New eBay measures provoke boycott

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

All is not happy in the land of online auctions, with eBay users up in arms over some new and rather silly rules, and increased fees.

eBay is a tad more complicated than Trade Me, charging listing fees as well as success fees.

Selling via Trade Me involves paying either a set fee for classifieds, such as real estate and cars, or a success fee (the fee scale starts at 5.9 percent of the sale price for standard auction items that sell for up to $150). On top of that, you can spend a few extra bucks on extra photos, gallery listings and other options that might draw the attention of potential buyers.

With eBay you pay a small fee to list an item for sale, and then you pay a success fee when it sells. That fee was 5.25 percent of the sale price for items that sold for up to $US25 but yesterday it jumped to 8.75 percent. Ouch.

The fees themselves are bad enough but wait, there’s more.

eBay’s administrators have decided that sellers shouldn’t be allowed to place negative feedback on wayward buyers.

When I first read about this turn of events on an online message board, I thought someone was getting in early with an April Fool’s Day joke. However, after a quick spot of research on the net I discovered that it was in fact genuine.

Feedback is the backbone of any online auction site: it is feedback left by other traders that offers us clues on the reliability of buyers and sellers. Yes, there will always be problems with undeserved retaliatory negative feedbacks in a few cases but for the most part, the system works pretty well.

If someone buys something from me at auction and fails to pay up, I will place negative feedback as I have done in the past.

Sure, I can claim back my fees for the failed auction and move on, but that’s not the point. That person has caused me inconvenience and hassle, and fees have been deducted from my account to start with.

eBay’s users are planning a week-long boycott to protest this ridiculous new rule.

Trade Me might have a few faults but at least common sense still gets a look in.

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