A website built on the premise that most people are honest is struggling. Now at last there is a promise of more protection, as Anna Tims reports
Last November Clive Rose* sold two handmade Japanese swords on eBay, worth a total of 1,940. The purchaser, formerly he had received them, challenged that the cost of the most expensive sword be slashed. Rose rejects to haggle and asked for its consideration of this agenda item to be returned and a rebate issued.
Eventually a container arrived. We couldnt open it until we had signed for it, mentions Rose. On the label it announced two pieces were inside. When we had signed and opened it up we procured the cheaper 540 sword badly shattered because of poor packaging, and a brick. The other 1,400 sword, for which he had been trying to barter, was not there.
The buyer claimed Rose had forfeited his rights by signing for the parcel, while eBays reply was similar. Although Rose transmitted photos and content weaves to substantiate its example, eBay took the money from his PayPal account and refunded the buyer for both swords. Rose, who has a 100% gratification rating from other buyers, had his account suspended for denying eBays marketer fees and is now constitutes a threat to debt collectors because his PayPal account is overdrawn.
The tale will be familiar to many eBay sellers who have experienced difficulties with difficulty buyers.
It was only after The Observer intervened that the auction area examined the history of Roses buyer what the company procured was a structure of suspect behaviour. The buyers account has been suspended and we are happy to issue the marketer with a courtesy rebate to ensure he is not left out of pocket, eBay says.
It is a year since The Observer reported that eBay had introduced a pilot programme to address issues around similar troubles. At the time, critics claimed its measures to protect buyers from dodgy transactions left sellers at the mercy of fraudsters who can manipulate the organizations of the system to effectively steal goods.
Readers associated the cases in which a purchaser falsely claimed to have been transmitted beetroot instead of a mobile phone, while another purchaser stuffed an envelope with a used T-shirt instead of a 258 pair of coaches he claimed to be returning. Both were refunded under eBays money back guarantee.
There is something wrong, eBay admitted last April. The system was built on the premise that most people are honest. It needs to be more intuitive.
Under the experimental strategy, a marketer can ask eBay to intervene before issuing a rebate if a purchaser returns a shattered or substitute piece. Ordinarily, they have a week to resolve the dispute before having to part with their money, but an unscrupulous purchaser can discount contact and open a claim immediately with eBay. In many cases it issues an automatic rebate without any evidence from the marketer being considered.
The seller has no recourse under PayPals seller protection scheme since this is invalidated when a purchaser asserts immediately through eBay. And although eBays own rules require buyers to transmit quarrelled pieces back, refunds are sometimes liberated before this happens or after shattered or substitute goods have been returned. Even eBay can see the shortcoming, and in a brainwave that would seem obvious to anyone else the pilot strategy petitions photographic testify when buyers or sellers allege shatter or duplicity.
Twelve months on, has the test made a significant contribution? Not according to Londoner Catherine Lewis who sold a hair via the website. The purchaser claimed that it never arrived and, because Lewis could have been provide evidence of postage and not of delivery, eBay forced a rebate. When I looked at the buyers feedback other sellers all told the same tale, she mentions. The purchaser claimed its consideration of this agenda item didnt arrive but eBay imparted a rebate, even on items that were signed for. Worse, the buyer has been reported to eBay three times before for this and no action has been taken. They are free to keep buying pieces and claiming back the money basically stealing and eBay is not doing anything about it.
Ebay may have been hoaxed by its own rules which only permit sellers to leave positive ratings for buyers in case, as it declares, criticism sets the latter off future spending.
The score of cautioning reviews that Lewis procured are always spelled out beneath the obligatory leading of positive. Purchasers, on the other hand, can injury a sellers status with negative feedback, posted anonymously, and every example opened against a marketer answers in a imperfection against the buyer.
Its a policy that appears to protect eBays gains at the expense of sellers reputations, as eBays own website explains: Were counting any activities weve found that lessen a buyers likelihood to come back and shop with us again, as defects.
It only resulted to eBay to read the reviews of Lewiss buyer on its own website after The Observer notified it to them. It then discovered that the individual was a serial fraudster and suspended their account. This is not good enough on our component, it mentions. We have a buyer abuse crew that uses software to scan the area to spot such behaviour. In this case, this purchaser clearly has been abusing the organizations of the system and it wasnt picked up.
So anxious is the company to keep buyers investing that it moved a blind eye to a flow of violent threats sent by one to a marketer in Australia. The victim shaped 10 complained about the abusive messages to eBay which responded by restricting the messages to three a day to each of her three accounts. After her fifth grievance she was advised by customer services to dismis the abuse, which included rape threats. The senders accounts were eventually terminated when The Observer got involved. This behaviour will not be tolerated, mentions eBay, which had tolerated it for days until a headline loomed.
According to eBay, it will announce permanent policy changes in the autumn. Reading from the experiences of the 50,000 UK and US sellers in the pilot, we have created a different yields experience, including putting obstructions in the way of suspected fraudsters to prevent rebates, or even blocking a purchaser entirely where reference is suppose hoax before theyve been refunded, it mentions. Were also dedicating the sellers who offer free or 30 -day yields the ability to allow partial rebates on faulty, shattered and lost item asserts in order to be allowed to recover costs.
The extraordinary reality that eBay has only recently put obstacles in the way of fraudsters is no surprise to Dean Marchant* whose business was threatened by the knee-jerk rebate policies.
He sold a 400 turntable to a purchaser who requested a return and sent back a different shattered machine. Marchant transmitted photographs of the smashed piece to eBay which , nonetheless, refunded the buyer. Because the buyer had contacted eBays dispute resolution service, a imperfection was recorded against Marchant.
I had erroneously been issued with two previous defects and this third one set me below standard, excluding me from money-saving publicities, he mentions. It is mashing my they are able to do business.
Ebay decided to refund him as a goodwill gesture after an Observer investigation, but claimed that since it never get vision of pieces it could not judge whether the correct piece was returned. Marchant plans to start a vestibule group of disaffected sellers to objection what he sees as bias against sellers. My experience, and that of other sellers I have spoken to, is that buyer-fraud of this kind is rife, he mentions. Every single marketer I spoke to had a narration to tell of at least two occurrences in the past year. The simple-minded reality is the eBay policy lets this fraud.
* Names have been changed
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