwing, whiney and pouty child don't even hear it. It's all background noise that they can easily tune-out.

For those parents, it's absolutely ''normal'' for them, and they think nothing of it. They've learned to cope and deal with a situation that other onlookers find to be nightmarish.

It's the same thing with eBay... many sellers are so accustomed to the abuse that they don't even realize what's happening. They think it's normal and don't understand why people are so upset about ''little things''.

Perminate Link for eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement   eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 14:27:21 2013

Tula

theres a reason people HATE eBay .. this is one of those things.

Im not arguing against ANYONE who wants to sue eBay - go ahead, GOD BLESS and Ill testify - but .... Im  not sure it will go anywhere.

What I DO think would be helpful is using social media, newspapers (ala NY TIMES), the FTC - big people who can lean on eBay to make them change thier TOS/UA.

eBays outright admittance to search manipulation (possible crime ... RICO?) and to have that jerk Ryan admit they will take your money but not provide services - shows how brazen they are. They almost DARE you to do something - and I think we should.

The other issue is that eBay will line up all the Platinums, all the manufactorerers who get special treatment and they will all spout the eBay line(s) of how great eBay is - as proof that "we" are just sour grapes.

I know eBay for what they are - scum (ebay come sue me for slander - I dare you) (youde loose in court since my words are my FEEDBACK on your performance and therefore "as gospel as your bad buyers ones are) ... but I still need them.

I sell items that are either category or manufactorer blocked on Amazon. Im here till I can get that resolved ....  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Jessy

Thu Sep 12 14:29:07 2013

Now it is like a detective job, trying to figure out what to do to our listings to get them to show up. Our sales were great right up until cassini.

Perminate Link for eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement   eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Thu Sep 12 14:31:12 2013

@iheartjacksparrow : You're right. Most of us who are regulars here on ECB are aware of these ongoing search and visibility issues. However, many others who don't visit here are not aware, so this is certainly going to be a rude awakening for a lot of sellers, perhaps confirming things they may have begun to suspect on their own. Any sellers with any kind of business sense have likely been scratching their heads and wondering what's going on with their sales, what with the odd cycles of listing visibility and batches of region-focused sales.

I know I'm not alone in hoping this is not just the first of a number of "surprises" to hit during the holiday selling season.

Perminate Link for eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement   eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 14:52:38 2013

I just contacted a NYT Tech reporter and emailed details - lets see if they will pick up this story!

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This user has validated their user name. by: Jessy

Thu Sep 12 14:57:34 2013

Donahoe should have had left things alone.  The good sellers are gone, buyers aren't there like they used to be, the variety is gone. No wonder best match doesn't work, there is nothing to find a best match to unless you are looking for junky import long tail unsellable corporate flea market stuff.

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by: mindelec This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 15:16:48 2013

@marie

"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."

there is a big difference between "suspecting" and "knowing", before today it was merely suspected that they were doing this.  though JD's statement about maybe we should only show new items to new members was a big clue that it was really happening.

why be upset now?  every camel can carry a different amount of straws before it's back is broken...

Perminate Link for eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement   eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

by: cayenna This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 15:38:10 2013

So much work and not know if it is visible? What's the point of selling there now? Just to pay them for nothing? How stupid. eBay has become their piggy bank; we just keep depositing the $ into their bank and what is our reward? Not even a sale or visibility. What's the point? How pathetic. I can't even drive traffic anymore to other shops if there's no visibility. Ever since eBay made their last changes with their algorithm I barely get any sales anymore, and now this. I am not giving what money I have left away and for nothing anymore. I fail to see what they gain from now saying we could also not have any visibility. Apparently there's some sellers that would rather just keep giving away $ for nothing. I wish I would have never heard of eBay. What a waste of money and time this has all been for all the years I have tried to sell there and this is what I have accomplished. A lot of hard work for nothing. I don't anticipate anything changing for the good. They try to convince you that they support the seller more than ever just to turn around and keep stabbing us in the back. They have stabbed us so many times that we should be dead by now. How many so called resurrections does it take before we get the hint. I am rising ABOVE it and moving on FINALLY! I don't have anything left to give to eBay, they have sucked me completely dry even illegally. Someone really needs to set them straight once and for all but apparently everyone's working for them.

Perminate Link for eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement   eBay Drops Bombshells in New User Agreement

by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 15:39:21 2013

"In order to have a positive selling experience," I have decided that Ebay is no longer viable. So will now work on getting an Amazon store up at $39 per month, 1/3 less than what I now pay Ebay. I will no longer buy on Ebay and will encourage all my family and friends to do the same. U.S. Sellers made Ebay and they can unmake it if it becomes a negative market for American sellers. I personally think Ebay is trying to head off a massive class action law suit for charging huge fees for services that they have not been providing for quite a while. My traffic before the "Ebay Control Freak" started flexing his muscles was over 14,000 per month. I am now lucky if I get close to 1500 visitors per month. I have 99-100% feedback at all times and have  had only a couple of cases before Ebay in 16 years and none that I lost. Right now I am down in the toilet tank as far as their search engine goes. The number of dwindling visitors tells me that. Later tonight I will get a complaint letter written and out to my Senators and Congressmen and to the FCC and any other Federal Regulator I can find that might have the ability to look into the outright fleecing of Americans, by the millions. I encourage all other sellers to do the same. Facebook it and Twitter it that Ebay has been charging for services they did not provide.  

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by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 16:02:37 2013

When you do call, email and write the FTC, remember the phrase: TORTIOUS INTERFERENCE  Would also include print-outs of the articles by Ina from EcommerceBytes here in any written correspondence including letters to newspapers, TV stations, etc. as you alert the mainstream media to this atrocity.

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This user has validated their user name. by: FIERCEI

Thu Sep 12 16:08:29 2013

This sh&t must stop! I pay 199.99 for a store every month. What's the purpose if I don't get any exposure. I need to focus on my own site. The have over 4,000 products and no sales in 28hrs....

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by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 16:12:39 2013

I just called the number for the FTC from the 1st page and made a report- I would appreciate if EVERYBODY ELSE did the same.
It took 5 minutes, they take your name and info and THEY DO NOT SHARE IT WITH EBAY.
Thanks,
Mass Howler- CALL THE FTC!

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by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 16:58:52 2013

It's easy to see why ebay is so slow now.  

I just searched for an item, no hits.  But it shows me several completely unrelated items, claiming they are somehow related.  

Like I would buy those instead of what I am looking for.  

Ridiculous. This search engine is an epic failure and it's costing us all lots of money.

Ebay too, they are losing money, you would think they would pull back and fix it.

I just think their management is emotionally invested in the path they are on, controlling everything and trying to DE-emphasize what made ebay *the place*.  The place where you can find things you can't find anywhere else, being listed by thousands of different sellers.

The want ebay to appear the buyers are buying from ebay, not from an individual seller.  

They want a consistent user experience across the whole marketplace, so they have one-size-fits-all policies that while they might make sense in some categories make no sense in others.  

They just don't understand it.  

Industrial and scientific equipment are just completely different from $1.99 Chinese cellphone chargers shipped out of Guangdong with free shipping.  

There is no relationship between them, between the buyers, the sellers, the way they must be sold and the standards and expectations that must be set.  

They are different.

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