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

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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?




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by: Orwellwasright This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 21 21:17:39 2014

Its easy to say I'm going to sue you

However, unless the person you are going to sue is within your jurisdiction and you can file a small claims case , a lawsuit can easily cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the plaintiff...

In reality that option is off the table got the vast majority of honest sellers who have had their reputations destroyed by predatory buyers and competitor sabotage..

unnfortunatly ebay promotes this vile behavior and does nothing to help or protect sellers who become victims, except in the rarest of instances....

The courts cannot provide redress when the entire selling environment is tainted

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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
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Sat Jun 21 21:44:20 2014

Truth and public interest are always a defense; still, it can be costly to defend yourself from aggressive plaintiffs prepared to abuse the legal process, as some defendants, eg, Midley Inc ("PurseForum"), can attest ...

eBay Inc, where the incompetent mingle with the malevolent and the outright criminal, and the just plain stupid ... http://bit.ly/11F2eas

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 21 21:49:21 2014

I would - in a heartbeat.

I was very close to suing a buyer for a false SNAD case just 2 days ago. The item description, the box pic, the item details all said the same thing, the buyer said she wanted to use the item (a cell phone) on an etwork no one ever hear of (the TING network) and filed a item not as described case.

Worse, eBay saw it - and laughed. I told them I would sue her in NY City small claims court and attach them since they allowed the false complaint.

Magically, eBay agreed to pay me for the item ...

Small claims court is easy to do, it forces the other party to "appear" and then people will know - you mean business.

Should it happen again - or something similar - I wouldnt hesitate to use that as an avenue to get results

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by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.
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Sat Jun 21 22:47:48 2014

In the United States at least, the DEFENSE against a libel suit is TRUTH. If what you are alleging is accurate and truthful, the party you are "offending" has no lawsuit. Carried a step further, when mistreated former ebay sellers point out the egregious actions of eBay against them along with the malfeasance, trade violations, tortious interference and much, much more, eBay with its 14 billion a year in revenues isn;t going to go around suing hundreds of people who are pointing their fingers at the illegalities going on at corporate eBay...

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Sun Jun 22 02:26:42 2014

So easy to say you will or would sue someone.  But the reality is not so easy.  Anyone that has ever been involved in a lawsuit can tell you this.  The first poster is absolutely correct.  It is VERY expensive to sue someone.  And it takes a very very very long time.

So it isn't likely that the average person would sue anyone.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Sun Jun 22 07:38:01 2014

While suing someone may or may not be expensive (i.e. small claims court) if the plaintiff asks for legal fees, wins the case, and is awarded those legal fees, it is expensive to the defendant, not the plaintiff.

I can clearly see how someone would want to sue someone who buys multiple items  for the sole intent of leaving negative feedback and low DSR scores to hurt someone's business.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Sun Jun 22 09:23:21 2014

Feedback has evolved into a tool that is sometimes an underhanded way to kneecap a competitor or obtain an item for free or lower price due to a ''threatened feedback'' maneuver.

Then, to term feedback, including NEUTRAL feedback, as ''defects'' - encourages negative behavior and negative publicity - not only for the sellers, but also for the venue.

The word ''defect'' has a definite negative connotation. To relegate a seller as ''defective'' when the transaction itself may be just fine but the buyers asks a question, or if the problem lay with a third party (shipping takes 1-2 days longer than estimate) sure seems inaccurate and defamatory. And the seller may end up with monetary loss due to this. THAT is pretty concrete.


To use a different example - if you claim in a public forum that a physician is defective because your recovery took a few days longer, would that come back to bite ya sooner or later! I'm sure the forum would be in the crosshairs, too.


The freshly churned out lawyers with tons of law school debt are likely appreciative! I'm sure online reputation defense is soon to be a specialty for many firms.

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by: ebay refugee camp This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 22 09:39:26 2014

I have been abused,slandered and stolen from by bad buyers on ebay, and it is exclusively on ebay I have no problems with other venues. Yes sue if you can!
Can you see in small claims court in all states for this I do not know?
How about Ohio?
Is it the court the state the buyer is in or the seller that you would use?
Ebay has enabled bad buyers and then punishes sellers with their ratings systems, report a buyer is literally a joke.
Retailers have offered a 100% guarantee and failed numerous but John Donahoe is using threats and the sellers funds to offer ebay's guarantee even if the seller has done nothing wrong.
Feedback is one-sided on ebay a seller's free speech rights are violated on ebay also. If a seller cannot respond to defend theirselves than that is wrong.
Therefore you will see more and more lawsuits.
If you have not complained about ebay's programs and policies to your state attorney general than do so now.
If ebay takes your funds when the buyer is wrong you can report them both to the FBI internet crime section. WHY NOT?
As it stands right now buyers should be held liable but their not.
I do believe if more buyers are sued or punished for leaving false negative feedback and that is publicized by sellers on the internet on blogs, facebook pages, twitter, instagram, forums etc.
so if you have a page do not be afraid tell your family and friends what ebay is doing.
Ebay is a sinking ship anyway when the fall release happens a mass exodus of sellers will bring them down.
11main.com is going to take a huge bite out of ebay also, I am surprised ebay has not tried to buy them out.
Get in the lifeboats sellers and row towards other venues, because ebay is completely listing and going down.
My sales on other venues have gone up ten fold, thank you ebay for those sales with fees of about two thirds less than ebay's however my problem buyer's on ebay have grown and grown.
It is not worth the stress an hassle.
If you move elsewhere use other payment sites besides paypal.

 

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Sun Jun 22 09:51:24 2014

lawsuits over feedback comments left on eBay are the direct result of John Donahoe's continued efforts to make the buyer - seller relationship as contentious and adversarial as possible while at the same time destroying the sense of community that was once eBay's biggest strength.

The Peggy's manning the phones at what eBay refers to as "Customer Service" are not given the basic authority to do anything more than lend a sympathetic ear when sellers voice their concerns.

eBay policy could allow for the removal of negative feedback and related DSR's when sellers are using it to defeat competition, but the company refuses to do so.

eBay policy could allow buyers to more easily revise negative feedback without assistance, however, eBay chooses to make the process all but impossible for a buyer to complete without assistance.

Donahoe and his entire management team have isolated themselves from both buyers and sellers and the resulting disconnect has led to policies and enforcement which in many cases leaves sellers no choice but to seek protection of their reputation as a seller in the courts because the company has intentionally made the process virtually impossible to achieve between to reasonable human beings.

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by: Ebay Seller-Ebay Buyer This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 22 10:27:35 2014

There should not be legal consequences for negative feedback.  Going to court over online feedback is lunacy.  Ebay should allow customer service to help sellers when common sense shows the buyer to be bad.  This is all ebay's ever had to do but ebay's CEO and upper management clearly do not buy and sell on ebay and clearly do not understand ebay.   Ebay needs a new CEO and new upper management and it needs to be made up of experienced buyers and sellers who use ebay and understand ebay

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 22 10:50:08 2014

Theres a BIG differene between opinion and fact (in general)

THe real question is and always was - is eBay neutral in this process or not. That question (not touched upon here) is as RIC says (quite correctly) the fault of eBay and th reason that anyone and everyone always says "I hae eBay". Yes we all still use it - since at this point, beyond Amazon there arent many choices for most people - so we endure the abuse in the hope/promise that we will make money. Each person has to decide for themselves if/when its "enough".

As in my case, the customer outright lied - the pics, description etc all proved she was lying - and she explained it 2x in her complaint that she was trying to use the item with a system it was NOT intended for.

eBay NOT being neutral sided with the buyer - right away. As mentioned above the Peggy I soke to (I actually got a male individual) told me that "it doesnt matter what she wrote".

I was told in no uncertain terms "because YOU are a TRSP and you have a general 14 day return policy, if we decide to go ahead with this case (escalate it) you will loose. That she lies, lied, is making false claims is irrelevant."

He also told me as an aside that Id have been better off NOT OFFERING A RETURN POLICY ... which I called him on since we know that there's no such thing as a no return policy on eBay - as long as their leg breakers have you money AND they tell you that your account will be damaged if you dont do as they say.

Threatening a lawsuite against the buyer in NY small claims court made them think twice.

I admit I have a brother in law whos an attorney who is alays MORE then happy to write a letter on his stationary.

After receiving it, eBay agreed that her claim "really had no merit" and they would eat the loss "in this one case since Im a good account whose been here since 1998".

I have no pity on lying customers, on any part of eBay or anyone else that tries to hurt me or my business.

Im fair, honest about things upfront - but if cornered - I fight back.

Yes law suites and the like should be an effective tool to level the playing field - as it seems its the ONLY thing eBay fears.

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by: Gina This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 22 22:55:11 2014

This may be why only 1% of my customers bother to leave ANY feedback!!  I give none myself, unless the seller personally asks & I received the item!  I don't give feedback for orders which were shipped to customer via a fulfillment centre unless I have gotten positive feedback from my cstomer..........and in spite of THREE requests, 99% refuse to give FB!

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by: cayenna This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 22 23:02:56 2014

Going to the source of the problem has always been key. Put together a petition or survey through this site addressing all of the major ethical issues, including lack of responsibility for everyone to sign online and then take it to the legislators. I am sure the majority of sellers on eBay would have something to petition about. It doesn't cost anything to petition and one lawsuit is not going to move a mountain.

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by: 2old4nonsense This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 22 23:43:28 2014

NO  Legal consequences I say. There should not be feedback on buyers and sellers but on the products. It is not useful in any shape or form who thought up this idea anyway? I want to know if the product works. That is my main concern. That is what I like about Walmart and Amazon the feedback is helpful in me making a choice of what product I will buy. Get rid of seller feedback and as for Buyer feedback that is so useless I can not believe you have to leave feedback to a buyer! Who does that in the ''Real World''? Grow up E-Bay all this feedback for buyers is a waste of the sellers time and energy. Feedback reminds me of just plain gossip and a--kissing. Saying things you have to make up to make a buyer feel good Who made up this crap? Now it leads to going to court? What a waste.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Mon Jun 23 00:19:58 2014

If someone makes provably false and defamatory comments about a brick and mortar business and the business suffers measurable negative consequences, the business owner can sue.

Online should be no different especially since ebay refuses to protect their sellers from underhanded competitors.

In the brick and mortar realm, a competitor's opinion can NOT put someone out of business.

ONLY online and mostly on ebafia.  

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by: alfabarn This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 05:10:41 2014

The smaller the seller's particular market is the more effective negative gorilla marketing can be. Forum's can be a real problem, and many forum's have no rules to prevent such postings. Many forum's have a core membership group with a bias towards favored vendors.A vendor may be able to disprove, or refute the accusation. But once that accusation is out there it has a life of it's own.  One competitor resorted to an email campaign (I was forwarded a copy) Yes, a person can sue. But once a business has been killed, a civil suit will not bring that business back to life. Phrases such as live and learn, or move on are a better option than a civil suit.
My new ''business model'' reflects those sad realities. It works well for me. I can't advise others to follow that example.  

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by: alfabarn This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 05:22:19 2014

I forgot to add that in this one instance Ebay did side with me, The Seller!!! And against the buyer. But the buyer then went online.  Ebay had viewed all communication between buyer and seller. The forum accepts nothing from seller's. What followed was over 6 months of red ink.  Thanks to a buyer who lost a phoney SNAD dispute.  Civil suits are about profit or revenge. As a seller you may want to consider that all the legal games require time, and assets better used elsewhere.

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by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 08:12:09 2014

ebay has started and promoted negative feedback as a way of the buyer obtaining discounts, refunds, free products.  As a result, I think this has come back and resulted in lower revenue for ebay.  Sales have dropped regardless of what quarterly or annual reports say.  It is so obvious that ebay is getting so desperate now.
This is all started in a big way when the decided it is impossible for the seller to leave anything but a positive feedback for the buyer.  As a result of ebays action I think it should be ebay being added to any lawsuit or legal action as an accomplice.

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by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 23 08:19:18 2014

ebay would HATE it if sellers started taking buyers who have lied to get free products to small claims court. What if the press starting picking up on it.  ''safe place to shop'' out the window.

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

Mon Jun 23 09:04:42 2014

Sellers will eventually vote with their wallets.....
I have already started. How about a mass exodus in August ? Pull all your listings down.

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