Computers rule on some eBay UK disputes

eBay have confirmed that, in some cases, automated computer systems settle disputes between buyers and sellers.

This is hardly a surprise and when you consider many of the disputes that eBay must deal with it’s hardly a problem either. An algorithm can easily judge when certain aspects of a sale have gone awry. Payment not received. Item not recorded as sent. No tracking provided. These are black and white issues.

But it’s in the edge cases and grey areas that human judgment can be vital.

eBay has given us a comment: “There some cases with specific criteria that are handled by computer assistance. In these instances algorithms are set to the same decision-making process as if handled by a customer service agent. If the case was to be reviewed by a customer service agent the outcome would be same as the decision-making process is aligned. All information within the case flow is reviewed to make a decision. Outcomes are based on the merit of the individual case.”

Clearly what does matter in these cases is the nature of any appeal made and it seems right that under current rules that appeals, where seller has done their best, that humans adjudicate fairly in the event of an ongoing dispute.

But even then there is little difference between a human and a computer unless the human has discretion and is trusted to make a balanced choice. A human working to an inflexible set of rules and unable to exercise nuanced judgement is little better than a machine in any case.