eBay: want to leave negative feedback? You can't if it's a 'Power Seller'
Online auction site eBay has come under fire in the past for its buyer protection policies that have left a number of sellers out of pocket.
But now it emerges that eBay works hard to protect some sellers – albeit a small minority – by making it difficult for unhappy customers to leave negative feedback.
"Power Sellers" are business sellers "offering excellent service and professionalism". They make up 20pc of the 200,000 businesses sellers who use eBay to sell goods. To become a power seller, a business must make a minimum of 100 transactions each year with a minimum sales volume of £2,000.
Alongside "priority customer support, improved visibility in Best Match search results and a discount of 15pc on final value fees", Power Sellers are handed an extra benefit: buyers can't leave neutral or negative feedback on any item sold until seven days after purchase.
This means that should the item be damaged or not as described, and the buyer has attempted to contact the seller but has been unsuccessful, the buyer can't leave negative feedback until a week later. By this stage they could voice their complaint less forcibly – or forget to make it at all.
Feedback is the score stored on the site, based on users’ transactions with each other. If you’re a quick payer when you buy, for instance, or an efficient dispatcher of any goods you sell, you build a good score. The scores can be viewed by others who are thinking of doing business with you.
Holly Watt, who lives in London, recently purchased a book from a power seller on eBay and "instantly realised that it was going to be sent to the wrong address" as she had just moved house. Shortly after, Ms Watt sent an email to the seller explaining the situation but the seller dispatched the item to the wrong address because the order had already been processed.
Because of this, Ms Watt decided to leave negative feedback, which she had never done before on eBay.
Much to her surprise, she was unable to leave neutral or negative feedback for seven days because the seller was a Power Seller.
"Obviously this is unhelpful, because most people would be irritated by the seller, but many would be put off by not being able to complain immediately," Ms Watt said. "I always wondered why these big sellers have relatively few low ratings – because even though I am annoyed, I am unlikely to remain annoyed for seven days and complain then."
Power Sellers must have received at least 100 feedback ratings, and have a score of 98pc or more which is positive.
A spokesman for eBay said: "Power Sellers have built up a track-record of sales of over 100 items and been selling on eBay for over a year, so they have seven days to put right customer complaints before negative feedback can be left.
"We try to balance the needs of buyers and sellers and ensure we protect both parties and this is one element of our seller protection. eBay prompts buyers to leave feedback on transactions and in addition we also track other measures of seller performance including eBay Money Back Guarantee claims."
In this particular case, eBay claimed the seller had already processed the order by the time Ms Watt contacted it to change the address.
Not all sellers feel their interests are well protected. One such case involved a reader, Helen Hickman, who used eBay to sell surplus stock from her baby shop. Mrs Hickman encountered a troublesome buyer when, after selling a brand-new, sealed pushchair for £199.99, she received an automated message from eBay nine days later stating that the buyer wanted to return the pushchair because she “didn’t need it any more”.
However, the item was returned “covered in mud, with stones in the tyres and baby sick on the fabric” and the buyer received a full refund because she had returned the item within the 14-day period during which a buyer can receive a refund.