Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue Jan 23 2018 10:38:15

The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

By: Ina Steiner

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As more sellers turn to Facebook to sell items, there's a risk that may not be obvious and is unique to social networking sites: suspension of their personal accounts in the event they run into policy violations while selling. That can be devastating for those who depend on Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family or for those who have grown addicted to the site.

It can also hurt professionally beyond the loss of a selling venue, since many online sellers congregate in Facebook "groups" to discuss and seek advice on ecommerce issues.

It may seem obvious to be just as careful selling on Facebook as you would on a site like eBay or Amazon. But selling on Facebook is often local, with deals done in person. It can feel like selling on a classifieds sites or at a flea market with people hawking everything from real estate, used cars, and weight-loss products.

Whatever the reason, one experienced seller who asked not to be identified by name was lulled into a sense of complacency. She makes frequent trips to a large flea market where she acquires certain types of items, and on one recent trip, an item featuring a well known brand that was obviously handmade caught her eye.

Unthinkingly, she listed it on Facebook.

It's not surprising she received a takedown notice from Facebook - it was a "monumental" mistake, the seller told us. "I really WISH I knew what the heck was going through my mind when I listed it. I've NEVER made a mistake like that on eBay, and yet I sat right there and listed it on Facebook marketplace without it even DAWNING on me that it was a trademark problem."

Lesson learned, right? But it didn't end there. As soon as she received the notice, she went to remove the listing and found - nothing. Facebook had suspended her personal account, so she was unable to log in to the site.

She appealed through a link in the email notification and received back a message: "Thanks for contacting us. We removed or disabled access to your profile because content you posted on Facebook violated the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Our policies prohibit posting content that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law."

"Boy, I thought eBay could be tough," she told us. "I'm still shell shocked by the whole thing. You never really know how much you rely on and use Facebook until you lose it altogether."

We immediately sought answers from Facebook about its policy - did it have a policy to close a seller's personal account after a single IP violation ("VeRO" in eBay parlance)? If so, we wanted to warn sellers right away.

A spokesperson told us that Facebook takes prompt action against IP infringement and disables the accounts of repeat infringers when appropriate. When it receives a valid notice, it works quickly to remove the reported content and notifies both the reported party and the rights holder and explains the reason for the removal to the reported party. 

Facebook also provides reported parties with contact information for the rights holder in the event they want to dispute the infringement notice. 

The spokesperson also said that when people repeatedly infringe on others' intellectual property rights, it is the company's policy to disable their account when appropriate and provided several links for clarification.

According to Facebook's Help Center: "If you repeatedly post content that infringes someone else's intellectual property rights, your account may be disabled or your Page removed under Facebook's repeat infringer policy."

It also states: "If we remove content you posted because of an intellectual property report through our online form, you'll receive a notification from Facebook that includes the name and email of the rights owner who made the report and/or the details of the report. If you believe the content shouldn't have been removed, you can follow up with them directly to try to resolve the issue."

The seller had indicated this was her first violation, but she wondered if the drastic action was taken because she had cross-posted the item to multiple selling groups when listing the item.

"When you list something on Facebook it pops up a message asking if you'd like to cross post your ad to your selling groups - you simply click the box and it does it for you," she told us.

"I could understand a suspension, but a COMPLETE loss of my account seems rather harsh for someone who's never been in Facebook trouble before," the seller told us.

Comments (31) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 24 11:51:51 2018

I dont know the OP and I dont know what she did or didnt do.

I dont sell on Facebook (pinterest drew nothing so I skipped FB) - but I know what eBay does - and Im guessing (since its similar to what Amazon does) - is "1 time and your done" ie they pull the listing.

HOWEVER - (using eBay as a guide) Ive been here since 1998 and EVERY single time - I was in  the right - and eBay (assclowns @ vero)  were being used by the manufacturer to try and stop me from selling that item on eBay.

IE - alot of the complaints (in general) and in my case (all) were false.

This OP - (it seems) seemed to know that the item was something she SHOULD NOT have offered for sale - anywhere, never mind FB.

NO ONE should list fakes - and manufacturers have every right to police the net - but there seems to be ZERO mechanism for sellers (without making them into instant criminals) to defend themselves.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: dander This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 24 12:43:11 2018

People need to be careful about IP rights. There is software out there that sniffs for words and pictures. I got dinged years ago by ebay for using a trademarked word on a listing. It didn't matter that I didn't know. Maybe facebook should have given her a warning, but they have their business to run and potential lawsuits to deal with

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: Fahrenheit451 This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jan 24 14:27:14 2018

I don't use FB to sell. I use it to advertise. It's all for my stuff which I made, so no issue there. One warning: I tried to boost a video once and I got stung. So, no more videos in advertising. The only thing to do is to advertise or sell locally, no brand names by other manufacturers, and you can tie as many pages as you want to your personal account but I would advise to use only one or two. It is difficult enough to boost your own posts. Facebook was not originally designed for selling. It is a social network and nothing more. It is not eBay, or Etsy, or Amazon. It is Facebook.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: Denny This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jan 24 17:25:33 2018

I wish she said what it is? I don't get  what you can't sell when it's used?

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 25 07:20:24 2018

@cillianred -
Thanks for that.  Seems like it might be an obstacle, doesn't it.

Consider though - However the TOU (and resulting implication in the alert described) might be phrased, and no matter the 'lable' it might acquire 'systemically' when established, is it not possible to produce a second account that would be strictly 'business', and therefore not violate the spirit of the TOU intent: e.g., no sock-puppets?

Now, FB of course has the privilege of seeing it differently, and instead of monitizing the concept while remaining 'commerce neutral' (ooooo - did we hear this here first Mr. Z.?), they choose to disown you and yours instead, well, guess that means it leaves either/or choice or acceptance of risk as alternatives.

Too bad though, that for the meantime, they appear instead to focus their 'monitizing' on whatever loose change can be found in the couches of foreign 'fake news' mills.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: MRV This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 25 14:00:08 2018

I understand that FB can make and enforce its own rules, however I think they've confused what if any violation actually took place.

The writer said that the item was obviously handmade, so it doesn't appear to be a knockoff.  So the writer/seller would still be protected under the First Sale Doctrine to resell a vintage or secondhand item, which is different from manufacturing said item.

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by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 25 15:00:38 2018

ip rights doesn't mean we cant put a brand name in the listing especially if that's the item we are selling. I can put selling coach purse..coach cant say...oh you used our name..thats not what ip is.

Indeed they WILL open some stupid claim, but that doesn't make what she did wrong. Ive had a coach purse pulled off of ebay for missing ip..LOL..ebay of course has no care for its sellers so does not bother to ask for details. i know this because I work for a brand and this company constantly has ads removed even when they are completely legitimate. Our ebay manager just does it, no questions asked, its quite ridiculous.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 25 15:03:17 2018

At this rate, you go to sell your used car, and get dinged because you put honda lol


I bet honda would love to stop all used car sales

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: pfft!! This user has validated their user name.

Sun Feb 11 02:33:37 2018

I realize this post was from January but I'm gonna add to the comments here in case anyone else comes along and reads it.  I'm the person this article was written about and if my experience helps someone else then I'll elaborate a bit here.
My husband sells big steer skulls with horns that span up to 5 feet.  They can't be disassembled and they're too big to ship so I started listing them for him on facebook marketplace.  He was making extra money so he started having me list some other things from his shop (old tools, etc)
The item in question was a handmade Harley Davidson sign he bought at first Monday trade days in Canton Texas (one of those plasma cutout signs).  He just thought it was cool looking, got it for a good price and figured he could sell it to guys who'd want to have one hanging in or on their shop.
Like I told Ina.....I DO kick myself for not catching that it would be a trademark infringement.  It wasn't a knockoff Harley davidson ITEM.  But the people who made it didn't have permission to use the Harley logo (I know because I actually went back and ASKED them after this happened).  
NOBODY can beat me up over it more than I've already beat MYSELF up over it.  But I can honestly say that it was TRULY just one of those things that flew RIGHT over my head at the time I listed it for him.  As a 15 year
seasoned ebay seller who's NEVER made a mistake like that I should have caught it.  I have no excuse other than that he brought it to me and asked me to list it with his other stuff I was listing for him on facebook and I DID without even giving it a second thought (which really ISN'T an excuse but it's the truth).
But my point in passing my story on to Ina was that people should know that when you list things on facebook marketplace..........if you make a mistake it's NOT like ebay or one of the regular selling sites where you get a vero takedown and a sharp warning to NEVER let it happen again.  Facebook can easily disable your entire personal account.  And when they do there is NO POSSIBLE way to contact them.  It's all automated.  One strike and you're out.  So just be careful.  I have family spread out all over the US and I've lost that instant "connection" to them all.   It's just been an awful experience all the way around.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: nofeebaypal This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 20 02:15:39 2018

Well I think its all greed. One day these greedy people will crash. You cannot take the money to the grave. As far as facebook kicking people off, we need to gang up on them. one person cannot confront them. We wrote a nice letter to facebook, and they ignored us. Sue filled out an appeal, and they still ignored her. She did not violate anyone's rights at all. I think that if you have a site like facebook that you need to have a legit process. I also think that they are using some idiots from a third world country and that is very bad. Those people are racist against americans and they lie cheat and steal. Ebay has become a big fraud site. As you all know I just turned them into the FBI cybercrime. They have thousands of fake merchandise pages so they can steal from people all ran by chinese. I am going to visit ebay in person very soon.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: nofeebaypal This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 2 03:05:44 2019

facebook opened a marketplace which was immediately attacked by scammers who dont live locally but are looking to scam, so I no longer post on facebook market place

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