Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Thu Mar 5 2020 17:14:29

eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay announced Thursday it is banning certain items associated with COVID-19, including Masks (including N95/N100 and surgical masks); Hand Sanitizer/Gel; and Disinfecting Wipes.

The company cited regulatory restrictions and wrote, "These listings may violate applicable US laws or regulations, eBay policies, and exhibit unfair pricing behavior for our buyers."

eBay had previously issued an advisory to sellers reminding them of certain policies related to such products - basically policies dealing with health claims, keyword spamming, and price gouging (see the February 28th eBay Announcement Board post).

In today's announcement, eBay said it would immediately begin blocking new listings and start to remove existing listings for the items in question. 

The move comes amid reports of shortages and price gouging on such items, as described in this CNBC article.

Note that as the CNBC article makes clear, this is not just an eBay issue, and Amazon has come under fire for inflated prices, as The Verge reported. (Repricers gone wild?)

See the March 5th eBay Announcement Board post and let us know what you think.



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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Thu Mar 5 18:54:45 2020

This was a smart move on Ebay's part.

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

by: lessthanthreerecords This user has validated their user name.

Thu Mar 5 18:56:19 2020

While I support efforts to stop price gouging on necessities, particularly when there may be a shortage, I am concerned that eBay's banning of particular key words may have unintended consequences.  I sell collectible music and art items.  Nothing I sell is a necessity.  I have had listings removed due to the use of certain words that eBay did not allow (in most - if not all - of those cases, eBay did not publicly announce the restriction, as in this case).  I communicated with eBay employees who (in most, if not all cases) agreed that my use of the word was not what they were attempting to restrict.  They agreed that I did not violate any policy.  So, my next question was, how can I re-list the item without having it pulled down again?  Their answer was that I could not do so without removing the word in question.  But wait, didn't they just say that my use of the word was not what they were trying to prevent, and was not in violation of their policies?  Yes!  But, their almighty algorithms are in complete control and no human can make an exception for a particular item.  Banning words like "virus" or "epidemic" should be based on the context in which those words are used.  If a seller is trying to exploit a worldwide emergency to turn a profit, then I am all for having that listing removed.  But let's say someone is selling a movie or book with the word "virus" in the title, or a vinyl record from a band with "epidemic" in their name.  Certainly cases like those should be exempt from this new policy.  But if past experience is any indication, sellers who invested significant sums of money on particular items that are not exploiting the emergency will likely get penalized due to the use of a particular word.  eBay will say, just remove the word.  Right, and how exactly is a buyer supposed to search for it when the banned term is part of the name of the item?

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

by: Carl This user has validated their user name.

Thu Mar 5 19:47:45 2020

I don't know about the masks but antibacterial hand gel is on sale for £60 and selling. We are talking ONE bottle of tiny 39 to 50ml bottles.
There are quite a few threads on the eBay forums over here in the UK.
People (me included) are reporting these threads but so far they are still live.
A blue came to these threads and posted that they were actively searching out and removing the listings with 'coronavirus' in the description or title.
Not ONE of these reported listings even uses that term.
People know from the news that they need antibacterial hand gel, so that is what they are looking for, and although completely exploiting people they are apparently okay as they don't contain the term they are looking for.

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

by: Brad This user has validated their user name.

Thu Mar 5 20:32:39 2020

I think eBay would have done a better job if they would have warned seller's prior to outright removing listings lets say, a week in advance?  Sure some sellers will be pissed but others (like myself) would say "hey, at least they gave me a heads up."  Then watch as the prices on these items drastically fall as sellers try to unload inventory before these listings are removed.  

Banning the masks I understand, but personally don't consider hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes a necessity.  Regular soap and water works just fine and in some cases even better than hand sanitizer.  Bleach or vinegar and a rag are just as effective surface cleaners, the wipes are simply a convenience.  

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Fri Mar 6 01:53:02 2020

@BRAD

Ebay did warn them last week to not price gouge or Ebay would take action against their listings.  Apparently some sellers felt they were above that directive and published rule.  

I just went to Costco today as I was about out of coffee beans and I can't have that.  Amazing how much stuff they were sold out of.  The cashier said it has been unbelievably busy for the past 8 days.  They were out of toilet paper, paper towels, Clorox wipes, kleenex was low, bottled water was low and had a limit stated on how many could be purchased and other stuff.  I was actually quite surprised.

But they had my coffee beans, so I left with what I needed plus some extra stuff of course.

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 6 08:06:29 2020

eBay once again being what they lied in court about “we are just a venue” .... right, and the people here just clap like hungry seals.

It’s not ebays issue at all, they shouldn’t be involved

First eBay came for your “southern star and bars items” (cause they were racist) and there was no out cry.

Then eBay came for “guns and gun parts” because a bad person somewhere else did bad things (so it’s your fault) and no one said anything... “yeh well it’s ebays site so they can abuse your rights to sell legally obtained items”

Now they have come for cleaning wipes, hand gel and masks and not only does no one say anything - they applaud

What’s the next thing that eBay “doesn’t like” aka wants to get on the band wagon on, going to ban?

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

This user has validated their user name. by: NoMoreEbay

Fri Mar 6 10:14:58 2020

I rarely agree with ebay but they got this one right. Sellers taking advantage of a global crisis is just plain wrong. Nice to see ebay putting 'the right thing' over profit for once.

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 6 11:25:35 2020

Nomore

but selling overpriced things at 8x thier value on OTHER days is ok right?

Its about eBays reputation "helping those mean nasty sellers overcharge people" .... its NOT about theft - eBay does this all day, every day - just ask any seller.

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

by: ElectronixRecyclers This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 6 11:35:36 2020

...and the definition of ''necessity'' continues to grow.

I had a case of surgical hand foam that sold out pretty fast over the past week.  I didn't raise the price - it went for about $10/bottle - a little less than retail.  I might have another case to list, but I'll just sit on it now.  I'm not going to play this game - if I can't put it on the market and compete with similar products, I'll just store it until this hysteria dies down in two weeks, or I'll find a private buyer and make 3x what I'd get on eBay, without paying eBay a dime.

The trouble isn't taking action against price gouging - the trouble is a total misunderstanding of what their legal position actually is.  They're under no obligation to take any action.  They aren't trying to satisfy any regulatory agency that they're accountable to - they're trying to keep some communications undergraduate from trashing them on MSNBC.  Again, the media thinks they set policy.

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 6 11:40:48 2020

"the trouble is a total misunderstanding of what their legal position actually is. They're under no obligation to take any action. They aren't trying to satisfy any regulatory agency that they're accountable to - they're trying to keep some communications undergraduate from trashing them on MSNBC."

%100000000000000000 correct !

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

by: toastedmutt This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 6 11:41:54 2020

The long term question is:  Will eBay allow those items to be listed again on the site at some point in the future?

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

by: FH991586 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 6 11:43:41 2020

If they ban the sale of masks, then masks will become even more difficult to obtain...  That's just stupid!
There is a big difference between putting up masks for sale at a high price and using the auction format starting at 1 cent.  One could be considered price gouging (while not illegal, nor even something eBay should monitor), while the other would simply be the invisible hand deciding what is the real value of the product.  A simple venue doesn't care about this, so eBay can't use that excuse anymore if they tamper with the sales like this...

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Fri Mar 6 13:18:31 2020

@pace306

It is so completely different.  You are trying to compare overpriced items that people may choose to purchase just because they want it for whatever reason they have to people that need to purchase stuff out of necessity and safety do to a global crisis.  You don't see the difference?  Personally I think that is sad.  

Here is a link to Ebay's policy on this subject.

https://www.ebay.com/help/policies/prohibited-restrict
ed-items/disaster-tragedy-policy?id=5051&st=3&pos=1&query=Disaster%20and%20tragedy%20policy&intent=disaster%20and%20tragedy%20policy&context=DEFAULT_BUYER&lucenceai=lucenceai

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

This user has validated their user name. by: unsuckEBAY
Web Site

Fri Mar 6 13:56:52 2020

Ebay is, in fact, currently under tremendous pressure in the US.

A new bipartisan bill was just introduced to hold marketplaces accountable for counterfeits ("Shop Safe Act").

Wednesday, eBay and Amazon reps testified "before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce about how they're working to sweep up fake and potentially dangerous products before they're sold to their millions of customers. The company representatives emphasized they are willing to work with the government as they step up their various internal efforts." (The Hill)

Additionally, many states (like California) have severe penalties for price-gouging:

"California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Wednesday issued an alert to consumers reminding them of the state’s price gouging laws and other states have similar approaches to price gouging. Issuing a blanket ban was viewed as a more comprehensive solution to the problem, rather than enforcing a price gouging cap on individual items, eBay said." (CNBC)

The UK's CMA has also threatened sanctions against retailers, including eBay, for price-gouging.

eBay made the right choice for eBay given the opportunity-costs.

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 6 14:33:06 2020

Marie

Theft is theft no? Or is it only when eBay deems it to be so?

Stealing from sellers =ok, charging higher then normal prices on hand soap (buyers) = big crime?

Last I heard, eBay said they were just a venue- are they lieing them or now?

So now that a seller is “overcharging “ does that make the seller or eBay the merchant of record and which seller exactly is violating any CA law?

It’s the same as Vero. It’s the seller NOT eBay that may be doing a crime and here specially- eBay isn’t involved - so why pretend that eBay “need step in”?

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 6 14:56:59 2020

Are they taking down all such listings or just the ones who are price gouging? It would seem to me that those who aren't price gouging shouldn't have their businesses effected by the actions of others. I would think that would be grounds for a lawsuit.

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

This user has validated their user name. by: NoMoreEbay

Fri Mar 6 16:14:07 2020

I knew it was too good to be true. Even though I applauded ebay for this decision. I knew deep down that there had to be an angle, that something was off. ebay didn't disappoint.

Was just on USA Today and there is a headline about ebay. In that headline it states:

''The decision comes after USA TODAY reported inflated prices on critical supplies on major online platforms including eBay that could violate price-gouging laws in some states.''

The only reason ebay did this was due to pressure from external forces. Gotta say, it was strange actually believing ebay did a good thing just to do a good thing. Glad that's over.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2020/03/06/coronaviru
s-price-gouging-ebay-bans-face-masks-hand-sanitizer-sales/4976292002/

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Fri Mar 6 17:52:59 2020

@pace306

If Ebay did nothing, people would get upset with Ebay.  Ebay does something some people get upset with Ebay.  I get it for you there is nothing they can do that is right.  You always make that abundantly clear.

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

This user has validated their user name. by: NoMoreEbay

Fri Mar 6 17:58:54 2020

unsuck,

It's refreshing to see that after 23 years of looking the other way the govt. is finally taking steps to curb this multi-billion dollar racket. ebay and Amazon stand to lose hundreds of millions if counterfeits are removed from their sites.  

Perminate Link for eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims   eBay Bans All Masks Regardless of Virus Claims

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Fri Mar 6 17:59:15 2020

@NoMoreEbay

Not exactly.  Sellers were warned late last month that continue price gouging practices of these products would result in more serious sanctions.  Clearly many felt they were above the rules.  BTW both state and federal laws.  And they continue to do so.  So a several days later Ebay decided to start removing the listings and prevent new ones for certain products to be posted.

Note Ebay's original announcement to sellers was on Feb. 28th.  Then Ebay decided to close the listings and announced it on Mar. 5th and the news report you refer to is from today.  However likely that Ebay knew about it yesterday.  

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