eBay is losing the perception war by backing dubious buyers in disputes

It’s an impossible marketplace to police and arbitrate, not least because of its size. But an article in the weekend’s Observer about eBay UK that focussed on how disputes between buyers and sellers, especially casual sellers, seem to be weighted in favour of buyers will resonate with many.

The article features a handful of cases where seemingly obvious cases of buyer fraud, or buyers “having a go”, have resulted in sellers picking up the tab. And to regular eBay traders there will be nothing fanciful or new about the claims. Indeed, the buyer antics will seem all too familiar

In eBay’s defence, the welcome cull of over 50k naughty buyers was not mentioned in the article and should have been. But this is the latest in a series of pieces we’ve seen over recent months that suggest that eBay is not just failing to serve sellers adequately but also losing the media war.

If perception is reality, this type of piece is very damaging. Of course, we know that eBay isn’t terribly dedicated to casual sellers or devoted to its SME concerns so much these days. It’s new High Street friend and discounting retailers are the new eBay BFFs.

But as the comments on the Observer piece show, there is a problem that needs addressing. Many sellers, especially smaller sellers, who don’t have the expertise or experience to challenge a claim, are fearful that despite their best efforts, they will end up out of pocket.

The eBay defence will be: this is a handful of cases in millions and we’re even-handed. But I just don’t see how that can wash when I hear so many cases found against even the most diligent of professional sellers. And worse than that: even the top brass of SME sellers have no reasonable escalation or appeal process where they can make their case properly to a sentient human being who wants to listen.

eBay should be backing up good sellers, however big or small, when they are acting honestly and doing the right thing and have paperwork to prove their best efforts. Simple as.