What is eBay good for? That’s right “absolutely nothing”. Thanks, Frankie. Here’s what started my rant:
It was few days ago now, and I really regret expending so much effort to find out why eBay in all their glory suspended me. The only way I can finally let this thing go is blogging about it. Once I’m done with this article, I will not deal with eBay again, on this blog or in my personal life.
They are stamping on their userbase. How long can they get away with actions that affect segments of the userbase before it affects the entire company? Well, I’m not holding my breath on this one. But it won’t be forever, that’s for sure.
History of my account: early enthusiasm wanes after purchasing fake products.
I originally set up my eBay account in 2000-1 (I can’t remember the exact date, and I can’t login to access my details about this) to purchase a few things online that I couldn’t find elsewhere. I think I bought some software, including Office97 (I couldn’t stand later versions for producing bloated crappy HTML with lots of extra code), Windows, and a couple of other things, oh, including a board game. I seem to remember buying a palm at one point, but never really used that, but I can’t remember if I bought it from eBay or not.
To my knowledge, all of these items were purchased as LEGAL copies, came on original disks, with license numbers, and original licenses or as genuine items. I also purchased one movie, and one other piece of software. Both of these turned out to be highly unsatisfactory. In fact, the movie despite claiming it was an original was in fact a bootleg. Since then, I was interested in a couple of other products, bid for them but was unable to secure them.
Anyway, I hadn’t logged in for a while, nor had I bid for ages. In fact, I used to get these annoying emails from eBay(HK) with lots of ???? in my text. In fact, many of them look like this…
Somewhere the mailer was screwing up the Chinese in the text and reducing them all to question marks. In the end, I think many of them regular bulletins ended up in my spam box for that reason alone. Now what would you do if you got an email like that?
Then, out of the blue, I got the following email advising me of my suspension:
Your eBay account has been suspended. eBay took this action after determining that your account was acting inconsistently with the letter or spirit of our policies .
You are prohibited from using eBay in any way. This includes using another existing account or registering a new account.
Any seller fees that are still owed are due to eBay immediately. eBay will charge any amounts that you have not previously disputed to the billing method that is currently on file.
eBay Trust & Safety
I logged into eBay from the main site and confirmed the email was genuine! What a waste of time this is? So I set off to find out why… and that’s when I found out I wasn’t alone. I also found out how unhelpful these companies can be when problems arise.
Step one: Do the Obvious
My first response was to follow the links given in the email itself. So I clicked on the words “Act on Alert” to find out what I should do. In fact, I was given two options.
There are two reasons why eBay may suspended an account:
- Serious violations of eBay’s Rules and Policies
This link takes you to link after link of policies, rules, tips, etc.. Not much specifically about the problem I was facing.
Then I clicked on this link: which explained that some fees might be overdue. I scratched my head trying to think of what ‘fees’ a buyer could possibly incur on eBay, except payments to sellers. Not much luck on that score.
Anyway, at the bottom of the page there was a link to pay fees to see what I had to pay. So I clicked that, and got the following error message:
Please note: This payment option is not for a buyer to pay their seller. It is for sellers to pay their eBay seller fees.
My conclusion: I hadn’t violated ANY policies that I knew of, and I didn’t owe eBay any money. So why was my account suspended? Was my account compromised or hacked? Oddly enough, the information did deal much with this possibility. I decided to assume for practical purposes, after checking my feedback that my account hadn’t been hacked, otherwise people would have left bad feedback. In fact, my feedback is still 100%.
Step Two: hit support.
So then I emailed support for advice, and I emailed two separate emails to cover my bases.
Email #1: Message: I’ve spent nearly 30 minutes reading through the user agreement. I still cannot understand the reason for my suspension.
Your Help pages say…
1. failure to pay fees. When I check my account, though, I cannot see any record of fees owed (and I’m not a seller). When I click to pay any fees, just in case I forgot something from before, I’m given an error page and sent back to my account.
2. abuse of service: i haven’t purchased anything in a while, so I can only assume that failure to use the service is the simple abuse you refer to. I haven’t bid on anything, in a while, and I haven’t bought anything either.
The ONLY possible way that my account is causing an abuse other than the one above is that it has been misused or been fraudulently entered by abusers unknown in the last few months.
It doesn’t help that much of the time I’m taken to the Hong Kong website each time with an email in my myebay page with lots of ???????? in the body.
I expect a clear and speedy answer, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Then I followed up with another email detailing a further problem when I use my account.
Email #2: Message: I’m sorry but I have NO IDEA why my account was suspended. All that happens when I press reply is to get taken to an account in Hong Kong for Ebay.co.hk … Could you please explain what is going on? I haven’t bid on anything in ages, and I don’t sell on Ebay either. Could my account have been compromised?
After six hours of not receiving an answer, I finally went to their live chat, and chatted with a young lady who informed me that she would forward me to eBay Trust & Safety, and couldn’t provide any information on WHY I had been suspended. I gave up the idea of actually calling eBay at that point.
And the results?
27 hours later: I got the reply from eBay, though from the looks of things, it was just a form or standard reply, asking me to provide all kinds of personal identification information as well as a reinstatement form. To make things worse, in the first line, the email states that they are accusing me of creating problems for them, despite the fact I haven’t literally done anything, except allow myself to be ripped off once or twice.
Your account was suspended under the “Abusing eBay” section of the eBay User Agreement. This section states that eBay may suspend a user’s account if we think that the user is creating problems (legal or otherwise) or acting inconsistently with the letter or spirit of our policies.*
To have your account considered for reinstatement, please fax us both of the following:
– *Completed* Request for Reinstatement form (
– Copy of your driver’s license or other government issued ID with your
name and address clearly visible
Also include *one* of the following:
– Copy of a recent credit card statement (copy of the actual credit card
is not acceptable)
– Copy of a recent bank statement
– Copy of a recent utility bill
All contact information listed on the documents that you submit with
your appeal must be consistent with the contact information listed on
your registered eBay account. If any differences exist, you must provide
an explanation for these discrepancies, as well as documentation that
confirms your explanation.
If your eBay contact information is your work address, please send
official documentation to validate this.
Be sure to include the User ID and email address of the suspended
account that you’re appealing on the Request for Reinstatement Form. If
your fax doesn’t contain this information, we won’t be able to process it.
Please fax all documentation to: eBay – Attention: Abusing eBay Appeals
Please allow 48 to 72 hours for your request for appeal to be processed.
Sending us an email before that time may delay your request.
Any documents submitted to us will be destroyed after the information
has been reviewed and verified. If you’re concerned about including your
credit card number, you can black out all but the first and last four
digits. However, your full name and address must be legible for us to
process your request.
To review the eBay User Agreement, go to:
Thank you for your time.
eBay Customer Support
*at this point in time, I have not been informed exactly what policy or what behavior or what problem (legal or otherwise) or how I have acted inconsistently with any letter or spirit of anything.
My Conclusion: Not worth the bother.
Until I receive a satisfactory response to the following email, I will not respond to their request for identification documents of any kind:
Dear eBay Customer Support
Thank you for providing the following incomplete response to my initial request for information. I cannot further deal with this response until you fully satisfy the following requirement:
Please advise in clear terms EXACTLY why you
“think that the user (me) is creating problems (legal or otherwise) or acting inconsistently with the letter or spirit of our policies.*
At this moment in time, I am not aware of any problems that I have created (legal or otherwise); I am not aware of what policies I have infringed, nor what letter of what eBay law I have broken. I am not even aware of what particular ‘spirit’ I have offended.
As a result, I respectfully demand a full response to this query, WITHOUT which I will not be able to furnish the information requested.
In the event that such information is not supplied completely and accurately within 7 days, I will sever any remaining ties with eBay, and will not seek to do business with eBay or any of its affiliated auction companies at any point whatsoever. In addition, I will file a complaint with Complaint Assistance Unit of the Division of Consumer Services of the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
eBay’s Challenge: Accomplice or Victim?
There are a considerable number of problems that eBay is facing right now: but pissing off your established customers with unproven accusations, poor service, poor customer support pages, poor assumptions, and onerous demands is hardly going to make things better. If you are interested in reading more, Wikipedia has an interesting article on more problems on eBay.
I have never reviewed eBay on this website. I don’t particularly intend to. Given, though, my own experience of purchasing items on eBay, and several recent articles in the popular media, I’ve included a couple of screenshots of the headlines for you… you can pretty much decide for yourself how serious the problems eBay is facing are.
This article highlights the growing amount of fake jewellery and how it is actually driving down the price of the real article.
A related story from Popular Photography shows many disturbing similarities, though focusing on a different but very popular eBay product: memory cards and how they are faked for sale in a variety of ways, and then purveyed through online auctions at attractive prices. (Click on the images to go to the stories).
eBay always stresses that it is not the vendor, but merely acts as the middle man in these transactions. Quite clearly, though, it is not doing a good job of supervising its business. While the onus should be on the buyer to be satisfied that what he or she is purchasing is merchantable and genuine, in an online medium, it is very easy for vendors to figuratively or literally pull the wool over the eyes of customers. And, there is little that eBay can really do. Buyers cannot physically inspect the items themselves over the Internet. Even photographs, images and movies cannot replace a physical inspection.
Moreover, real criminals will not be put off with the kind of account suspensions that I am facing. In fact, it is likely that real criminals will happily (and disturbingly so) find ways to evade many of eBay’s current security policies. However, real criminals do not make up the userbase of eBay. And coming down hard on your clients is not going to make up for the excess or problems that eBay inherently has.
What dealings have you had with eBay? Have you had good business or bad dealings on their vendors or themselves? Share with us! I’d love to hear.