Sellers say eBay is removing their listings for military surplus goods that they've successfully sold for many years, items they say comply with eBay's Military Items policy
. One seller said she received a 3-day suspension.
Adding to the frustration are the mixed messages from eBay customer service about the reasons for the removals, as well as eBay's refusal to provide guidance so they can ensure future compliance, telling sellers to take it up with the US Department of Defense (DOD).
A reader pointed us to this thread
on the eBay discussion boards that started on Monday (November 26, 2018).
While there's all kinds of speculation from some participants of the thread, experienced sellers of military surplus goods say something has changed in eBay's enforcement. Some believe it may be a case of "eBay bots gone wild," which is when eBay programs certain keywords to automatically flag listings for removal.
When sellers asked eBay moderators which keywords to avoid, they received this reply: "Specific keywords are considered internal information, as sharing them would serve to educate those looking to circumvent our filters."
And therein lies the conundrum: how can you ensure compliance if you don't know what's prohibited from being listed?
The original poster said eBay removed Government Issue cold weather wool inserts for gloves. A supervisor told him he was not allowed to sell anything that is Government Issued or has the title Military - "why then does eBay have categories for Military," the seller asked.
He received mixed messages about the reason for the removal: first, that it was a violation of eBay's Firearms, Weapons, and Knives policy ("again these are gloves," he said), and second, that it was the DOD mandating the removal.
Another seller who said eBay also removed his listings for gloves wrote, "An eBay CSR told me DoD asked them to take down the listing and suggested that I email the Joint Equipment Assessment Program at SMBLOGCOMJEAP@usmc.mil for more info."
An eBay moderator explained, "We are regularly contacted by several government agencies with various requests. We work with these agencies to honor their requests, which include removing listings from our site. You mentioned in this thread that you've contacted the DOD, which is the best route to go for for the situation you've described. They should provide you with more details relevant to the action taken."
An additional response to sellers' questions in the thread posted by another eBay moderator:
"I am sorry to hear that the information I provided did not help out in this situation. While I understand the frustration that comes up in a situation like this, I'm here to help provide clarity on our policy and to elaborate on actions that may have been taken. We work closely with verified rights owners and government agencies and will remove listings reported to us. We aren't able to provide details of these kinds of requests as they would be considered private communication with eBay by another party. Though I cannot guarantee a response from the Department of Defense, they would be the only party that is authorized to share additional details on this topic. I'm limited on the details I can share but if you do need anything else, but I'm happy to work on providing more detail, no problem!"
That didn't satisfy a seller who said they had purchased the glove inserts from the DOD as surplus items. "DoD has no interest in whether we use them, sell them, give them away, or throw them away. There is no logical reason for DoD to ask such items to be removed from eBay. All these items are sold in surplus stores all over the country. All these items are Demil."
Also concerning is the following. If the DOD doesn't want sellers to list certain items on eBay, why isn't it following up with sellers to ensure they don't sell those items elsewhere? And why did the DOD sell them to the public in the first place?
It seems either the government made a mistake in selling those items through surplus channels, or it is worrying needlessly about their resale.