Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sat June 21 2014 20:57:15

Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

By: Ina Steiner

Sponsored Link

Be careful when posting a negative review about a seller on eBay, warns Australian newspaper the Age, because sellers can sue buyers for defamation over negative feedback.

Suing trading partners isn't exactly new, but, the newspaper wrote, "lawyers predict the number of defamation cases involving online reviews and feedback will grow as people become increasingly aware of their online reputation."

Feedback and reviews can have a direct impact on businesses. On eBay, low feedback can cost sellers in a number of ways: they can lose discounts, their listings can be pushed down in search results, they can have more restrictive selling limits imposed on their accounts, and they could be suspended.

One eBay seller sued a buyer in 2010 in a much publicized case, but dropped the lawsuit after the buyer continued to fight it. That kind of negative publicity may be why eBay now offers a "money back guarantee" for transactions in which PayPal is used to pay for items.

The Age described a case in which an eBay seller (Achilles Archery & Outdoors) sued a West Australian buyer over a negative review on eBay and on forum posts. The case was dismissed on a procedural point last month. ("The eBay seller did not provide particulars of how he had been identified by the comments and the case was summarily dismissed.")

It isn't just eBay, however - what you say to social friends on Facebook and Twitter, or on review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, can also land the reviewer in hot legal water.

Are you careful about what you say online, and have you ever been tempted to bring someone to court for a negative feedback rating?

Comments (37) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: kzeeman This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 10:50:42 2014

Sueing people over Ebay Feedback. Is this serious ? I think some folks have too much time on their hands. And that is of course Ebays fault too. I sell on Ebay and they tick me off daily but I cant believe that serious sellers who are concerned over making money would consider spending the time, money and energy needed to sue someone. That is out of kilter priorities.

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Mon Jun 23 11:02:21 2014

It is not a given that if you win a lawsuit you get your legal fees and costs reimbursed.  If there is a written contract between the parties that state the winning party is awarded the costs, then of course they do.

When there is no contract, sometimes they will get them paid and sometimes they don't.  You can't depend on it.

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 11:47:11 2014

@Marie, re: lawsuits vs. ebay. Class Action lawsuits against eBay are useless, as they pay pennies on the dollar. But as to the fraud they are engaged in, if enough attention can be brought- enough "noise" made- the FTC and Department of Justice will launch a full-scale investigation. The "hidden seller limits" where they set a sales goal with a known sellers limit, but cap sales is straight fraud. The Chairman of Christie's and Sotheby's were both charged for price fixing awhile back. Also on Google. It is possible to see John D. arrested and charged. The Chairman of Christies was.
Ebay will not be afraid of a class action suit, as the math on the massive fraud they are engaged in is worth the payout. It is the bad press and the effect on their stock price valuation that will damage them. And possibly being charged with a criminal activity. They are breaking the law with promoting higher seller limits then are actually true, in order to encourage postings that are never seen. This is fraud. The true seller limits are not revealed to the seller. They set a fraudulent sales goal by proxy.
They use the excuse of the robot program on purpose to attempt to avoid anyone pointing the finger at an executive, but the executives are responsible for what the robots do on the site, if they are engaged in active fraud.

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: Dragonfyree This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 12:36:18 2014

I've seen a few of the small claim cases about Ebay on Judge Judy & People's court.

One of the problems I almost always see is when trying to talk about damages the seller suffers, they can't explain the Ebay policy in a coherent manner.

If you're going to small claims court the most important thing is to be able to show ebay policy (Print out everything) and be able to explain how opening a case counted as a defect, How the DSR's work and how you can be kicked off Ebay.  

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: lucask7 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 13:11:31 2014

Let's all file claims in court over negative comments for defamation of character, then just maybe e-bay will get the message about their dysfunctional feedback system!!! Screw you e-bay!!!

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: a_c_green This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 16:47:38 2014

Threatening to sue someone is the more-polite version of calling someone a poopyhead: it's said from one aggrieved party to another all the time, but only in the merest sub-fraction of 1% of the time does any legal action occur, for the simple, singular reason that it costs a ton of money to follow through on the threat.

We see miffed postings in the eBay discussion groups all the time in which the poster is threatening to sue someone for some perceived slight. ''Fine,'' we'll say. ''Go right ahead, but instead of just going on and on about it here, you'll want to talk to a real attorney about the steps you have to take. Get back to us and report what you have done (and _not_ simply what you're going to do Real Soon Now).'' We never hear back from them again.

The tricky part is making that transition from _talking_ about suing someone to actually _doing_ it. That happens so rarely that when it does occur, it gets written about here.

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: whino90211 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 16:48:18 2014

I sued somebody about an ebay transaction and won 24.95. It cost him $141 in my settlement and court costs and a day from work.
All he had to do was pay $4.95 in postage for a refused package. I guess he learned his lesson.

But generally it's not worth
it.

I have also:

Bought their item and have come to mutual understandings with regards to feedback.

Got a lady fired from her job after I bombarded her employer with negative yelp reviews.

Wrote negative reviews on businesses. Other business owners are my worst customers. I had a manger of a fast food place calling me about every 5 minutes begging me to let him revise his feedback. If you are reading this Chad. Sorry - you ignored me for 30 days with due warning and you only have 30 days to revise your feedback.

Sent the CEO of one of my customers her crazy e-mails. She sent me an apology.

Sent one of my scamming customers that drives a tow truck on a 120 mile dead end crank call.

My general rule is that if you mess with my income I will mess with yours. My list goes back years... I just don't have enough time.

Feedback is just free speech. Sometimes buyers forget that I have free speech as well. And yes they have complained to eBay. First you have to prove it and they they get the bad news that what happen outside of ebay is outside of ebay.  

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: moto-science This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 18:46:31 2014

I could care less about unverified feedback from  buyers who just needed their diapers changed. We do a good job, but not every buyer is reasonable.

The problem is Ebay using unverified feedback to restrict sellers and damage their business.

This is the lawsuit which needs to be filed if you ask me.  

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 19:40:51 2014

I have a buyer right NOW that is threatening my FB---she claims she "Doesn't KNOW what FB to leave" after she went NUTS because I

A. Mailed her packager TOO FAST and

B. Could not TELL her if the item she purchased would FIT.

She had bought similar items in the SAME size  and brand from a different eBay seller and THOSE  allegedly did not fit.

Now I managed to find this transaction and she left NEUT FB for the seller--
"Seller OFFERED a refund but I DONATED the shorts instead"

So---where do I go from HERE?  She has shown that even IF I offer a refund---for shorts that DO fit her and are in the excellent condition I listed them as--she might damage me ANYWAYS.  
This is BTW a $50 sale!  And I LOST money on the shipping.  

She ADMITS that the items I sold her fit.  I gave her a GREAT price (as requested BEFORE the sale) on shipping two items.  And yet--

NOW she is threatening me!

Surely ebay will do---nothing.

I am not inclined to offer a full or partial refund to some one who has SHOWN that when a seller DID do this--she trashed them ANYWAY.  

This is a buyer who was hysterical when I mailed her items the SAME DAY--because I then did not HAVE the items to assure her they would FIT.

I provide what ebay CLAIMS they want--a GREAT BUYER EXPERIENCE---and this whack job is offering to TRASH my FB--over---what?  Fast shipping?  Items that FIT?  Items that were NEW?

I def feel as if I am getting the shaft here.

Would I sue if I COULD on this one should she actually carry thru on her FB threat?

In a heartbeat.,

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 22:50:21 2014

Its not about suing eBay. It never was and never will be. But thats only because its not monetarily advantages to do so.

If you try to sue them, their corporate sharks will eat you alive. Even though the smart thing would be to have the venue in NY where you are (any first yr law student will tell you thats the best idea) the eBay sharks will petition the court to move it to CA (where they have the advantage. Thats "how it starts" and it will go down hill from there. At the end, even if yo uget past all the tricks & lies - after you pay your attorney, his fees, his cut and your expenses .. there will be almost nothing left (except moral vistory) but then eBay will hide your listings for life (we all know ebay isnt honest - this kind of behavior is a "Cassini built in feature".

No, who you sue is eBays sacred cows - the buyers. SInce your livelyhood rests on your ratings - false claims can get you negatives, low DSRs, Defects and a possible loss of TRSP (if you have it) and the loss of the %20 in fees. THATS a monetary loss aka REAL damages.

Once enouh buyers get sued for fraud, false lies, making false claims, filing fake VERO reports etc - eBay *MAY* take some kind of notice.

You also of course have a MUCH BETTER shot at winning against Mr Smith from Cleveland then eBay corporate. A few newspaper reports about cases of eBay buyers being sued for fraus may ake ebay wake up. I say MAY because for all real purposes, eBay really doesnt care. (its not like they cared about the data breach or the Google rankings issue so ....

John Kerry may have gotten swift boated, I got "seller protected" ... LMAO

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: Tornad0sRul This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jun 25 13:18:21 2014

EBay's feedback system does absolutely nothing but fuel pure extortion, which is illegal. Even though EBay's Buyer Protection doesn't cover it, when a buyer requests return shipping be refunded, a seller is obligated to refund the money or risk a negative feedback. Good sellers are always at the mercy of bad buyers because of feedback extortion. Every seller on EBay is at some time somehow extorted out of money simply because of feedback.  Feedback also encourages and makes it very easy for the crooks and scammers and they effortlessly steal because it takes so long for them to get caught, and even longer for EBay to act. Usually by the time a crook is caught he/she has already easily stolen thousands of dollars from innocent sellers. I told an EBay rep once that because I am a seller and I have experienced the crooks, I could easily go onto EBay and get something for free this very moment without ever being punished or caught.  EBay makes it so easy for the criminals and so difficult for the honest people.

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: JustTheFacts This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 26 07:42:38 2014

I think the legal consequences should be when the buyer does not read the descriptions, ignores the stated shipping and processing time, shipping charges etc and then proceeds to leave negative feedback based on those issues.  especially when they know that it affects a seller reputation.

Of course lying about a seller is also a good reason as well.

I find this malicious.

Of course competitors doing it is absolutely malicious and ALL venues need to help prevent this.

A contract between a buyer and seller is made at the point of purchase.  So just like the buyer is entitled to what they purchase, they are also ONLY entitled to the TERMS in which the item(s) are being sold with. Anything more sooner or cheaper is up to the seller, NOT the buyer through extortion and intimidation.

The problem with buyers is that these "venues" are promising things and demanding things they should not be and creating an atmosphere of unreasonable expectations and BAD and even CRIMINAL behavior from the buyers.

However, buyers who do these things are totally responsible for their actions. No one forces them to do it, the fact is, criminality, and bad behavior is in their makeup. They just take advantage of the opportunity.

This is why when someone messes up on a purchase and tells me the TRUTH, I bend over backwards to help them correct the error and whenever possible do not charge them to fix it. But when they LIE, CHEAT and SCAM, I give them NO b breaks, I make them pay for all costs they are obligated to pay and either block them, refuse to do business with them in the future and or put them on a WATCH list. I also turn them in to the venue.

I think as time goes on more courts are going to make it much easier for defamation suits to be fought in the lower courts such as small claims where it will also be much cheaper and quicker to sue.

Right now many states force you to go to the higher courts and that is where it takes much more money and time to sue. This will be a good thing.

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: Tornad0sRul This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 26 10:22:59 2014

Being in the legal field I can tell you that courts don't do the right thing either. If there is a flood of small claims from EBay, the courts will find a way to block them somehow because they can literally do what they want and we all know that government employees don't like to work too hard for their high salaries.

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Thu Jun 26 11:04:39 2014

It would be so easy to add a checkbox field to the bidding  window that affirms buyer has read the listing in full. No checkmark, no bid.

You know, like the one where WE agree to user agreements before we can proceed further?

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: Tornad0sRul This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 26 11:32:43 2014

For sure Basset! That is a great idea.  I bid on local online estate auctions every week and I must "register" for each auction and check a box that says that I agree to their "terms and conditions", one of which is "everything is sold as is."  In fact every time I try to do anything online, even a minor update to my computer, I must select a checkbox that says that I "agree to their terms and conditions."  Why wouldn't EBay do something that logical, something that almost every site on the internet does?

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: RAOTFLMAO This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 26 19:26:56 2014

I don't play the feedback game.  Any seller I deal with gets their money, that is my feedback.  I don't care if I get any as a seller and I don't bother asking for any.  I have had sellers email and ask for feedback and I will reply that they need to be careful what they ask for....I look upon their whinning and begging in a negative way....
 

Perminate Link for Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?   Should There Be Legal Consequences to Negative Feedback on eBay?

by: Tornad0sRul This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jun 26 22:17:27 2014

I have had way more buyers beg for feedback than sellers that is for sure. As a seller I have never asked for feedback because some people just don't do feedback and that is their prerogative. That is why I have my store set so that I leave positive feedback automatically for those who leave me positive feedback first.

Click to view more comments
1 2 


Login is required to post comments.
To sign in to leave a comment using your AB Verify User Name, fill in the form below. If you have not yet signed up for AB Verify, or if you'd like more information, go to the Registration Page
.

Login for AB Verify
Be sure and use your email address and password to log in.

 
Email:
Password:
 
 Forgot Your Password?
 Even though you are signed in with the AuctionBytes Blog, you will have to sign in to the EcommerceBytes blog. But you can sign in with your existing AB Verify info.