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

by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 14 06:26:57 2013

Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaabaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa sheep. You are all noisy sheep afraid to make real waves, just happy to talk about making waves. You are the sellers who wish things were different, but not if it means you might be suspended from eBay. This thread should be terminated. You're now attacking each other!

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by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 14 07:42:04 2013

Mass Howler, thanx for posting the FTC phone numbers. For anyone looking at my petition, yes, Mass Howler is right, a phone call is fast, direct, and effective and ebay will not know your name. Thanx to anyone who tried to sign, sorry about the problem with the link, you can go to Change.org and start your own petition (about anything as far as that goes) or find and sign my petition there if you wish, but I agree in this case a phone call is probably far more effective (especially based on the experiences with petitions that Ming shared).

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

by: Cyclestripper This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 14 12:32:07 2013

Suggestion:

Break The Ebay Habit!

Due to the lack of availability of items I typically purchase on ebay, I reduced my purchases on ebay from just about 90% to just about nothing in the last two years. At one time, every piece of clothing I had on came from Ebay. Now, nothing I have on came from ebay.

Indeed, the only thing I buy on ebay anymore is case lot plastic bags because of a seller that I like.

Think about it.

Do you buy on ebay just because you are familiar with ebay?

Could you get better service, lower cost and a better buying experience somewhere else?

Amazon's checkout actually works and you don't have to worry about delivery.

Particularly for NEW, generally available items, why buy on ebay?

Given the cost of shipping built into the price of ebay items, NEW items can almost always be found elsewhere at a lower price.

Ebay is no longer offering as many NEW items that are unique, it's not less expensive and it's generally a more stressful environment in which to purchase.

Break The Ebay Habit.

Just a suggestion.

Mike

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This user has validated their user name. by: Puck

Sat Sep 14 14:11:07 2013

After the Spring '13 "Fee Simplification" my high end stuff is being gouged with a 10% FVF.

I figure one more "Simplification" and eBain will start taking 90% and leave me 10% as a token of their corporate largess.

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by: OldCrabapple This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 14 15:23:01 2013

This just confirms what I already knew. Cassini utterly destroyed my ebay business over a year ago. I must have been among their first test subjects. I'm only surprised they've finally fessed up.

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by: originalpol This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 14 18:52:53 2013

I cannot believe how far eBay has strayed from it's original core beliefs "“People are basically good.”  Really?  If so, why is every policy or revision seemingly created to either pacify or protect buyers and destroy sellers? Sure, one big happy community. RIGHT.  I started on eBay in 1997 - 2 years after it was started. I'm one of the sellers who have given eBay TENS OF THOUSANDS over the years - put up with all the changes and revisions all in the name of "the greater good for the eBay community".  Well - the eBay I first signed with NO LONGER EXISTS. eBay has literally DESTROYED my business - my sales are down 75% this month when compared with last year. yet I have DOUBLE the amount of merchandise up, I'm now offering FREE SHIPPING, 1 DAY HANDLING, 14 DAY RETURN POLICY (on collectibles no less - not new toasters and cameras and such - vintage one-of-kind collectibles, posters and memorabilia) and I recently upgraded to ANCHOR STORE - paying the MAXIMUM amount each month to eBay. I have Top Rated Seller Status and am a Silver Powerseller. I often ship SAME DAY whenever possible.  I have a virtually flawless track record. WHAT MORE AM I SUPPOSED TO DO HERE??  Someone needs to organize all of us individual, sole proprietors and small business sellers with only a few employees and basically JOIN FORCES to put a stop to eBay's unfair business practices. We should have a SHUT DOWN - I'd be willing to close my store down for 30 days as I sell on amazon and other venues.  If EVERY SINGLE non-box retailer seller shut down their store and stopped selling on eBay that would be a nice small dent in their yearly profit and it would most certainly get the attention of mainstream media. It's so sad that this company has basically TURNED IT'S BACK on the very sellers like myself that built it from the ground up.  When is someone going to create a collectible-only marketplace and take all that's good from eBay (what little there is) and what's good with other ecommerce sites and revise everything's that's bad with these same sites and create a real alternative to eBay??? Will need lots of marketing muscle to really get the word out there to everyone but I think it's possible.  I'm ready to jump ship whenever that happens.

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by: auctionguy This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 14 20:15:00 2013

@Puck, I no longer sell anything on ebay for over $100 for that very reason. When I do 98% of the work to sell an item, but ebay makes more profit on it than I do, it's time to find a different venue. It should be real easy to see why Donahoe is predicting lower revenues, despite higher fees. Because we're selling less! And it can't be made up by increases sales of under-$10 fake leather iPhone and iPad cases with free e-packet shipping from China. When the buyers find out how poorly those items are made, they might want to return them for a refund, but the return shipping to China costs more than the item cost, due to the much higher shipping cost from the U.S. to China than the government-subsidized e-packet shipping from China to the U.S.

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

by: LAbay This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 14 23:19:31 2013

I my opinion, eBay has more products than traffic. Amazon has restricted and closed categories. eBay doesn't close any category so they need to rotate search results. I have noticed that I will get sales for 3-4 days and then nothing for another 3-4 days.

Regarding the managed returns.  You can setup your own policy and buyer can pay for return shipping, you can have a restocking fee etc... BUT when a buyer clicks ''return'' they choose reason for return in a drop down menu. This is where I have the most trouble with this system.  The buyer can choose ''not as described'' as an option.  At that point, the seller is responsible for refunding the product, original shipping and return shipping. eBay charges the seller for the return shipping. You can't challenge this because a case hasn't been open. However, you can report a buyer for abusing the eBay Buyer Protection Program.  That is it.  So, most buyers will pick the ''no brainer'' option which is ''item not as described'' without any out of pocket expense. eBay refuses to understand basic human nature.  When it comes to money, humans will act for their own best interest.

eBay is being transparent in the UA because they can avoid lawsuits.  As long as they are transparent, you can't sue them for not driving traffic or search result manipulation.

Yes, they know many sellers will find the UA outrageous enough to leave. But all they have to do is run another FREE listing promotion to get more people to list.

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

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

Sun Sep 15 03:51:44 2013

You know, I called the ebay customer service today the phillipino CSR (nice people but CLUELESS) still deny rolling blackouts and say ''What do you mean'' like there was no announcement.
She said today ''Your items visble 24 hrs a day- everywhere''.
Ebay suits in charge- let your csr's know that they do not NEED TO LIE to us ANYMORE about the blackouts- you have ADMITTED IT.
So classic, happens with every seller beating-down ''policy''.

Funny also how they always do this to us on holidays, and ESPECIALLY April Fools Day- every year, may as well now be callerd ebay seller beatdown day April 1.
GREAT idea for a story Ina- trace the bad policies and show that most were implemented on April 1st throughout the years as it is TRUE-Please do it! This would finally show us sellers how ebay really feels about us- they THINK we ARE fools. They switched cassini up to maximum on april 1st this year, remember?
Mass Howler
Please Microsoft take him!!

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

by: Abernathy This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 15 04:20:17 2013

@Anonymous Annie: Annie, I would love to hear what ecommerce or merchant support groups or resources you've found most useful for moving off-ebay. There are a lot of things I'd love to discuss on the eBay linkedin groups, but these groups are on eBay's turf, and unlike the previous seller forum, it's not possible to discuss anything anonymously.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: baconsdozen

Sun Sep 15 09:11:31 2013

With hiding items on search,crummy lop sided feeback policy and enforced returns etc etc ebay is no longer a fair.let alone economic way of selling. Do what the buyers are doing and vote with your feet.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 15 13:50:48 2013

Yes, they know many sellers will find the UA outrageous enough to leave. But all they have to do is run another FREE listing promotion to get more people to list


%100 correct - hence the 1 MILLION free listings  (why 10 million or 1 trillion? Maybe 1 free listing per dollar matching the US national debt?)

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This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Sun Sep 15 14:01:34 2013

"There is a sucker born every minute" as the saying goes, and "ebay wants every sucker to list on ebay".

I think this is on a wall plaque in JD's office.

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

Sun Sep 15 21:53:02 2013

Pace is right.

How about 1,000,000,000,000,000 free listings.

Do all the hard work and nobody can see them.

How about 4 quadrillion free listings JD- Then I will list.

Or how about this JD- pay US to list, that is what it's coming down too!

MH

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by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 15 23:26:41 2013

Anyone reading this who hasn't already done so, remember to call the FTC about ebay tomorrow.

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

by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 16 12:31:56 2013

This from a poster on PowerSellersUnite, perhaps the best articulated iteration of the legal aspects of this issue: "Most likely the claim would be that ebay is illegally interfering with a potential business relationship. By deliberately not indexing a listing so it can be found by a potential buyer, and doing this without the seller's permission, they are interfering with a potential transaction. Questions about seller expectations, as well as the terms of the original contract between the seller and ebay, would be pertinent.

I'd guess that would be their "out". Ebay's user agreement is the seller's contract, and if there is no guarantee of visibility, or that ebay retains the right to limit visibility based on some criteria, then the seller should have no expectation beyond what the contract states. So if they don't like your photos, or your DSR's, or your even your sales volume, they can limit your visibility.

Tortuous Interference is an interesting idea ...and I'd guess with the right attorney, some kind of legal case might be possible.

You'd have to argue that the seller's reasonable expectations of site visibility does, in point of fact, go beyond what the seller/ebay contract states, and that by limiting this visibility, they are interfering with a potential business transaction between the seller and a buyer."

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Mon Sep 16 13:19:07 2013

@puck & auctionguy

The Spring fee simplification was just that.  It was a much easier version to follow and far less complicated.  So as for the simplification of fees, they did accomplish that.  

It is just that it was a big change.  A complex issue that took some real number crunching to figure out what the best approach for each individual business.  There were several different things that needed to be considered to come up with an informed decision.

Now there was a fee increase for some sellers, a fee decrease for others and it stayed about the same for others.

Casual sellers and sellers of product over $85 are the ones that got hit the hardest with the fees.

Those sellers with a store [if they have selected the proper store level for themselves] with average per transaction sale of less than $85 stayed about the same in fees or even got a reduction in fees.

Hopefully Puck you are able to take advantage of the promotion that caps FVF on higher end sales at $100.  

@oldcrabapple

This problem of them hiding listings has been going on for years.  Long before Cassini came along.  Many of us referred to them as rolling blackouts.

Maybe something else is going on that you aren't aware of at this time.  I don't know what it might be, but maybe something.

For me, I think it is the rolling blackouts.  Then there are times I'll go a few days without sales, then suddenly the sales start coming in and they are all from Canada, or they are all from the East coast, or from some other geographically close area between buyers.  I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me.  No sales for awhile, then suddenly a few sales from the same geographical area.  It does make you scratch your head!



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by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 16 15:29:56 2013

To describe ebay's earlier, tiered fee structure as complicated is absurd. Primary school math would suffice. Actually, you wouldn't even need that. Ebay has a fee calculator and when it comes to billing, they do it on their end anyway.

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: Marie

Mon Sep 16 15:53:24 2013

@bloggo

Because it wasn't complicated for you does not mean it wasn't complicated for other.  

There were different percentages for different categories, tiered fees, standard fees, fixed fees, etc.  For sellers that didn't just sell in one category it could get complicated to figure stuff out.  

Again, it is terrific it wasn't an issue for you, but to suggest that for those that viewed it differently than you did are / were somehow less intelligent that you is ridiculous.

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

by: Jbyron This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 16 18:29:42 2013

Word of mouth will eventually complete eBays self destruction.  

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