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Issues complying with the eBay Duplicate Listings Policy

By Chris Dawson August 13, 2018 - 2:52 pm

In the recent eBay UK Autumn Seller Release for 2018, eBay confirmed that since July 2018, sellers who break the eBay Duplicate Listings Policy have started to see a loss in visibility for their inventory. This isn’t a loss of visibility for any duplicate listings that you may have, this is dumping all of your listings towards the bottom of search results.

eBay are signalling that they are fed up with duplicate listings and, having for years asked sellers nicely to comply with the duplicate listings policy, are now wielding the big stick and taking punitive actions which will impact your entire business should you not comply… or if you make an honest mistake.

There are any number of problems with the policy however and many of these are due to the vagueness of the help page covering the eBay Duplicate Listings Policy. Other issues are when honest mistakes happen (which they inevitably will) and a lack of information on how sellers can manage duplicate listings easily. It’s all well and good eBay waving the big stick and ordering sellers to comply, but Tamebay readers are telling us that they simply don’t have the tools they need to ensure they stay safe and don’t accidentally fall foul of the policy.

Where is the tool to identify eBay Duplicate Listings?

“As eBay are able to identify duplicate listings, why don’t they provide a means for sellers to quickly identify any such listings in order to amend or remove them? Oh no, that’s too sensible. Why not just demote ALL of a sellers listings instead. Let them see their sales fall and try to work out that there might be ONE listing somewhere that’s dragging everything down. But let’s not tell them which one.”
– Andy, Tamebay Reader

It would seem very reasonable for sellers to have access to a tool which would identify any listings which eBay consider to be duplicates. This would enable sellers to immediately take action, either at the point of listing a new item which is going to create a duplicate listing, or an alert in the Seller Dashboard warning them that visibility is being lowered due to the one or two problem listings.

How long does the loss in visibility last?

Sellers are working blind as eBay don’t clearly communicate duplicate listing breaches as in a message such as: ‘You have a loss of visibility because of this list of duplicate listings’. This would enable sellers to take action and know that the issue was resolved.

Instead, the situation is that sellers may see a drop in sales and suspect it’s due to duplicate listings. They may even find some and remove them. But how do sellers assess if they’ve fixed the problem or if it wasn’t a duplicate listings issue in the first place and they’re chasing a red herring? Will visibility immediately return to normal within hours? Is it a weekly or monthly penalty? Do they have to wait until around the 20th of the month when eBay run their monthly account reviews for sellers? How do sellers know if they’ve fixed the issue or if they should carry on searching because there are more listings that eBay consider to be duplicates?

Why do duplicate listings happen?

There are three main reason that duplicate listings appear on eBay.

1) Sellers trying to game Best Match

It’s hard to have sympathy for sellers who intentionally create duplicate listings and these are the very sellers that eBay want to crack down on. If that’s you, be warned that eBay are not going to tolerate flagrant duplicate listing abuse any longer.

2) Technical and procedural errors

From time to time software solutions have glitches and may accidentally launch a duplicate listing (or human errors where an employee clicks the wrong option). Technical errors which sellers resolve shouldn’t be used to penalise an entire eBay account.

There are also difficulties for larger businesses with thousands of listings, especially when multiple employees are creating listings. If you have stock to list (and this will especially apply to sellers of 2nd hand and refurbished stock), it’s all too easy to create a duplicate listing in error. eBay should be welcoming the variety of goods on the site and not penalise a seller because two employees list similar products with different titles and don’t spot that their colleague already created a listing.

For technical and procedural errors, surely eBay Best Match is clever enough to solve the search problem for buyers without punishing sellers?

3) Vagueness of the eBay Duplicate Listings Policy

eBay’s Duplicate Listings Policy is vague and unhelpful. It’s fine as a guideline but it doesn’t spell out exactly what eBay consider to be a duplicate listing and when eBay would consider the same product not to be a duplicate.

To demonstrate how the policy lacks clarity, let’s take just one clause:

“Duplicate listings are two or more listings for items that have no significant difference between them. Even if your listings have some material difference, they will be considered duplicate if they appear to be the same item in search results.”
– eBay Duplicate Listing Policy

Taking the ‘some material difference’ clause, just what does this mean? Suppose you are selling two second hand iPads. Both show signs of use. One has a scratch on the back, the other has a scratch on the screen. Most buyers would consider a scratch on the back to be less important than a scratch on the screen. They would probably be willing to pay less for an iPad with a scratch on the screen and so would consider the two iPads not to be duplicate. But… would eBay consider them to be duplicate listings? How should the seller identify the iPads to not be considered duplicate and point out the ‘material difference’ between them?

We have purposefully considered the case of the iPad as it will have a GTIN and is already a part of eBay’s new Product Based Shopping Experience. With Shop by Product, you’ll want your items to be found and you definitely don’t want to be dumped to the bottom of search results.

Don’t think that ‘some material difference’ is the only part of the eBay Duplicate Listings Policy open to misinterpretation. The entire policy is vague but this wouldn’t matter if eBay had a tool for sellers that would tell them when eBay considered two listings to be duplicates.

eBay Duplicate Listings Policy Problems

To summarise, eBay don’t provide the tools to identify duplicate listings, they don’t give any indication as to whether your account is being lowered in search or if remedial action you have taken has fixed the policy breaches and how long it will take for search visibility to recover.

It’s often too easy to accidentally break the eBay Duplicate Listings Policy through software or human error.

And the eBay duplicate listing policy is too vague for sellers to have certainty that their listings will or will not be considered duplicate.

With the problems around duplicate listings, the only advice we can offer is to be super vigilant and if you have the slightest suspicion that eBay may consider two listings to be duplicates then delete one. We don’t know how harshly eBay are implementing the loss of visibility punishments, but we do know that it’s not worth having your entire eBay account lowered in search for the sake of one listing.

  • 1 month ago

    This is another example of how this will cause problems – We sell car dash kits – the Citroen Relay, Fiat Ducato & Peugeot Boxer have exactly the same dashboard layout so one kit will fit all three – but there is not enough room in the ebay description line to write all three models, plus years, plus dash kit colours and description etc, so we have to list the kit three times, once for the Citroen, once for the Fiat and again for the Peugeot – ebay deemed these three to be duplicates, even though listed for different van models and have removed them – so what do we do now, we either list all three again and risk a violation or list under Citroen only and lose 100% sales for the Fiat and Peugeot

    • Bob
      1 month ago

      Or you could list the kit under one variation listing with the correct and detailed attributes, thus benefiting from having sales history for all three under one listing.

    • james
      1 month ago

      half the problem is ebay use dumb solutions and pretend they’re smart solutions.

      get a different barcode for each (use GS1) or select ‘does not apply’, and change your sku’s to include the listing model. should be more than enough to outsmart ebay’s genius sledgehammer approach.

      the variation listing suggested by Bob sounds like a good plan, but you’d require unique sku’s & barcodes to facilitate that anyway.

    • 3 weeks ago

      i have just had my account put on a 3 day restriction because i listed in a catergury that ebay advised 2 days later 3 days restriction ebay caused this and now all my listings 1555 deleted from my shop nothink in there they told me i had to relist them all again a joke now i have no visibility my account has flatlined zero sales for the last 6 days ebay has caused this issue but no reply as when i phoned them they said it should not have happened but i am suffering my accoint is now dead

  • Janet
    1 month ago

    Here’s a novel idea, why don’t eBay stop entities using several accounts from listing the same item multiple times, which essentially crowds out everyone else?

    Sorry. Just realised. They wouldn’t want to upset their big earners now would they?

    The same business details across multiple eBay accounts, with unique eBay IDs, selling the same item, is a big part of the problem.

    If I list the same item, I could well end up in ninth position; well below the same overseas seller, claiming their goods are in Portsmouth. Even though the negative comments indicate otherwise.

  • 1 month ago

    I have just had an interesting IM Chat with ebay on this issue and they have categorically assured me that if I have any duplicate listings these will show as an entry on the task pane of the seller hub and in addition I would receive a message via the messaging system.
    abstract from the chat:
    08:06:54 UTC xxxxxxxxx
    just to be absolutely clear – if I have anything that ebay consider to be a duplicate listing as defined in the autumn seller update it will automatically be shown under the task pane on the seller hub – yes or no?
    08:07:27 UTC Kelsie
    yes

    Thoughts?

  • Garry Hall
    1 month ago

    My problem was when I amended a mistake in a listing my selling section then showed a duplicate with a comment like “this will only after you sell the first one”. That to me is no good as I did not have a second one to sell so had to work a way around to delete it.

    Another issue is that Ebay automatically now say they will relist an unsold item up to 8 times which I don’t want to be paying fees for.

    A third issue is that all sales info has hidden “accept offers” which I don’t want. It used to be in a check box under the starting price but now Ebay have hidden it.