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Daily Mirror and Chinese VAT sellers on eBay UK latest

By Dan Wilson December 15, 2014 - 1:57 am

The Mirror continue its investigation into Chinese sellers on eBay UK not correctly displaying VAT numbers in the latest piece by Andrew Penman titled: eBay insists these Chinese sellers are VAT registered – so why won’t they reveal their VAT numbers?

And now politicians are getting involved, quoted in the article is Shadow Small Business Minister Toby Perkins MP who said: “Businesses should be able to rely on the Government to stand up for them and ensure that rules are properly enforced. If our firms are being unfairly undercut, as this research suggests, then ministers should be fighting their corner and working across government and with providers, to close these loopholes.”

eBay have told Tamebay: “If any eBay sellers are found to be breaching VAT compliance rules then that is completely unacceptable. All non-UK sellers with inventory located in the UK should be UK VAT registered, and we cooperate with HMRC in all cases to help them enforce the law where there is evidence of underpayment of taxes. Where we identify sellers that are not compliant, we take action to suspend their accounts.”

This is an issue that concerns many sellers on eBay and, whilst it has proved a vital catalyst, I’m not entirely convinced that the Mirror banging on about it and a mere handful of offending sellers in one category sheds much light.

It’s a bigger problem than iPad covers. It seems to Tamebay that the HMRC holds the burden of responsibility to crack down on it and eBay needs to cooperate fully (and eBay does seem quite willing). The next comment I’d like to see would be that they are both working together to fill the national coffers with whatever unpaid VAT they can.

  • Martin
    3 years ago

    Here’s a thing. If any seller has a manufacturer suggest that a product breaches their IP rights, even if in fact it doesn’t, ebay remove the listing IMMEDIATELY.

    There is no appeal or education procedure to go through. In my case the manufacturer’s claim was wrong because the claimants exclusive deal didn’t commence until 2 years after the product I sold had been legitimately produced.

    So why can’t ebay act IMMEDIATELY on this?

    VAT numbers are issued quickly. All ebay have to do is to tell any infringing seller they have say 30 days to correct, otherwise they will be removed.

    If they have incorrect Business Contact info they should be given 7 days.

    Ebay just need to track and follow up on the cases they open with the sellers. Of course they can’t do it all at once, but if they don’t start they’ll never do anything.

    Sellers should be free to report this to ebay, and expect ebay to act.

    Unfortunately eBay’s track record isn’t good. There is a seller in my sector who consistently uses duplicate listings. He has identical listings with just a random code of approx. 5 characters different on each listing.

    I have reported him many times and other sellers in the same sector tell me they also have reported him. Despite this after over 2 years he is still doing it. He must have a large number of policy violations on his record but is still allowed to do this – either that or ebay have done nothing about it of course. If ebay can’t fix a simple issue like this despite repeated requests from competing sellers, how are they ever going to take on a problem this big?

    • LJ
      3 years ago

      I agree it should be fairly easy for eBay to manage, but I think you are missing the point of – Why should they bother?

      Why should they devote hundreds of hours each month, checking listings, contacting sellers and chasing them up about business details? What is in it for them? They wont make money doing this, infact they will lose money. Doing this will also push the prices of products up higher, as each will now include VAT, which will make eBay less attractive as a marketplace, and sellers will go elsewhere for cheap items.

      Unless eBay are legally obliged by UK law to enforce this, then they wont do it. They will keep making pointless statements to make it look as though they are on the case and chasing it up, when in fact they simply don’t care.

      I’m glad that this story has got into a national paper, and that Toby Perkins seems to have taken this up also, however only a change in the law will alter the situation.

    • Fred
      2 years ago

      Why they should take action is because it clogs up the search results and drives buyers away from eBay. Fortunately their unbelievably thick-skinned management finally seem to have cottoned on to this and done something about it. I have recently noticed a huge decrease in duplicate listings and listings with choices where an un-related/nonsensical item is sold at 99p in order to get to the top of search results.

  • MG
    3 years ago

    Ebay and other online marketplaces are driven by profits. They have 0 ethics. They couldn’t give a stuff about taxes being correctly collected or creating a level playing field for all sellers regardless of location.

    The HMRC should levy fines against eBay who are clearly faciliating these chinese sellers. Then maybe both the HMRC and eBay might sit up and start doing something about it.

    Why the HMRC are happy to bleed VAT money to chinese business is beyond me.

    • Fred
      2 years ago

      “Why the HMRC are happy to bleed VAT money to chinese business is beyond me.”

      Less work for the same pay.

  • Gerry007
    3 years ago

    .
    Whilst ebay allow sellers to register on one country’s site (that does not require business details) and then allows that same seller to sell goods on another county’s website, without that information, this will go nowhere.

    This also applies to sellers registering on the UK site with contact details that are in another country, also using wrong contact UK info.

    As many sellers everywhere source products that are of Chinese origin, I cannot see how a UK seller can compete once a Chinese seller sell the same item.
    This also applies to Postage from the Far East being so stupidly low, as compared to UK postage rates.

    Clearly many businesses in the UK are flouting the VAT thresholds & only the HMRC can deal with that.
    Can only but wonder how much lower the National debt would be, if they did do something about collecting wrongly charged/uncharged VAT…..!!

  • Martin
    3 years ago

    LJ, I do get the point, but it isn’t just a matter of ethics. Show me good businesses with a long lifecycle that people know to act badly. When this happens usually the business fails quickly or needs to act substantially to correct. Reputation is everything. If sellers don’t trust eBay they will have no market.

    What we need (and maybe pressure is already being exerted) are some of the large premium brands who sell on ebay to make an issue of this. It affects them as well. It would only need a couple to talk about leaving the ebay platform for ebay to sit up and take a whole lot more notice. These brands do care greatly about their reputation and brand values, and don’t take kindly to being associated with shoddy attitudes.

    Also, I am not a lawyer, but I would have thought that any company who turn a blind eye to legal infringements which are taking place as a result of their operations risk substantial litigation if not prosecution. I would think that contrary to what has been said above that ebay’s legal team are looking at their possible liabilities right now. For sure they would not just be ignoring it.

    • LJ
      3 years ago

      Ethics! Thanks I needed a good laugh! This is eBay we are talking about.

      People are not going to avoid shopping on eBay because it has a bad rep or has bad ethics. Simple fact is that if the products are cheap enough, people will buy from eBay. Average Joe Public couldn’t care less if eBay are letting Chinese sellers avoid VAT. Well not enough to shop elsewhere.

      Why would they clamp down on Chinese sellers avoiding VAT as it will simply lose them “Millions” of pounds, as prices will be driven up leaving the marketplace less competitive, in turn sending customers elsewhere. It doesn’t make an ounce of sense. Their are plenty of business around that care and will do the right thing, eBay is NOT of them.

      eBay couldn’t give 2 hoots about the UK Government or making it easier for HMRC. In 2007 they shifted their tax base to Luxembourg through a loophole, to avoid having to pay VAT to the UK government, costing the Treasury £25 million a year. I think this shows exactly where eBay stand on VAT.

      I am not a lawyer either, but I believe that the law states it is upto the individual trader to ensure they are paying the correct VAT and Tax and it is nothing to do with eBay to enforce this.

      It could of course be all very simple, with a change in the law, and HMRC pulling their finger out to chase these Chinese sellers, but let’s face it. That’s not going to happen.

    • Fred
      2 years ago

      “Show me good businesses with a long lifecycle that people know to act badly.”

      Show me one that doesn’t act badly.

  • Beachbum
    3 years ago

    Perhaps Tamebay.com should write a piece on the subject & expose the true scale of the situation – it will help get eBay to take a more responsible attitude towards it.

    I know that Andrew Penman has the pen between his teeth on the issue, knows about the scale of the VAT fraud and will not be dropping the subject until eBay actually do something positive about it.

    MP’s now need to apply pressure on HMRC & eBay to sort the situation out.

    New laws need to be put in place to stop VAT fraud happening on eBay & Amazon by any seller.

    • LJ
      3 years ago

      “New laws need to be put in place to stop VAT fraud happening on eBay & Amazon by any seller.”

      Correct and completely agree. Chinese sellers are definitely a big problem, but let’s not forget UK based British sellers who choose to operate without paying VAT. They are just as much of an issue as the Chinese sellers.

    • Boss-Hog
      3 years ago

      Let’s not forget traders operating from other EU countries trading into the UK exceeding the annual thresholds for VAT registration. It’s these guys that are my biggest issue at the moment, and its not just eBay, the problem is rife on Amazon as well.

    • Fred
      2 years ago

      A good starting point would be for eBay to require a VAT registered seller to show their VAT number. At the moment there’s no requirement to show it, so you can’t actually tell if a company is VAT registered or not. Several times I’ve written to sellers asking if they can provide a VAT invoice because no VAT no. is shown. Some of them say yes, some say no (even though its obvious from their feedback that they are over the VAT threshold).

  • Rich
    3 years ago

    I can’t see that ebay are either liable or responsible for how another individual or business conducts its taxation affairs. Up to the proper authorities to ensure compliance.

  • Fred
    2 years ago

    “Duplicate listings…” “I have reported him many times and other sellers in the same sector tell me they also have reported him. Despite this after over 2 years he is still doing it. He must have a large number of policy violations on his record but is still allowed to do this – either that or ebay have done nothing about it of course.”

    I have also seen this. Usually support claim that if you report it action will be taken even when you point out that you have reported it many times and the seller is still doing it. But one guy told me that account handlers for key accounts could over-ride this.

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