Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue Sept 1 2020 23:27:50

Do Online Sellers Have a Right to Privacy?

By: Ina Steiner

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There's a push to require online marketplaces to publish the names and addresses of online sellers on listings and profile pages. Last month, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) launched the "Buy Safe America Coalition," which is ramping up pressure through its support of the INFORM Consumers Act.

"The coalition says the legislation will address the problem of counterfeit and stolen merchandise being sold online by third party sellers whose identities are kept hidden from consumers," according to an article in Forbes today.

A RILA executive told Forbes that Amazon shoppers often don't realize they're buying from a third-party seller rather than Amazon, "and Amazon's policies regarding information about third party sellers make it difficult for brands to take action against sellers of counterfeit or stolen goods."

But Amazon saw the writing on the wall, and today, September 1st, it's rolling out a new policy, announced last month, in which it is publishing sellers' names and addresses on its site. 

A week ago, Amazon clarified that a seller's business address can be a PO Box: "For companies, it’s the address your business is registered under; for individual entities, it's your operating address (street address or P.O. Box)."

This evening, it published another update with additional information, where it explained why it was launching the new policy: "We are making this change to ensure there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions." (A moderator also said, "The changes will be rolled out across all U.S. Seller Profile pages over the week.")

The INFORM Consumers Act legislation would apply not only to Amazon, but to eBay, Etsy, and others, where many sellers are individuals selling from their homes. 

Sellers make compelling arguments about why they don't want their home addresses published on public-facing marketplace pages (while fully acknowledging the marketplace provides their address to customers after a purchase).

After all, does anyone expect brick-and-mortar retailers to publish their owners' names and home addresses online for all to see? 

But many others disagree - with some hoping greater transparency would expose foreign sellers posing as domestic sellers, though it may be naive to think it's that easy.

Now may be the time for home-based sellers to explore services that provide an alternative mailing address (search for "get a real street address"). It's not cheap - but it may be the cost of doing business (check with your accountant to see if you can deduct it as a business expense). 

Do you think large brands and retailers are solely concerned about counterfeits and stolen goods, or are they also concerned about the increase in online shopping due to the coronavirus pandemic?



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This user has validated their user name. by: Life During Wartime

Wed Sep 2 02:47:13 2020

''After all, does anyone expect brick-and-mortar retailers to publish their owners' names and home addresses online for all to see?''

This is similar to the argument I made against online sellers being asked to  post photos of themselves, their families (including children), pets, and homes on ''about'' pages several years ago.  I thought it was a huge invasion of privacy to expect sellers to do this in order to create confidence in potential buyers.  Besides being something never expected of bricks and mortar business owners and employees.  Of course many online sellers are all for putting themselves on public display.  It's actually not difficult to find the street addresses (along with photos of the homes) for many people whose names are public.

When I first started selling online, my late husband used to Google my buyers to see what kind of customers my shops were attracting.  If he hadn't done that, I would never have known I was selling to people who were public figures under their professional names, if you know what I mean.  So, yeah, you can find out the real name and home address of ''celebrities'' sometimes if they buy from you.  

People who are selling illegal merchandise will find ways to hide/disguise who they really are, and where they really are.  Requiring all online sellers to publish their names and addresses won't do anything to stop deceptive selling practices.  On the other hand, if you are a legit business online -- as opposed to a hobby seller -- what's the big secret about the basic info about the name and location of that business?

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by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 2 06:28:59 2020

In the 20 plus years of being a seller on Greedbay I can't ever think of a time that I have needed the phone number or address of a buyer besides for mailing their item. I use messaging and if they don't want to converse thats their problem not mine. I would prefer it to have my address and phone number deleted from everything. We have gone as far as listing the phone number of the phone that is used only for our security system and that phone is well hidden and doesn't ring for anyone using it. We aren't that paranoid about who we sell to. Never had a problem.

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by: Geetar This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 2 09:26:49 2020

Ebay must be peeing their pants and having panic attacks. "Oh no, they are going to steal from us, taking the transaction off ebay!"
If ebay believes that they offer something truly of value, then they would not need to think like this...sellers would not leave.

I dont know, I'm on the fence on this. I dont like it because they are some nut balls out there. I also dont like it because I do this so I dont have to have a brick and mortar...being there all the time...being available. I answer messages on my time table online. Answering phone call at all hours would not be fun, and besides the fact that I am basically a black and white person, and not a diplomatic person. I guess I would have to have a different phone line.

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by: DingDong This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 2 09:57:34 2020

* I don't like this one bit. It's too much information as far as I am concern.
* They can just publish the city and state, but having the name and address: no way.

** One of the neighbor's change the garage door to another side, because driving by, especially at night, people can see the outbuilding inside with a lot of items. He sells car parts and it's nobodies business. He has his permit, I sometime help take things to the PO, or Shipping station so that they come to the house.
** Doing silver smithing at home, I have $$ in inventory at the home in my studio and very few even know that I do some of this stuff. I had a break in years ago and they did some damage. Some things have change as far as the studio.
***  Now they will publish our names and addresses so that the neighbors, especially the seedy neighbor and outside people can rob us. How nice. My name is oddly spelled and has been used in trying to get a loan, but they couldn't spell it correctly. Now, it will be published correctly. It took me a few years to get the phone company to only use my initial so they can tell if it's a male or female. Even my banking is with an initial.

I would appreciate if someone can suggest another way around this.

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Wed Sep 2 10:09:41 2020

Everyone who sells online and has inventory at their house needs to have a security system installed.  

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 2 11:30:35 2020

You dont need to know Jeff Bezos address to buy something from Amazon.

Fraud works both ways - no one needs strangers stalking them - its a disaster in the making.

eBay and Amazon are MOR - that should be enough

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This user has validated their user name. by: Life During Wartime

Wed Sep 2 12:03:11 2020

Some antiques and vintage venues show the names and addresses of sellers on the shop's home page or profile page.  This has been the case for about 2 decades now.  One venue was address-scraped by the founders of Etsy in an attempt to recruit vintage sellers for their site.  They sent invitation postcards to all the sellers that were actually selling vintage and antiques.  This was circa 2006.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Wed Sep 2 13:50:42 2020

Juozas Kaziukėnas has an interesting take - "Amazon is playing some sort of liability chess game because they just made the millions of sellers' on its marketplace business details public. No law requires them to do this, nor other marketplaces in the US do this."

His tweet shows an example:

https://twitter.com/juokaz/status/1301179493156089857

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by: bd greatbuys This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 2 14:01:03 2020

the rule will also hurt 3 ps+ it will kill the online platforms!!
So if customers will see a  price a item of $600 we can have a price reduction of 15%  by bypassing amazon it is very issy to find on online evry adresse ?

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by: comments This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 2 14:02:08 2020

This policy is extremely dangerous for small home based businesses that carry an inventory. I don't see how this will combat fakes but definitely see where someone owning high value inventory could be forced to leave nice roadmap to robbery.

All platforms block sellers of fakes when they are caught or receive a high number of complaints. Court orders can easily unmask criminals. There is no good reason to jeopardize seller safety.  

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by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 2 19:50:38 2020

Internet anonymity is an oxymoron. If you want privacy, and you’re reading this, it’s too late.

That said, there are many alternatives to being compelled to reveal PPI (for which this certainly qualifies), but they all start with ‘agreeing’ to a published privacy policy....or not. And that’s where any legal argument will begin.

However, it might also be ‘fair’ to expect (ranging from asking for, to demanding, to bringing suit to compel) one of two things.

Either allow for opting out, in which case the ‘argument for safety’ can be made by the buying public as they weigh ‘trustworthiness’ on their OWN behalf - and simply opt out of buying from those ‘masked’ if is truly a concern. That’s called a free market.

Alternately, if there are plans to reveal PPI for any ‘member’, then it must apply to ALL ‘members’, buyers too. Because the ‘internet marketplace safety highway’ isn’t a one way road. That’s called anti-discrimination (in context).


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by: shut1968 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 2 20:38:28 2020

Those for it have obviously never been stalked by a disgruntled buyer.
I have and it was terrifying to say the least, restraining orders, death threats having a stranger show up at your home at 3AM beating on the door... No, I oppose it 100%.
The incident was what made me move several years ago and made me acquire a PO Box for all online selling.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Bill

Thu Sep 3 00:27:23 2020

In al of the years of mail order/selling on line I have always had a PO Box and usually in another town. In the early 80's when I had a store in a mall I was robbed and it is not going to happen again.

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 00:36:24 2020

I think this AMZ policy applies to FBAers; no?  I'm FBM and don't think I qualify.  NO?

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This user has validated their user name. by: cfrphoto

Thu Sep 3 00:40:35 2020

Any stamp dealer who is a member of the American Stamp Dealers Association, the National Stamp Dealers Association, or is a dealer-member of the American Philatelic Society already has contact information available on the web. Web site referrals are key to developing sales leads and referrals to buy stamp collections. Reputation is everything in the philatelic marketplace. Publishing contact information on eBay could enhance seller identity in an otherwise overcrowded marketplace. Some recent posts suggest that eBay is working to hide further seller identities. Posting contact information for professional sellers could help counteract this trend. But I do not believe that eBay and other on-line sites should publish contact information for non-business or casual sellers without explicit permission.

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by: NICKOLAS This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 00:45:12 2020

Whew !! All my registered addresses are PO Boxes.
No way would I want those few feral buyers to know where I live.
As mentioned, sellers of high end collectables would not want to leave themselves prone to ( off line ) robbery.

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by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 02:24:25 2020

I think home addresses  puts an added risk for robbery and theft on sellers.  

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by: MichaelP This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 05:51:12 2020

This is dumb on so many levels. It's what my dad would call "a--hole legislation."  

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by: hawk This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 07:06:39 2020

this is to much.  this makes it to easy for nut cases to rob , attack sellers they don't like , and maybe burn and destroy peoples lives. it's so wrong !!!

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by: WhatsUp2656 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 07:22:47 2020

In sharing my story, I have a family member who has a horrible history-mob and phishes on all the websites plus designs his own, etc. He has STALKED me for years.

I haven’t seen this person since the 1980s because of threats and harassments. Years ago I had an account on eBay and they encouraged sellers to post a picture. I did that. Within 4 mos this same person pulled every trick. I would list an auction product worth $400 with a BIN ridiculous price on it & he would grab it on BIN and not pay.

I would have to wait 4-5 weeks before I could repost the item. This happened multiple times. After the second time, I made up a gmail name with that person’s name he used on eBay. I asked him about something else on a business he claimed to have. He knew right away who it was and let me know it was him.

I asked eBay to investigate because to do a BIN you would need a user name and credit card. I explained he stalked me, phished and was dangerous. NOT one time did they investigate. He messed with my account reporting me for things that were not true and eventually ruined my ability to sell on eBay.

I also have onsite storage at my home. I have security cameras, but if they are disguised no one would be able to make out who this person is. This disguised example was true one night when a person was geared up trying to break into my car and no one would have known who it is. When I reported it to the police they said there is no way of identifying him and that was the end of the story.

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