Seller non-performance policy finally clarified

Nearly three months after the policy began to be implemented, eBay have finally revealed more details of their seller non-performance policy.

Before we get into the details, let me say that this is absolutely not good enough. Message boards, blogs and even eBay Live have been filled with speculation about the details of this policy and how it might impact sellers, and yet it has take until now for eBay to clarify things. Over and over again we see them apologise for their poor communication, only for the same problem to occur the very next time there’s a major policy change. Once upon a time, Meg Whitman was praised for listening to her customers and creating community: these days, we’re all just treated like mushrooms.

So, on to the nitty gritty. Firstly the good news: seller accounts will not be restricted on the basis of neutral feedback alone, nor on the basis of one single negative feedback. There is “a minimum threshold of two unique negative feedback received” before any seller will be targetted under the SNP policy – so those worried that a single negative might close their account can sleep easy.

Once this two-neg threshold is reached, there are three possible scenarios, depending on the seller’s sales volume, and the level of their non-positive feedback. All figures are calculated over the previous 90 days.

  • Low-volume sellers (less than $3000 sales) with 5% or more non-positive feedback will receive a 14 day selling suspension: they will still be able to bid, communicate and otherwise access the site during the suspension period. After the 14-day period has passed, selling privileges will be automatically reinstated.
  • High-volume sellers with 5%-10% non-positive feedback will be restricted to 75% of their previous sales volume. After 30 days, the account will be manually reviewed. If non-positive feedback has been reduced to less than 5%, the restriction will be lifted: otherwise, it will remain. As the calculation is taken over a rolling 90 day period, presumably this extension of the restriction will mean a further reduction in allowed sales volume, as it will then take into account the previous 30 days of restricted sales.
  • High-volume sellers with 10% non-positive feedback or more with at least 3 unique negative feedbacks “will receive a full selling restriction“: it’s not clear whether this is a permanent restriction or limited to a 14 or 30 day period.

It has still not been made clear how PayPal disputes are brought into this. The Chatter only gives feedback examples because “most sellers who fall into a category of SNP enforcement are there due to feedback rates”: nevertheless, as many buyers will put in a PayPal claim before leaving negative feedback, we need to know how the PayPal aspect works too.

Neutral feedbacks are being included because “vast majority of neutral comments indicate an issue. We felt that leaving neutral comments out of the calculation would mask a significant part of the bad buyer experience problem.” Though some have agreed with this, I personally don’t: the very word “neutral” precludes negativity, and if “neutral” on eBay means “thinly disguised negative, please don’t neg me back”, then it is indeed time to get rid of neutral feedback.

Non-positive feedback from non-paying bidders is, for the moment, included in the calculations. While I agree with eBay that there are legitimate reasons why a buyer may not pay, or why they may be in a situation where they receive an unpaid item strike (for example, some sellers will give a buyer a UIS for claiming from PayPal for non-receipt or SNAD), there needs to be a way to ensure that revenge feedback from NPBs does not impact a seller’s business. It’s hard to see any way out of this apart from manual evaluation of *all* accounts, though eBay will certainly not like the thought of the extra staff that would require.

Finally, detailed seller ratings (the stars) are currently not being used as part of this calculation – however, this will change in the future. Stay tuned.