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Chinese sellers masquerading as EU sellers on eBay

By Chris Dawson November 27, 2013 - 10:31 am

A few weeks ago I wrote about location abuse on eBay, a seller was pretending to have products based in Manchester when in reality as soon as I ordered they wanted me to wait while they shipped the item from China. At the time the listing as offering “Fast & Free” delivery which definitely wasn’t the case.

Today I was chatting to Andreas from Deltatecc in Germany and asked if it was an issue for him. He is seeing a similar situation and pointed me to a Chinese trader who is selling in Germany without paying VAT, customs and other state fees, They not only don’t offer a the normal return policy which all EU sellers have to offer but they Chinese trader even has the eBay Guarantee sign (The German equivalent of eBay Premium Service). Not offering returns lowers their cost of doing business and so gives them an unfair advantage.

I’ve not raised this officially with eBay, but the few people I’ve spoken to about it all say the same thing – eBay’s feedback and especially eBay’s Detailed Seller Ratings should be solving this problem and burying the bad sellers in search results. Andreas is being told the same.

The problem is that feedback and DSRs don’t appear to be solving the issue of location abuse and service. I’m not surprised, when I left poor feedback I had three increasingly desperate emails offering me additional refunds that ended up at 100% the purchase price if I’d revise my feedback. The last thing I want after an atrocious buying experience is a seller hassling me with bribes.

Not only is it a poor buying experience for consumers who receive items later than expected, it’s unfair competition for EU sellers who have to pay their VAT and EU postal rates – it’s often cheaper to post from China than it is to post within the EU!

It would be great if everyone who was mislead by a seller left negative feedback and low DSRs where appropriate. It would be even better if they refused to take a bribe to revise them. Sadly this doesn’t appear to be happening and feedback isn’t dumping these scamming sellers to the bottom of search.

Feedback and DSRs don’t seem to be working. If you have any ideas on what to do we’d love to know.

  • 3 years ago

    This has been a problem for ages, But the chinese have now found a way round it. They use amazons FBA system, all they do is send a container load of goods into Amazon then use the Amazon FBA system to fufil ebay orders. Have raised this issue with trading standards, because a lot of the goods I have seen supplied this way, have a CE mark on them, but as usual no contact details of the supplier.

    • 3 years ago

      Think is that I and most people have no problem with Chinese sellers competing for UK consumer’s business.

      All we want is a level playing field where they offer the same service and returns and disclose where the product actually is. If it’s in the UK that’s great, if it’s in China don’t offer fast and free and lie, and if you’re saying your product is in the UK (or if it actually is in the UK) then offer a UK address for returns!

    • Jimbo
      3 years ago

      Except many of the goods sold be Chinese sellers are fakes, knock offs, non compliant with EU/UK regulations and are coming through an import duty / VAT loophole. In my opinion .

  • Ross
    3 years ago

    Plenty of China and Hong Kong sellers on Amazon sending from China. They do disclose where they’re sending from but it isn’t that easy to find. Looking at feedback plenty of buyers have been duped into buying.

    We’ve stopped selling some items on Amazon as a result. It’s always annoying when they can send the item and the international postage at less than we pay for the national postage.

  • James
    3 years ago

    Amazon and Ebay has been flooded with Chinese sellers. I’ve no problem with competition as it keeps you on your toes but its not a level playing field. My biggest gripe is that lots of these sellers and many UK ones too are not paying the relevant taxes. How can a business turn over hundreds of thousands of pounds without been registered for VAT? Ebay and HMRC are not interested either.

  • fusion
    3 years ago

    One annoying thing for me is that I know of loads of sellers which are Chinese registered but their entire operation is based in the UK, although their business/account is registered in China. Essentially they are doing what Amazon do and are able to sell cheaper due to now VAT/Tax.

    However, they are not breaking ebay rules but this does. Isn’t this a big problem with ebay.de competition rule? maybe we need that in the UK.

  • Stuart
    3 years ago

    I think they still manage to gain sales from the sheer number of listings they have on ebay, some stores I have seen have ten’s of thousands of listings so they still manage to show up even without good TRS etc.

  • Weeze
    3 years ago

    I’ve had this happen to me, I now mostly avoid any listing that has any hint that it’s come from China. Largely because I’ve had problems with the standard of the goods and because often they say ithey are in the UK when they aren’t, which results in delayed shipping. I now buy from China wisely and infewqently, also add into that ‘the playing field isn’t level anyway in the first place’

    On the point of the DSRs many sellers are complaint that they have higher ratings and better policies than other sellers but are appearing miles behind in search results, goodness only knows what’s going on with DSRs at the moment.

  • L
    3 years ago

    Why is it cheaper for them to ship from China than for us to ship to the same location?

  • northumbrian
    3 years ago

    not only are dsrs not working ,buyers are being condition to leave poor dsrs in the expectation they will get refunded or bribed

    • 3 years ago

      Rubbish sellers that do offer bribes as the only way they can save their feedback really don’t help the good sellers that don’t.

      Only had two sellers ever try to bribe me and it just makes a poor buying experience worse.

    • northumbrian
      3 years ago

      ebay encourage this by allowing revision by the buyer (in effect a bargaining tool, )revision should only be in exceptional circumstances and regulated by ebay

    • Grillo
      3 years ago

      We all know that you are not business minded :) Everything in business is about bribes, directly or indirectly. For example the chinese sellers are offering to refund you the money back IF you revise the feedback, however when Amazon lobby’s the government for them to not pay the corporation tax, that is perfectly legal. haha..

  • Rich
    3 years ago

    Good article. The important thing is to report the seller for item location abuse. This is most likely systemic abuse amd there is no reason to feel guilty, in fact it gives reputable international sellers a bad name.
    As an international seller who represents item location correctly I have still had to buy back feedback from sellers who didn’t realise it was economy airmail up to 20 working days., so there is another side to the story, and the 2 situations should not be confused: chalk and cheese!
    I agree the practice of having to buy back bad feedback is poor and open to buyer fraud but up until now it has been the only pragmatic solution.

    • northumbrian
      3 years ago

      good point pragmatism is the way to sell on ebay

  • Andrew
    3 years ago

    This is causing big problems for us too. We import a line from China which we have quality tested etc and spend time and money making sure the product is right.

    We were one of only a few sellers before and were selling lots at a very good margin. Now if you search for the product, the top 10 sellers are all based in China and are offering the product for £20 instead of the £30 I was selling it for. I can’t make money at that price!

  • Julius Oliveti
    3 years ago

    The knock on effect of Chinese sellers masquerading as UK based is meaning lots of larger eBay sellers are trying to match their retail price by sending items which fall into Royal Mail Small Packets as Large Letters (thus saving around £1.75 on postage) and allowing the seller to sell the item roughly £2.00 cheaper after taking into account VAT.
    Royal Mail have been relatively lax on policing this for years but since they have become privatised they are definitely going to be much tighter. I spoke with a Regional Royal Mail Revenue Protection Manager recently and he explained he knows this is happening. Royal Mail have powers to remove accounts firstly but also can prosecute under fraud, which carries a max 6 years prison sentence and also due to the proceeds of Crime Act can claw back any estimated losses. It would appear they are monitoring some large eBay accounts and potentially some heads will roll. eBay and Amazon have also both been informed of this practice as they are both losing millions in lost commission due to these artificially deflated prices, all caused as a knock on effect of trying to compete with Chinese sellers pretending they are in the UK.

    • Crystal Sue
      3 years ago

      Luckily what I sell hasn’t yet been successfully copied by the Chinese but as I buyer I have had some bad experiences.

      Recently purchased some lightbulbs which did not arrive. When I opened a case via the Resolution Centre I was asked by the seller to close the case and they would send a replacement!!!!!

      Whilst they were supposed to be based down south all their emails came in around 3.00am in the morning and was in very poor English. When I tried to report my fears that this buyer was actually in China there is absolutely no way you can add details via the “Report Buyer” progamme all you can do is state you think their contact address is wrong.

      Come on eBay you need to do something about this.

    • 3 years ago

      eBay are not helpful on this – the only options for buyer issues are “Didn’t receive an item”, “Item wasn’t as described” or “Returning the item”.

      To report location abuse you have to click “Report an Item”.

      I’d love eBay to give the ability to report “The seller lied about their location” as some option that they could track just how many buyers were unhappy at being deceived by liars.

    • northumbrian
      3 years ago

      surely if royal mail are aware of specific accounts mis ordering ,a simple your in error message you need to behave would solve a lot of problems ,criminal actions and prison for a large letter seems a bit over the top

      lol

    • Julius Oliveti
      3 years ago

      Royal Mail check PPI accounts and if they find any Large Letter items are actually Packets they have the ability to charge the whole shipment for that day as Packets. I think what they are doing is looking at sellers who systematically are much more devious (they would not let on how) to circumvent detection. Only they are ones likely to be targeted for criminal proecution

  • Jimbo
    3 years ago

    “The knock on effect of Chinese sellers masquerading as UK based is meaning lots of larger eBay sellers are trying to match their retail price by sending items which fall into Royal Mail Small Packets as Large Letters (thus saving around £1.75 on postage) and allowing the seller to sell the item roughly £2.00 cheaper after taking into account VAT.” –

    Is this just speculation? When you say lots do you have numbers? Any one who did this as an on-going business practice would be daft.

    • northumbrian
      3 years ago

      And royal mail would be daft even culpable to knowingly let them continue

    • Julius Oliveti
      3 years ago

      All I know is there are many markets where as a seller you look at seller prices on eBay and wonder how they are selling at that price. I have bought items in the past for £1.99 with freepost when the postage price would be Royal Mail Packets at £2.39 alone. Sellers are either
      A) Stupid and don’t know their margins.
      B) Selling at a loss to get to the top of best match
      C) Systematically abusing the postal system, eBay/Amazon fees and taxation laws to boot.

      The Revenue Protection manage I spoke to only mentioned the fact that in a couple of the largest English cities they are already investigating sellers (didn’t say eBay or amazon specifically) for circumvention of Royal Mail fees.

    • Jimbo
      3 years ago

      So it is just speculation.

    • 3 years ago

      I know people that have had inspections – basically all their bags were tagged for a week, and then everything weighed and inspected.

      Unfortunately for the Royal Mail revenue police it doesn’t help much when the friendly collection postie warns the company their bags are being tagged that week!

    • northumbrian
      3 years ago

      if your bags are inspected and found to be in error this does not mean you are knowingly and fraudulently evading charges .
      it is incumbent on royal mail to let you know asap of errors, not let it develop into a court case

    • Julius Oliveti
      3 years ago

      At present it is all as I have mentioned. It was from the horses mouth when I was taken on a tour of a sorting office by RM and spoke with the Revenue Protection Manager, so yes, I have no concrete information apart from that.

  • admiralhardinge
    3 years ago

    It isn’t just location abuse. Items are shipped as Gifts thus avoiding duty and VAT. I bought an ebay item recently under commission from a customer, expecting to pay duty and tax, and it arrived as a Gift with no charge. This is a seller selling in to the same market as me, so basically will undercut me by fraudulently sending items to Europe. Great for the end user because he buys cheaper, lousy for we honest traders on ebay.

    Probably the best bet will be to get the European Commission interested. Do we have a lobbying group to do that for us? This is certainly the way to gain the attention of Ebay and Amazon who are negligent in not doing anything about it.

  • Lynne
    3 years ago

    I was surprised when I bought a phone case from Ebay from a supposedly UK seller and noticed I had paid a Chinese seller, at first I thought on no I would wait a while for the parcel but it arrived within 3 days in a branded Amazon box? I thought that was odd but the product was fine and I left good feedback.

    • 3 years ago

      That’s a Chinese seller doing it well – their goods are in the UK (ot at least the EU). If they’re paying relevant taxes I’m all in favour of them using FBA or a fulfilment house.

      So long as if I need to return a product they have a UK address I can post to it’s a good service. It’s the people that say the product is in the UK and it isn’t that really gets me.

      (and for the record my last two eBay purchases were from China and the USA, but the sellers told me that’s where the product is located so I’m happy to wait up to 20 days for it to arrive)

  • James
    3 years ago

    I’ve seen numerous eBay listings where the item is worth over £15 and yet the sellers (usually always Chinese) – actually write in their descriptions along the lines of

    “We will mark this item as below £15 in value as a gift to avoid you paying any taxes”

    A literal blank statement that they are undervaluing the product so that the buyer can avoid paying tax…

  • Rich
    3 years ago

    There’s a few points I can clarify:
    1. Airmail is nearly always more expensive than domestic post. Last time I posted one of my items in UK it cost 1.00, versus 1.30 airmail.
    2. Non EU posters sending to the EU are not subject to sales tax on goods under 15 pounds (maybe more now) and duty does not kick in until 100 pounds or so.
    3. Quid pro quo and listed correctly, an item sold in UK will typical outsell an item located in Asia by 3-1 perhaps 5-1.

  • Edward
    3 years ago

    Only when you place the order do you find that it’s being shipped from China. This is hurting many genuine UK sellers who just can’t compete with their prices. as they won’t be paying any VAT etc.

    After investigating some products to import and sell here in the UK, we found that we the items were being sold on ebay for less than we could import wholesale!

    ebay should stop these sellers who are blatantly being dishonest to UK consumers, as to where these products are being shipped, and also cheating HMRC.

  • Gerry007
    3 years ago

    .
    I see many Chinese sellers, listing free postage from China.

    It is obvious we cannot compete, as the Airmail postage they pay is far less than even the RM UK domestic post in some cases.

    Local market values are so different between the UK & far east & that is why we [like many] try to buy direct in china.
    It must be obvious that if an item is made there, it’s cost of shipping is Relevant to the items value/cost in China.

    We do not have that low cost base privilege as UK sellers.

    • Rich
      3 years ago

      Yes and no. As I stated posted airmail is always more expensive than domestic. I forgot to mention, any non UK address registered account does not qualify for top rated seller discounts even if they have excellent ratings. But without a doubt UK sellers will sell much more of a given product usually at a higher price because they have the significant advantage of speed.
      The cost base is high of course because of the various taxes and cost of freight over to the UK.
      But if an international seller misrepresents item location they are getting the best of all worlds. The mystery to me is why Ebay wont do anything about it and why buyers don’t complain or leave sufficient bad ratings to knock the pictures out of sight.
      Pretty bad stuff from ebay.

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