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Will location abuse stop in 2020?

By Chris Dawson January 8, 2020 - 10:02 am

It’s a New Year, but it’s business as usual for the liars and location abuse. One of my first eBay purchases of the year, ostensibly from a UK seller, has arrived complete with customs forms from an overseas seller.

This wasn’t a particularly spectacular purchase, simply a battery operated pencil sharpener but the Item location was clearly displayed as ‘London, United Kingdom’. Just for a change, this time it wasn’t a Chinese seller but one from the Philippines.

To be fair to the seller, the item arrived 3 day’s earlier than eBay’s predicted arrival date and the product is perfect. That however is beside the point – If I’d needed to return it what consumer rights do I have? Did the seller pay UK VAT? Is the seller paying UK Corporation Tax? Is the seller indeed doing anything other than lie and cheat?

Far from the issue of location abuse being reduced, it’s a pandemic which is spreading not just on eBay but also on other marketplaces and in multiple countries. Sellers in the Far East do have great products at low prices, but much of this advantage is often because they are not paying their dues in taxation.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between legitimate UK sellers and location abuse from sellers in the Far East. Item location, seller location are too easy to fake and in this case the seller displays what appears to be a legitimate VAT numbers, although the address they display in Business Information is pure fiction.

In reality the item was shipped into Heathrow via a UK Freight Forwarder based in Southall. There are at least three freight forwarders operating from this address (4PX, Express Worldwide Logistics, and Globexair). They specialise in flying products in bulk from sellers in the Far East, over labelling them with a Royal Mail label having already passed the tracking number and pre-advice to eBay, and then shipping to the consumer.

It’s worth pointing out that it’s fair game for sellers from the Far East to sell in the UK, just as UK sellers also sell around the world. Whilst the competition may be unwelcome, the whole point of ecommerce is that it’s possible to buy and sell globally. I wouldn’t in many instances have a problem buying from an overseas seller and often do, but location abuse masquerading as UK sellers isn’t fair game and is simply blatantly telling a lie in order to appeal to consumers. It gives an unfair advantage in search results and, at least in many cases in the past an unfair advantage through not paying taxes due.

It is obvious that the marketplaces themselves haven’t got a grip on location abuse. HMRC may or may not have the sellers on their radar and be collecting tax. Buy ultimately perhaps it’s buyers that have the most power in the form of negative feedback. Already the feedback for the seller I purchased from has fallen to 98.2% with 85 negatives in the past month. A few more and their account will be another demoted in search or banned from the marketplace.

  • Andy
    1 week ago

    This drives me mad. I will sometimes filter the search results to items in the UK and expect that to be where the item is rather than a bare-faced lie. I don’t want to buy from dishonest people.

    I have tried to report listings to eBay that said they were in the UK and then came from China, and found it to be almost impossible – lots of going around in circles that ends with “try to resolve the issue with the seller”! They should make it much easier.

  • PAUL S
    1 week ago

    Ebay turnover is too reliant on these Chinese sellers who abuse the location setting , it’s gone too far and they can’t afford to ditch them. Searching on ebay has become very frustrating. I don’t buy on ebay anymore if I can avoid it. I am a seller but will probably ditch my ebay shop at the end of march, it’s making up a smaller and smaller percentage of my business. Ebay have let it go to far, increased fees and lower sales are not a great combination, they have no sensible new ideas, the managers are incompetent and Amazon have made fools out of them. The only person to have a good idea at Ebay was the guy who started it.

  • 1 week ago

    Ebay say “Item location: London, United Kingdom” and the business details have an address in China.

    That really means, actually it’s in China, but in a few days time, it will land in London, and then be forwarded on to you.

    I can understand why they don’t police the abuse of the “uk only” filter as things are. It would be like playing whack a mole and they’d never win, due to the volume of abuse. But if they add a delivery filter so we can also tick for things like next day delivery options or collection available, that’s it, sorted, the Chinese location abuser is out of the picture, because they can’t do that. It could even be combined into the “UK only” filter so there’d be less hassle for buyers.

    It’s so simple. Just one proper filter sorts all this BS out. Why is it still not done? Ebay harms itself the longer it goes on.

  • ifellow
    1 week ago

    ‘shipped into Heathrow ‘ Okay to ship this kind of often cheap stuff in via air daily in massive bulk, but passengers are made to feel guility.

  • 1 week ago

    Amazon is even worse now as well. Sellers have a UK vat number, with a Chinese address and invoice, And they can’t even produce a UK legitimate vat invoice with the maths calculated correctly. In 5 years time this going to be a massive HMRC Vat inspection headache for companies purchasing on these channels….. But as the vat number is legitimate, surely the issue lies with HMRC for giving them the vat number in the first place.

  • Toby
    1 week ago

    I appreciate it must be a nightmare to police, but ebay don’t help with the ridiculous reporting menu they have… literally it’s a a guess the correct line to proceed to the next puzzle. Can we not just have a simple one stop button that says false location?!
    You look at the feedback and it is full of people stating false location… you report it but nothing ever happens. In fact let’s all be honest, has anyone reported somethings and it has actually been acted upon….? Private business seller comes immediately to mind!
    The sad thing is that there is no option to exclude just China… so if i want to look for items in say the uk, usa and eu… i can’t not exclude China. I immediately knw that the first several pages will be chinese sellers. Tick lowest item price first… and then skip to page 34!
    Another thing i note is that most say royal mail 48… yet delivery date is over a week later. Now i know ebay tried to combat this, but it simply hasn’t worked or is flawed.
    It is destroying the last of the credibility the sight still has.
    Market places really need to up their game.

  • Mark
    1 week ago

    It takes so long for the seller to be removed and in the end they just start again.
    The simplest way would be for eBay to say any item proven to be sold via this method will be refunded to the buyer and the buyer allowed to keep the item.
    It would stop in just a few days as why would anyone send an item which regardless of price has cost them money to buy and ship only to lose the lot and get a negative from the buyer.

    simple solution to an issue the platforms make out to be hard to solve.

  • Mark
    1 week ago

    HMRC sate that if any company purchases from any seller that displays a VAT number and then does the checks to show the VAT number is legitimate there will be no action taken against the buyer as all checks have been carried out in line with HMRC advice and information.

  • 1 week ago

    Had one arrive today and will be leaving them a neg even if the product is of the finest quality, just for lying about the item location.

  • ifellow
    1 week ago

    People are forgetting market places are actively recruiting these sellers, helping them directly, holding open days and generating recruitment drives in China.

    So any suggestions are pointless as amazon and eBay sees Chinese sellers as the future and have little or no interest in removing them.

    Yes, some Chinese are removed, this is because they have not filled any amount with HMRC for VAT on that used VAT number over a period of time, so HMRC request the account is closed with eBay do.

    Off course the sellers return easily with a new VAT number and same goods 7 Listings.

  • NorthCrystal
    1 week ago

    I tend to check “business legal information” before buying anything. But I also need the potential seller to be vat reg’d. So No sale if address non-uk or uk based but dodgy one. Sometimes I’d even check the vat number on the EU website. Yes, it’s proper paintful to go this way but then again it’s eBay and nothing is simple and straightforward on there.

    • 1 week ago

      I was 99.9% certain the item would not have been located in the UK until several days after I’d ordered it. But having checked a few listings and not being able find anyone with a proper UK address in the business seller information to match the item location claim, I just thought sod it. It’s not urgent, I don’t need the VAT for it, I’ll just buy the one from the top and they can have a neg for lying.

      Adding a filter for VAT registered would be a good idea.

  • Ifellow
    7 days ago

    Will location abuse stop in 2020?

    Same question has been asked multiple times every year for over 6 years.

    So I’d say no !

    Pus the fact eBay and Amazon are actively recruiting Chinese sellers, I’d say it will get worse.

    These packages are not abnormal but normal for eBay shoppers. I’ve had quite a few.

  • NorthCrystal
    2 days ago

    $$$$ show must go on.

    We sell automotive parts and the Chinese sellers don’t apply to us (as of yet?!). So my experience on eBay with that is very limited and I thought it isn’t that bad as some like to paint it on here or there.

    So I bought a office chair (offline). Needed a floor mat for it and went on eBay…. WOW !!! Obviously selected “UK location” to get genuine UK based sellers… all from London….. with Chinese business details. But that’s well known issue to everyone. And next I investigated a little bit and checked 7 random sellers claiming to be GB VAT registered – here’s some facts:
    – trading from travellodge hotel room (yep)
    – 400+ Chinese businesses registered at the same building in London that looks kind of abandoned from recent Google StreetView
    – VAT number “stealing” (of other business)
    – feedback as low as 86% and still selling loads of stock

    I did not buy it in the end as no single GB business to be found. Bought plywood board from local Wickes instead(!).

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