Friday, 12 January 2007

eBay España crippled by unannounced counterfeit policy

At the beginning of December eBay introduced steps to reduce counterfeit goods on eBay. It took another two weeks until they made public the new policy "Building Trust by Reducing Counterfeits".

Since then many sellers have found themselves being restricted from listing and fighting to meet the new criteria for selling. Suddenly finding your account restricted from listing designer goods with no prior notice, while eBay "conduct a review" of your account (which you may or may not pass), can severely cripple an eBay business. If you fail the review there is no published appeal process or even criteria needed to pass.

In general once a seller has jumped through the requisite hoops and passed the unknown "account review" they've been free to list and sell again.... or at least that's your own country.

Cross-border trade for certain types of items that are often subject to counterfeiting will be restricted as follows:

Sellers registered in the UK, U.S., and Germany may post these items worldwide.

Sellers in English-speaking markets – UK, U.S., Australia, and Canada – will be able to list and post these items freely across these sites. For example, a UK registered seller will be able to list an item on the US site.

Sellers in Germany, Switzerland and Austria will be able to list and post these items freely across these sites, with the exception that Austrian sellers won’t be able to post to Switzerland.

Sellers in France and Belgium will be able to list and post these items freely between these sites, with the exception that French sellers won’t be able to post to Belgium

Sellers in all other countries will only be able to list and ship these items domestically.

We've been hearing from Spain that eBay businesses are being crippled by the new restrictions. Previously able to trade freely across Europe, Spanish sellers of designer brands are limited to selling on the Spanish site to the Spanish market place.

Rumour has it a meeting is to take place next week with Maria Calvo, General Manager of eBay Spain, Klaus Gottschlich, Director of Category Management and Seller Development and several of the biggest Spanish sellers. The meeting will focus on the state of eBay Spain (currently some 250k listings per day) and why Spanish sellers are unable to sell luxury goods to the rest of Europe.

The situation is so severe that a website proposal has been advanced amongst Spanish PowerSellers as an alternative venue to eBay. The sellers involved all have their own ecommerce ventures but recognise the benefits of a large venue with a greater variety of goods than any one seller stocks. They propose a site only open to Spanish PowerSellers (who would pay a fee to fund the site) specifically to market luxury goods from Spanish sellers to the rest of Europe.

It's easy to see, with increasing pressure in the UK from programs like BBC Watchdog and around the world with Louis Vuitton & Christian Dior in Europe and Tiffany in the US, why steps to reduce counterfeits would be introduced. However the ramifications may be more draconian than eBay management in the US intended - after all the US, UK and Germany (eBay's three largest marketplaces) are free to ship worldwide. How much consideration was given to other countries is unknown as eBay have at no time made an official statement or posted on the UK or US announcement boards.

It will be interesting as Meg Whitman continues to gather the management stars from across the eBay marketplaces to San Jose whether growing marketplaces such as Spain receive more attention and are treated more equitably in the future. If they're not it may be the death knell for worldwide growth as eBay fragments into multiple closed trading venues and international commerce dies.

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eBay fraudster jailed

A Herefordshire man has been jailed for eight months for fraudulent trading. David Hammond had advertised electronic equipment on eBay without having the stock to supply his customers. He had previously been banned from the site, but had recruited a customer to sell on his behalf. The prosecutor said that "he refused to speak to customers and encouraged his secretary to fob customers off. He buried his head in the sand and adopted a cavalier approach."

The offenses were committed in 2002 and 2003. Hammond's defence said that he had "turned his life around" since, now having a job where he was valued. He has offered to pay compensation to his customers.

But Judge David Matthews said that Hammond had abused his customers' trust, and his actions had "a knock-on effect for internet trading, which is now an important part of the economy".


PR scoop for in management move

Nichola Sharpe, eBay UK Senior PR Manager, is to move to San Jose next month to give PR a boost. Nichola previously at Freud Communications has been with eBay for two and a half years.

Nichola has worked tirelessly at her time with eBay in the UK and will be greatly missed. One of her latest projects has been overseeing eBay's involvement with the Get Safe Online campaign to educate Internet users how surf the net securely.

Following Meg Whitman's declaration that eBay "increasingly looks to its foreign offices for rising stars" and that they intend to "bring international talent to San Jose" it's no surprise that a key member of the UK team has been poached by the US. The UK's loss will be a huge gain to the team in San Jose!

Vanessa Canzini formerly Senior Media Relations Manager at BAA is expected to join eBay as Nichola's replacement.

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Thursday, 11 January 2007

Indian takeaway for PayPal

PayPal is apparently setting up a new technical development centre in India. Chennai (formerly know as Madras) has also become a major centre for outsourced jobs from the West. PayPal have chosen this, the fourth largest city in India, for the location of their new site. The only information released so far is that they plan "to hire hundreds of professionals for product development, software engineering and other functions"

If you fancy working in Chennai send your CV to


"Report this item" finally reaches UK

Links to "report this item" have just appeared on all listings on eBay UK. This feature was introduced on the Australian site many months ago; though promised to the UK, it had not been implemented until now.

This is a great step forward in eBay's attempts to clean up the site. eBay rely largely on users of the site to police it, and this will make reporting illegal and counterfeit items so much easier.

However, yet again a fairly major site change has gone unannounced by eBay. In the face of inevitable fears by sellers that easier reporting facilities will be used by rival sellers to try to remove the competition, eBay must put out some reassurance that they have the staff, and that the staff have the training, to ensure that this new feature is not used maliciously.


Wednesday, 10 January 2007


Sophie Ellis Bextor says she's addicted to eBay. "I can't help myself. I always feel I'm one click away from the perfect new dress. I'll search for anything that comes into my head. I've bought some unusual stuff like a pinball machine."


Whitman embroiled in homophobia

We all know politicians a) Don't stay in office forever, and b) are fickle - both points are rather salient today. President G W Bush won't be in office much longer and Mitt Romney is raising funds to run for office. Everyone can change their mind, but for a politician it seems almost second nature to take a diametrically opposite viewpoint.

Fifteen year ago Mitt Romney told a group of Log Cabin Republicans he'd support gays more vehemently than Ted Kennedy ever did. Today Mitt Romney is saying that he's doing everything in his power to stop gays from attaining the same basic rights all Americans enjoy.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with eBay... well The Washington Post reports Romney raised $6.5 million towards his presidential politicking campaign in a single day. Those dialling for dollars included none other than eBay Chief Exec Meg Whitman.

Now the thing is should or shouldn't Meg publicly support a politician? After all every individual has the right to their private political persuasions don't they? Next was she wise to do so in such a public manner, especially with such a controversial character.

As Kevin Madden, Romney's spokes person said "In a presidential campaign, it's one thing to talk about your organizational strength but it's another to showcase it" and equally it's one thing to have political affiliations and another to have them publicised.


Another scalp for eBay's collection

Could this be the answer to eBay's ticket selling problems? An announcement is expected any minute that they have purchased online ticket exchange Stubhub.

Stubhub facilitates buying and selling of tickets, with transactions backed by its own guarantee. Crucially, the company's partners include major sports teams, as well as media companies including AOL. They promote themselves as being about fans selling to other fans, but also run a large seller program, "designed for Professional Ticket Resellers and users that carry a significant amount of ticket inventory that span across multiple events and genres".

There clearly is a resale market for tickets, whether venues and fans like it or not, so it makes sense for eBay to try to work with event organisers, ticket resellers and fans to everyone's mutual benefit. This US-based acquisition could be the beginning of something very interesting.

Story shamelessly stolen from Fruity.


Bye bye Standard Protection, hello compulsory Paypal?

eBay have doubled the amount guaranteed to be refunded to Paypal buyers in the event of non-delivery or receipt of damaged goods to up to US$2000 for qualified sellers, and to US$200 or CA$315 across the board.

Well this looks nice. More protection for buyers means more confidence in the eBay marketplace, which has to be good news for everyone, buyer and seller alike. Doesn't it?

Not quite. Many eBayers, myself included, have speculated that eBay would like to force all transactions to be concluded through Paypal, and this is just one more move towards that goal, as the Standard Purchase Protection Program is being discontinued in the US and Canada. This program protected buyers who paid with non-Paypal methods such as cheques and money orders against non-receipt of their item. eBay say:

From a risk management and fraud prevention perspective, SPPP is flawed, because it offers coverage on the riskiest payment methods. This is clearly not in the best interests of the marketplace long-term.

In other words, choose to pay by a method that we don't control, where we don't take another cut of the cash and where we can't reclaim chargebacks from errant sellers like we do with Paypal... and you're on your own.

Obviously eBay don't like exposing themselves to risk. So why are they so ready to let their sellers do it? With this increase in buyer protection, sellers are left to bear even more of the risk of fraudulent chargebacks by scamming buyers. Until eBay make it possible for sellers to control the level of risk they will accept - by, for example, being able to block bidders without verified Paypal accounts and confirmed addresses - sellers remain completely over-exposed by these measures.

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Phone support extended to all Powersellers

In an announcement today, eBay France said that phone support has now been extended to all French Powersellers. Qualifying sellers can find the number through the PS Portal.

With apologies to those Bronze and Silver UK PSs who still don't have phone support if I got you all excited. 'Phone support for all UK PSs' was hinted at by Pinks several times last year, so hopefully this is a step in the direction of expanding it in the UK too.


Tuesday, 9 January 2007

A cunning plan

New sellers can get three free listings on before 13th January. eBay are marketing this in with all the "regifting" stuff: get rid of your unwanted Christmas presents, get the cash for what you really want and so on. The same promotion has been going on eBay France since 1st December, and is currently not due to end until 31st January. As the French seem largely impervious to eBay's allure, I'd guess they'll extend it again to be an almost-permanent feature.

One has to ask, are eBay really so desperate to drum up new sellers (it'd save them having to look after the ones they've got)? Or have they realised that all these promotions really do is cause existing sellers to list three items each on all their myriad buying and posting IDs... hey, shareholders, look at the sudden massive expansion of seller numbers :-D


PayPal want to pay your mortgage for a year

PayPal have launched a new promotion in which Shelter is the latest charity to benefit. You can win the ultimate prize of having your mortgage (or rent) paid for a year!

PayPal Shelter Promotion

Shelter is the charity set up in 1966 to prevent bad housing and homelessness adversely affecting people's lives, so the prize of a year mortgage free, from PayPal is very apt.

All you need to do to enter is activate PayPal Mobile and text "shelter" and (if you're feeling generous a cash amount) to 64483 (i.e. Shelter 5 will send £5). Confirm with your pin and Shelter will receive your donation paid direct from your PayPal account and you're in the prize draw. If you don't wish to donate texts cost 25p plus your standard network rate and just text Shelter.

Last month Warren Wysocki won a won a brand new Porche Boxster for donating a penny to Children in Need, next month you could be living rent free for the next year!

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Categorically searching

I like this new sort search results by category thing that has just implemented. The default sorting remains ending soonest, as it should be, but I can see this working nicely for example when my mother is searching for the china she collects, which can appear in any one of half a dozen categories. For collectors who buy thematically (Mickey Mouse, say, or things related to your own small town), this might also be useful.

As usual, sellers have found plenty to complain about, and have found some bizarre ways of 'proving' that it's a bad idea. But as Esteban has said, "'Category' sort is aimed at organizing results for queries that match many categories. It may not add much value to queries that are heavily concentrated in a single category or return low results." I think that if you use it for what it's intended to be used for, it might be very useful indeed. Now can we have it on the UK site please?


Reserve not met on Alaskan state jet

A second round of bidding has still failed to find a bidder for Alaska's state jet. Officials are now saying that they may turn to a broker to sell the plane instead.

It's interesting that now, the Governor's office are revealing that they need "about two and a half million dollars to break even" on the aircraft. When the plane was first relisted, a spokesperson resolutely refused to reveal the reserve, though did state that the plane had cost US$2.6m. Frankly, I think they're being optimistic to think they can break even on a second-hand jet, and should take their highest bidder's offer.

But the real moral of the story is that hidden reserves don't help anyone. eBay buyers like transparency, so if you want US$2.5m for your old jet, it's probably best to say so.

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Monday, 8 January 2007

Old news is no news

ebaypaypalblog reported the opening of Paypal's new UK office and a reduction in the withdrawl fee for amounts under £50, quoting a Paypal spokesperson's statement that this would increase trust and comfort for UK buyers. Such a great story was picked up by both and eBayyer (lacking permalinks, scroll down to 5th January post, identical to source). The only problem? The story actually dates from October 2003. Oops :-)

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Safeguarding Member IDs launched on and eBay Canada

Following the implementation of Safeguarding Member IDs in Australia and the UK last November it is now to be rolled out in the US and Canada. Bidders ID's will be hidden when bidding rises above $200 in the US and C$220 in Canada.

Rob Chesnut posted on the US announcement board adding that he acknowledges concerns over shill bidding (which unlike in the UK is actually a crime in several US states). eBay users will no doubt hype shilling as being a much bigger issue than eBay would like, and they would do well to learn the lessons from the UK workshop on Safeguarding Member IDs which Tamebay reviewed. Sadly the workshop in the UK failed to communicate the rationale behind the Safeguarding Member ID's initiative instead concentrating on shill bidding.

A Tamebay guest blogger, sean_coolness, has published "Safeguarding Members IDs is not a licence to shill" which explores the information divulged regarding bidder activity. The article demonstrates that it's actually easier to identify shill bidding once Safeguarding Member IDs is implemented than was the case previously.

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Not even the government want Royal Mail

Royal Mail has lost its contract to collect bulk mail from the Department for Work and Pensions. The £12m p.a. contract has gone to UK Mail, part of Business Post. The DWP are the first government department to ditch RM, but there is now inevitably speculation that others could follow suit.


First Cheap Listing day of 2007 for the UK

On Thursday 11th January the first Cheap Listing day of 2007 will take place on List any item for just 10p regardless of starting price.

We've yet to see an official announcement but doubtless the normal restrictions will apply and for item quantites of one only.


Refreshingly realistic

After numerous event organisers complaining recently about the resale market for their tickets on eBay, it's nice to see Shawn Collins taking a more pragmatic view:

Affiliate Summit 2007 West, taking place January 21-23 in Las Vegas, has sold out. Registrations will be open sporadically as cancellations are processed. Otherwise, there has been a secondary market on eBay for Affiliate Summit passes in the past, so try there.

And he's right.


Sunday, 7 January 2007

Meg Whitman reveals management strategy

Over the weekend Cisco announced plans to deploy more San Jose executives to India. Cisco plan to set up a globalisation centre with executives drawn from their top management based in San Jose, from acquisitions and competitors worldwide and of course those already based in India. Many other companies are following suit moving key members of their management team abroad to bridge cultural and language barriers and cement relationships with workers around the world.

At eBay though Meg Whitman is doing the opposite as revealed in a phone interview from Shanghai (reported by Associated Press). Whilst other companies are increasingly deploying US home bred talent abroad eBay is scouring it's worldwide management team and bringing the crème de la crème back to San Jose

What we're trying to do is to bring international talent to San Jose, not the other way around, but you have to have a leadership team that's global, and that's what we aspire to be.

Management moves already made public are Philipp Justus from Germany who moves to run the auction business, and Michael Linton who will oversee Motors, Stores/Shops, Express and ProStores. Gautam Thakar (formerly Country Manager, eBay India Marketplace) will become Senior Director of International Marketing reporting to Lorrie Norrington and Alex Kazim returns to eBay from Skype, demonstrating Meg Whitman's commitment to a management team with International experience.

eBay had their fingers badly burnt in 2006 with their withdrawal from China and no doubt Jack Ma's diagnosis still smarts - "Professional managers are making their bosses in the US happy, not the Chinese users." Meg Whitman's epitaph as "China's worst businesswoman ever" will not be forgotten quickly.

By scouring the world for leaders and most importantly non US personnel that understand the rationale and culture of their own continents and countries, to bring their talent to San Jose, Whitman is putting a formidable corporate strategy in place. To truly run a global business successfully you have to go local, just think of HSBC's adverts with the focus as "The world's local bank". It may be too late in China, but her current foresight in setting up a truly global management team may not only be her smartest move to date but could be her lasting legacy to eBay.

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No money back, no guarantee

eBay sellers of Cricket World Cup ticket holders will get a double whammy from organisers, as not only have the tickets been cancelled, but no money will be refunded. More than 200 tickets have been cancelled after resale, for contravening the terms of the original sale. A spokesman for the ICC said:

"CWC has worked very diligently to track down the persons who have been undermining the tournament's integrity by engaging in this black-market activity. We have had good success and have cancelled the relevant tickets. However, CWC believes an even stronger message must be sent regarding indulgence in such practices - both to persons selling and buying these tickets. Offenders will have to face the consequences of their actions - no tickets and no refunds either."

My view, as I've said many times, is that if you can sell something you own at a profit, then you should be allowed to do so. However, more and more venues are taking this kind of line, and eBay transactions are so much more visible and traceable than traditional outside the venue touting. So I'd strongly advise anyone thinking of selling a ticket to check and double check the associated terms and conditions before doing so.

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