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Why eBay’s new links policy will kill sellers of custom made items

By Chris Dawson May 14, 2017 - 1:02 pm

In their spring seller release, eBay announced that sellers will have to remove all links from their listings. Specifically you won’t be able to put your email address or phone number in your listing (even as unlinked text), although it’ll still appear in your business seller information.

Sellers of custom made items need to get images from buyers

This is a problem in the making for sellers of custom made items. Sure it’s fine if you just need to get the initials to inscribe on a bracelet, but what about pictures for printed items?

The problem

eBay do allow images to be transmitted to sellers though their messaging system, but sellers are telling me that it’s impossible to get a print quality image through eBay messages as eBay compress them.

Test of an image sent through eBay Messages

I did a test, I sent a random photo of my cat from one eBay account to another.

The original image

Dimensions

5312px by 2988px
(That’s 15,872,256 pixels in total)

File size

4.32MB

DPI

72

You can view the original image at full size here.

Thanks to my Samsung Note’s brilliant camera that’s more than a high enough resolution to print.

The image after being sent through eBay Messages

Dimensions

500px by 281px
(The image now only has 140,500 pixels in total)

File size

33.1KB

DPI

72

You can view the image received through eBay messages at full (but very much reduced) size here (And the image is shown at the same scale as the original above… if you can spot it as it’s so small).

This image is way to small to even think about printing. It appears that sellers are correct and eBay are compressing images and reducing them in size.

Does anyone have a solution?

Sellers who need to print images, whether it be on a t-shirt, a 3 meter vinyl poster, a mug or a tea tray, need to be able to receive high quality images from their customers. It can’t be done with eBay messages. You can’t even send your email address through eBay messages as it’ll be blocked. Neither can you advertise a drop box link or similar as eBay have banned links from your listings.

The only way that I can see for sellers to request images once they’re banned from advertising their email addresses is to send an eBay message saying “Please can you go to the listing you purchased from and look for the ‘Business Seller Information’ box (Underneath the description on a desktop, but in the eBay app you’ll have to click ‘About the seller’ and then scroll down and look for ‘Legal information and click on that) to get my email address which you’ll have to cut and paste into your email program to send me your images.]

Mind you, even this advice could get you into trouble:

Q. Can I tell buyers where to find my contact details without directly linking to the destination?
A. No, we’ll consider any kind of circumvention of the guidelines to be a policy breach.

– eBay Links Policy FAQ

Frankly buyers send an image through eBay messages and don’t understand why it’s not print quality. If I sent my 5000 odd pixel 4MG cat picture I’d expect that to be perfect for printing. As a buyer it’s not my problem that you the seller get a compressed 500 pixel image less than 0.9% pixels of the original size.

eBay need to provide some assistance for sellers of custom made items and provide a method of transmitting full quality uncompressed images. Otherwise, I guess Etsy and Amazon Handmade are suddenly looking quite attractive.

  • Joe B
    6 months ago

    In the past when I’ve needed to give my email address to a customer and eBay have tried to strip it out, I’ve got round it by sending a jpg attachment in an eBay message with my email address in it.

    But it’s debatable whether this will work as it seems they’re searching images for text.

    We do of course get the buyer’s email address when they pay by PayPal so I guess some kind of auto-responder could be set up to send them details of how to send their image, or we could just manually reply to the payment email if that’s practical.

  • Mark.T
    6 months ago

    Maybe some prominent text in the listing directing buyers to the business sellers info?

    As this appears to be off site sales related, eBay could loosen the contact info exchange embargo once it knows that a payment has been made. Of course, fraudsters could then arrange for that payment to be refunded for a better deal offline.

    Final thought… fraudsters will find a way around this pretty quickly.

    • Joe B
      6 months ago

      Mark – that’s now allowed under the new rules, Chris has already highlighted this from the FAQ.

    • Mark.T
      6 months ago

      Mark.T here…

      I have just finished a 45 minute chat session with eBay Customer Support and went through 2 levels of escalation to clarify this point…

      > “Can I tell buyers where to find my contact details without directly linking to the destination?”

      It is absolutely, 100% okay to direct someone to the Business Seller Information at the very bottom of the page they are already viewing.

      This is the quote from the chat session using an example I gave them…

      “I have referred this to our site specialist team that placing “To send me a question or check my returns policy, please see my Business Seller Information at the bottom of this page” will be allowed as this will direct your buyers just to scroll to the bottom of the screen of the active listing.”

      Also…

      “directing someone to the bottom of the same page they are already on is totally, absolutely okay with eBay? Yes or No”

      Answer (from eBay): Yes

    • 6 months ago

      Strange how seller support give different advice to the eBay FAQ. Almost as of they haven’t read it!

      One wonders if the right hand knows what the left hand is doing?

    • Rob
      6 months ago

      Spoke to ebay customer support over the weekend about the seller release in regards to offering free returns and being more protected. Had to wait while they read the seller release first as they were not aware of this and then not able to give clear answers as to what will happen when customers send items back poorly packaged which caused damage to the item. When asked if I take 10% off the price and the buyer does not agree with this what will happen was not able to give a firm answer even if giving ebay photographic proof of before and after.
      I was also told that the packing vouchers could be rolled over which is not the case.

  • Paula
    6 months ago

    eBay have been trying to kill my custom-made business for years … chipping away at it piece by piece.

    They clearly are not interested in custom-made, and it’s driving all those type of customers to Etsy.

    Which is not a bad thing. I get better prices on Etsy.

  • Paula
    6 months ago

    @Mark T

    Ebay are not so worried about the one little sale a buyer and seller might take offline. They imagine that there are lots of subsequent sales happening offline, and they aren’t getting fees for those.

    Pfttttt!! I wish.

    It’s all a question of whose customers they are they really. Apparently eBay and Amazon believe that they are THEIR customers. And we are merely cogs in the machine … easily replaceable cogs.

    • ALAN PATERSON
      6 months ago

      With respect Paula what you are describing above is “circumvention of ebay fees” a very serious policy breech and with good reason. You wish for this? I appologise if i have taken your post wrong but thats what it seems to say.

      Wide spread practice of what you are wishing for would cause serious damage to ebay and possibly end the site altogether. Please dont “wish ” or practice anything that will kill the business (or encourage others to do the same).

      I do respect your main point but some platforms are just more suited for certain items than others. ebay do concentrate on growth and they have the right to focus on areas that show more growth than others – that may not be custom items but thats just business.

  • 6 months ago

    Our intention is to use the PayPal contact info (email address and phone number) to contact the buyer directly after the sale for custom photos. If it’s a problem we’ll just be shifting this business away from eBay.

    Typically of eBay they seem to be implementing this without putting the tools in place to help sellers – the messaging system is awful on so many levels – fixing it would probably protect the ebay business far more effectively than this insane approach. There’s a fair chance that by the time they fix it (if they fix it) this segment will have gone from eBay (and with it any related sales).

  • Vinnie
    6 months ago

    @ ALAN PATERSON

    Paula is absolutely correct.
    eBay do treat a seller’s customers as their own, in fact eBay have a known reputation of treating sellers appallingly badly. 90% of the time if there is a dispute eBay will always come down on the side of the Buyer regardless of any evidence the Seller can provide. That is why most Sellers will grovel and bend over backwards in their rush to give out refunds simply because it isn’t worth the risk of losing their rating or selling rights through penalties from eBay. And then eBay bleat and moan if someone manages to sell something without them getting their grubby little hands on their pound of flesh. To charge 10% fees is (almost) palatable, but to charge 10% fees on the postage is so wrong on so many levels I can’t understand why sellers haven’t left in droves. It is for these reasons and many others that I moved my business to other platforms ages ago.

    • Alan Paterson
      6 months ago

      @ Vinnie
      . Like many others on here – your experiences do not reflect at all my experience with ebay. I have been involved selling on ebay for 14 years. The last 7 years full time. I am not saying that ebay is not without its problems but what you are describing is not my experience at all – we are talking about the same ebay? lol

      I think you are also supporting “circumvention on ebay fees” or at least that was your implication when you say ebays “grubby little hands”. Its not very nice Vinny. It is after all THEIR site. If enough sellers practiced dodging out of ebay fees we wouldnt have a site to sell on! Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! You seem very bitter about the platform.

      You say you are surprised that sellers havent left in droves………can i ask………why havent you left if this is your true experience? Just curious.

  • martin
    6 months ago

    They’re definitely clamping down on comms. A customer asked for our phone number, said they would prefer to deal over the phone. Number supplied.

    Hello thewhirlpoolbathshop,
    We’re writing to let you know that activity on your account may not be following an important eBay policy that requires all transactions and payments to be completed through eBay. The same policy specifies that eBay member-to-member messages may not be used to share contact information.

    For example(s), review your listing and member messages regarding the following:
    222305795930 – Carronite Carron Status RH 1700 11 Jet Offset Corner Bath | White Jacuzzi Spa

    Our concern is the deal arranged with buyer “*******” through the messaging appears to have been completed off site after a phone number was provided.

    I was told that if it happened again we would get an immediate 7 day suspension with no appeals process.

    Fair enough they want their fee’s, I totally get that but we have 4.9* for comms for a reason, we know what we are doing, we know retail.

    The most common reason we hear from buyers as to why they ring up is with issues at the checkout.

    P.S from experience a hight % of buyer registered eBay email addresses are defunct. eBay should force a mandatory update of all contact details at least once a year.

    • CG
      6 months ago

      We got a similar message the other week. A potential buyer put their phone number in a message as they were wanting to buy in bulk for a school and could I call them to discuss their requirements. Before I’d even replied to them to say message only thank you eBay were all over it and messaged us. We never asked for the number to be put in a message yet I felt we were the ones being told off and they implied we were going behind their back when it came into us.

  • Mark.T
    6 months ago

    eBay MUST show the business sellers information on the listing page to comply with Distance Selling regulations. See …

    “Before an order is placed, you must provide: your business name, contact details and address…”

    eBay’s own info on the subject states that…

    —-
    “What information do I have to provide?
    As a business seller, you have to provide the following information in a clear and comprehensible manner on all your listings:
    1. Contact details
    the company name and (if applicable) the full name(s) of the legal representative(s) of the company
    the geographic address of the company (a PO Box is not sufficient)
    contact details, including an email address, telephone number and fax number
    the company’s registration number and register (if applicable)
    the company’s Value Added Tax identification number (if applicable)”
    —-

    Under EU law, this is called “The right to clear information”.

    This change to policy has forced eBay to clarify this point and now we can all point buyers to our contact details openly, blatantly and with gusto.

    Buyer: Can I have your email/phone/address?
    Seller: Under EU’s Distance Selling regulations, you have the right to clear information and you will find all our information at the bottom of this page.

  • dean
    6 months ago

    ebay was great once, unique and it was aimed at attic items all used items unwanted items and all of a sudden high street companies started to sell on the platform and it started to get Greedy very things getting harder, and now the platform is different the seller doesn’t run the show

  • 6 months ago

    Hi- can anyone tell me will will “ebay classified ” ads be affected by the new rules re not allowing telepnone numbers on the listing.?
    Also “ebay Premium Service ” users seem to be unaffected re showing telephone numbers- please see furniture sellers- . Type in sofas in search box.
    Thanks

  • 6 months ago

    I got slapped with a 7 day buying and listing suspension for giving a customer my Whatsapp when they asked for it – because the customer wanted to deal with me directly.

    ebay secret service are on to me. They’ve threatened to close my account if I am involved with any more messages that could lead to sales outside ebay.

    I suspect this does not apply to large retailers who use ebay to promote their own websites such as Argos and Watchfinder..

  • Craig
    6 months ago

    I sell custom made products and I have to agree it’s getting more and more of a pain in the backside.

    Products I sell include business stationery whereby the BUYER needs to give me their contact details for printing. I have buyers left confused because they can’t send an e-mail address or telephone number via eBay messages. I end up having decode e-mail address like b*u*y*e*r@e*m*a*i*ldotcom which just makes the whole process ridiculously tedious.

    The only positive is it seems buyers can still leave the contact details in the order notes and I do ask that they do this in the description but as can be expected not everyone reads the description properly or some may simply forget, I then have the painful task of having to get these details via eBay messages.

    I much prefer selling on Etsy now and can also see more and more sellers of handmade coming this way, it is after-all the purpose of the marketplace. It seems to me eBay just aren’t interested and haven’t been for a long time now.

  • James
    6 months ago

    I agree with what most are saying here with my personal hat on – but with my business hat on its a load of junk. Its business guys, look at the bigger picture – they are fighting for business no differently to you.

    It might be sad that custom made items are going to be harder going forward – but do you not think they have considered this? Therefore their decision must reflect that this part of their business is non growth or not as important to their business going forward? Whilst sad, this is probably an indication of the future of your business? Business is about adapting and moving forward and eBay are doing this – shouldnt you be too?

    Plus this whole eBay customer or my customer is just as daft. Whilst you are supplying the product be realistic about it… would any prospective customers know who YOU are without eBay? In so many cases businesses on eBay make absolutely no effort with branding and frankly the business is no more than an eBay account and a few packing benches…Is it even a business without eBay?
    If this is the case Id say the customer is just as much eBays as it is yours – you are just a cog, no different to the cogs sat in their office running paid search in order to attract an audience for YOU and themselves.

    It goes back to the same old issue which is reliance on marketplaces. IF any legislation change on a marketplaces causes a massive upset to your business output or profitability then the main issue is the business itself… Marketplaces should be a welcome supplement to a business, not the backbone.

  • 6 months ago

    I sell customised products and Im worried about these changes, as it will make it harder to personalise an order.
    I have no issue with ebay making this change, but they should sort out the messaging system and not compress pictures. Why do they do this? I also sell on Amazon and do everything through Amazon messages with no problem, the photo’s are not compressed so no issue with quality.
    I agree we are all just a cog and Ebay is a large part of our business, we have been a seller with them for 9 years, spent a lot of time, resources and money keeping up with constant changes to comply to thier rules. The issue I have is that you wouldnt like it if you set up your business knowing what the rules were in the first place, for the goal post to change to something unworkable. Surely ebay have a duty to ensure the functionality of the messaging system works for all types of business. One simple change is all it takes – happy sellers, happy customers!

  • 6 months ago

    In support of Zena – one problem here is that the ebay messaging system is stuck in a time-warp of about 10 years ago. It’s clunky, poorly designed and it’s based on a time when a 2 megapixel camera was a big thing, phones didn’t have cameras and bandwidth was more restricted.

    It wasn’t all that good a system even then!

    Not just talking about wanting to transfer images for customised photo items. There are lots of everyday issues with products before and after sales where good photos are beneficial.

    • Gareth
      6 months ago

      Agreed. The whole communication system – including photos – is totally outdated. There are many reasons why someone might want to send a seller a photo or vice versa, and unfortunately in order to transfer a photo that’s actually worth looking at, it is necessary to go around ebay because the processes that they provide are not fit for purpose.

    • james
      6 months ago

      ten years ago we had MSN, it would have laughed at the state of today’s ebay messenger even back then.

  • Mark.T
    6 months ago

    Am I missing the point? Surely the fact that eBay must include your details on every listing solves the problem, assuming the contact details are up to date.

    Direct contact details on every listing with eBay’s approval.

    The text the seller includes in each listing can refer to the Business Seller Information at the bottom of the page and, if a buyer still sends a message through eBay’s inadequate message system, the seller can simply refer to their Business Seller Information at the bottom of every listing.

    • Gareth
      6 months ago

      Business seller details are only provided on… business seller pages.

      Most people using ebay to sell things are not business sellers. These people will be affected.

    • Mark.T
      6 months ago

      @Gareth

      You are correct Gareth, I did not make the distinction clear. I wonder how many non business sellers would move to business selling because of this point.

      Do any business sellers in this conversation think that referring to their Business Seller Information is not enough of a solution?

    • james
      6 months ago

      “we cant include our phone number here where you’d want it to be.
      please refer to the bottom of the page…..
      unless you’re on mobile when its somewhere else entirely….
      or on iphone its somewhere else again….
      oh you have the app on mobile, nope it moved some more.
      on windows mobiles our phone number is in a locked cabinet guarded by a leopard….”

      yeah that’s damned handy and proper easy. wonder why people complain about ebay being so dumb in its approach.

  • Gareth
    6 months ago

    Ebay as a company is incapable of making a decision that isn’t completely stupid. Surely no single individual within the company is this stupid, so it begs the question: just how are these decisions made?

    Anyway, yes ebay will block an email address if you try to send it in its unaltered form. And they also try to detect email addresses that are spelt out like so: email at example dot com. But you can send email addresses with random characters in between these words, and on new lines, like so:

    email
    .
    at
    .
    example
    .
    com

    Yes this is a pain in the arse, but it works. Ebay will eventually block this method no doubt, but when they do we can just find another. Until they have true AI or enough employees to vet every single message, this will continue to be the case. So we will continue to trade DESPITE ebay, not BECAUSE of them.

    Another thing you can do is send your phone number and ask them to text you with their email address. This is sometimes a better option when dealing with people who don’t understand what you’ve had to do to your email address in order to get it past the filters. Yes, such people exist.

    • james
      6 months ago

      except now they block phone number in messages.
      and tracking numbers too just incase.
      probably model codes or anything with a digit in it really.
      dont ya just love a targeted smart approach to a problem?

    • Alan Paterson
      6 months ago

      Yes Gareth but look at the big picture. Why are ebay doing this?

      It was introduced because of the sellers who were trying to cut out ebay fees. It is after all ebays platform and they spend a mammoth amount of money to promote ebay and get traffic for people like YOU to sell their merchandise. ebay need fees to survive. it should not be resented and much of it is reinvested.

      email exchanges on member to member messages were bypassing ebay fees. sellers were taking the transaction off site. It wasnt fair and was self destructive. sellers were killing the “host”.

      It is certainly a general theme on this post that some sellers resent paying ebay fees. I think you need to look at WHY email addresses were not allowed to be exchanged. It needed to happen. a small number of sellers spoilt it for everyone else and forced ebay to take this action years ago.

      we look at it positively. the higher our ebay fees are for one particular month the better – it means we have sold more. They are proportional to turn over. The last thing i want is my fees to go down – it would an indication my business is on a decline as it is proportional to turnover which in turn (for my business) is proportional to my profit.

      its a bit like tax. the more tax you pay the better – it means you are earning more (generally). yes?

  • Rob
    6 months ago

    This will stop a lot of the so called “business” on ebay who include their phone number in the listings. So many sellers in the categories I list in are running a business yet show no business information. Most likely list on the promotion weekends when they have to pay little to no final value fees and most likely pay no tax either. If ebay were to start sorting this out then they would have more income straight away. Have mentioned to ebay countless times of sellers who have 200 – 300 listings of new and similar lines of stock yet no business info.

  • Danny
    6 months ago

    Create a custom page in your eBay shop with contact details on / instructions for your customer if you sell customised items that require customer input … direct your customers to this page… simples?!

    • 6 months ago

      The links policy banning contact info applies to shops as well as listings. No contact pages allowed.

    • Danny
      6 months ago

      D’oh!

  • Zina
    6 months ago

    I agree we need to crack down on sellers trying to get sales off ebay, so I understand the reasons for the links policy. I am also happy to advise customers to refer to our business seller information………if they can find it depending on which device they are using.
    My HUGE issue is the messaging system that we cannot send or receive decent quality images. I wouldn’t have to ask a customer to email me directly if I could use the message system, but until they fix this outdated, Stone Age system, I am still forced to ask the customer to email me the images directly so I can personalise an order. At the end of the day, the customer doesn’t want the hassle of finding contact details, and it appears the seller is unhelpful when we can’t just give an email address when asked for, so they get grumpy and are more likely to cancel an order out of frustration. It can’t be hard for ebay to just update the message system.
    Maybe ebay should be harder on sellers that blatantly try and get sales outside of eBay and suspend their account like Amazon do with no warnings.

  • 6 months ago

    My company supports over a thousand ebay businesses in the UK and abroad. Like many others we have put huge effort into preparing our clients for the impending removal of active content, revising over 600,000 listings in 12 months.

    I fully support the motivations behind the ACE rules, however the “target” requirement on links being added at late notice does make you question the planning which has gone into this process.

    The latest rule on contact information again seems poorly thought out. To give a specific example I have one client who makes “collar contact tags” for dogs which include a phone number. This is his only product and this puts his entire business is in jeopardy. He may only be a small seller but this is his livelihood. Sadly I only see this rule doing more damage than good to ebays relationship with sellers and it’s bottom line.

  • 6 months ago

    I sell personalised invitations and cards. I offer a free design service whereby the customer can send me their personalisation details via an online form for a digital proof. (I currently link to the form within my listing.)

    Removing this link and using eBay’s messaging system instead is an absolute no go for several reasons:

    – Images are compressed heavily. Not suitable for professional printing
    – Upload process fails quite often
    – Process is slow
    – Only JPEG’s allowed. No pdfs
    – Doesn’t intergrate with 3rd party apps
    – Telephone and email addresses can’t be sent (how on earth is the customer meant to let you know their mobile/email for the RSVP on their invitations for example?)

    I’m a little curious to how their links policy will be enforced. Will they rely on member-to-member reporting or will there be a outright ban on ALL link tags?

    I wonder if eBay will make special allowances for personalised goods? For example allowing links in some categories?

    I’ll be speaking to eBay with regards to this, but suspect I won’t be listened to. Might be an idea to create an action group to raise the issue with the relevant team and bring it to their attention more LOUDLY!

    • chrissieboy
      6 months ago

      Hi George, once a buyer has bought from you then you have their email address and likewise them yours. Therefore can’t all the above be done direct through email? cheers

    • George
      6 months ago

      That is true chrissieboy, we could personalise the item after they have purchased and deal with them via email…. but I currently offer a free design service whereby they can view the design before they pay. I understand this service might need to be discontinued which is fine, but I wonder if it would adversely impact sales as customers like to see what they are getting before payment.

      I have just spoken to ebay customer support who escalated me up to their policy department. The advisor is raising the issue with higher management. She said she would report back once they’ve had a discussion.

      I will post any news on here once I’ve heard back from them. But they did say they rely on sellers calling up to make them aware of such issues. The more people that call and raise this issue with them the better. I’d encourage any sellers that sell personalised goods to speak to them.

    • chrissieboy
      6 months ago

      @George, ah ok fair enough, i hadn’t thought about that. fair point. Very annoying for you then. As you say, ebay are trying to prevent off sales yet as usual going about it cack-handed. If ebay sorted out combined invoice glitch (especially on mobile) and bulky item postage glitch then that would prevent off ebay sales but they can’t seem to manage that instead creating more issues.

  • Paul
    6 months ago

    hi george i do personalised goods too,and i rang up and spoke to christine apparently in the policy expert department,i was told 2 different things from her in two days.who did you speak to if you dont mind me asking?it seems as theres no exact answer from ebay.having the email address is fine but half the time its an old address and you cant even put on your listing that you will contact them via email or direct them to the business information part,is what i was told!but she did also say a similar thing about notifying there team,so the more people ring up and shout the better!this will kill ebay if they dont find a work around and put me out of business!!!

    • George
      6 months ago

      Hi Paul, I think it was Marie (or something very similar!). I get what they are trying to do (reduce sales off of ebay) but I think they are cutting off their nose despite their face. It’s ridiculous. Poor service for the customer.

      I just hope more people will be getting in touch to raise it so they backtrack. I was going to contact similar sellers to suggest they do the same.

  • Paul
    6 months ago

    hi george ,just wondering if ebay ever got back to you over this?as i just keep getting mixed responses?thanks paul

    • George
      6 months ago

      Not yet no, they said it might take a week or so. I’ll report back when they’ve delivered their verdict.

  • George
    6 months ago

    UPDATE: I’ve just heard back from Maria from Ebay with regards to links in the listings for personalisation forms and the allowance of email addresses in ebay messages. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good news, although she does understand the issue we’re facing. Links to personalisation forms that request a telephone number and/or email address will be in breach of their policy.

    Maria hasn’t given up hope yet though. She is now bringing this higher up the chain to someone even more senior. I suppose we wait again to see what is said….

  • jon
    6 months ago

    I’ve had emails lately from customers through ebay messaging with their email addresses in…

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