How Far Should Ebay Go To Protect Sellers' Reputations?

from the to-the-courts dept

The ability to check the reputation of a participant in an online auction is an important part of what makes auctions on eBay work. Actually, it’s important in all transactions, but in a decentralized system such as eBay’s, the ability to manage reputations is of particular significance to both the company and the sellers. So it’s understandable that when a seller feels he has been improperly maligned from buyer feedback would be upset, particularly if it caused on observable drop in seller’s auction prices. Such is the case of one seller, who after receiving a negative comment, went through the court system to get the comment removed. This is actually the course of action that eBay wants its users to take. Although the first court issued a ruling to have the review taken down, eBay found the ruling to be vaguely worded, and didn’t act on it. Next he sued eBay itself, though that action was dismissed; the law is pretty clear that the provider of a platform is not liable for what users post on it. But while there’s no obligation of liability on eBay’s part, what does it say about the company that they have developed no mechanisms to deal with this situation, other than asking its users to go through the long and expensive process of legal action? Considering how central the maintenance of reputation is to the eBay ecosystem, shouldn’t they try to develop mechanisms that mitigate this problem? Perhaps an official third-party arbiter could be used to resolve these issues. After all, it’s well known that there are plenty of unhinged eBay users out there, who have the potential to seriously disrupt the orderly flow of commerce. If eBay doesn’t try to solve this problem, then its value as a place for doing auctions will slowly decrease.

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Comments on “How Far Should Ebay Go To Protect Sellers' Reputations?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Usually feedback like “buyer and seller have mutually agreed to withdraw feedback.” is a result of both leaving negative feedback. Many sellers do not leave feedback until the buyer does. If it is negative then they leave negative feedback which the buyer doesn’t want either. After a few emails back and forth they both withdraw negative feedback leaving questionable seller and disgruntled buyer. Not the way the system should work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Bad Feedback

I give everyone bad feedback, dont care if they were good or bad sellers.

The entire system is broke. no amount of patching can improve it. it needs to be dismantled entirely. extortions alredy is running amuck on the system.

I know a friend who would ask for 20$ in the package everytime he cought something or he would post negative feedback citing that the seller did not include his $20 in the package that he requested.

No lies there. He got lots of 20$ bills. Noone wanted to sue. People complaied to ebay, sure. But what exactly is anyone going to do about it? nothing. Noone did anything about it.

Even pretending that you have had 10,000 happy customers and not a single unhappy customer is such a blatant lie. Its not possible in reality, but it takes place all the time on ebay.

Everything about the feedback system is a lie. Don’t ever believe anything in that feedback. I’ve seen positive feedback from someone who in that very feedback cited the seller took over two weeks to ship the item. WTF?

lies, all lies. The only thing different about my lies is they stand out more.

And no, I don’t sell a damn thing on ebay.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bad Feedback

You my friend are the reason we should have retro-active abortion. Your thoughts about posting negativie feedback are one of the reasons the system is broken. You should be publicly flogged, and your children should be given to parents who can teach them morals and ethics. If you don’t have children, please sterilize yourself to avoid more genetic defects such as yourself in our world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Bad Feedback

Thanks for the reinforcement.

Thoughts like yours are exactly why I post negative feedback. I will now continue on with my methods with the knowledge that I am achieving the desired result.

This is very amusing btw. You have expressed that you think murder should be legalized as retribution for someone exressing their opinion on a broken feedback and rating system.

And just how is that better than my struggle to alert the masses to the fact that the system is plain broken?

The system is broken, and is not to be trusted under any circumstances. This truth needs to get out, and if it takes the PEACEFUL means of posting negative feedback, then so be it, that is what must happen. (see, its all about protecting the children)

Ana says:

Re: Re: Re: Bad Feedback

It would be very interesting for “the masses” if you could explain why the system is broke, and how should it be.

I´ve never brought nothing using Ebay, so I really get the point of “the masses” when they say that the system should work based on people´s honesty.

But I can understand that people couls be dishonest also…

So, what is your idea of a new system?

I´m sure you have one in mind…do you? 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Bad Feedback

“So, what is your idea of a new system?

I´m sure you have one in mind…do you? :-)”

No. Absolutely not. Thats not my job. I do not work for eBay, I am not paid to come up with ways for them to improve upon their services. Why in the world would it be up to an angry and offended individual to suggest a replacement/improvement?

I’m ALREADY doing something about it. I am desensitizing others into realizing that you dont need an UNREALISTIC feedback rating in order to be a “good seller”. I am trying to show people that you CAN AND SHOULD post feedback that is not irresponsibly positive.

But if I did have a better idea (for ebay), I sure as hell would NOT be posting it as a comment on a tech news blog, I would be patenting it and getting rich.

Trying to say I don’t have the right to do what I am doing because I don’t have an “alternative business model proposition” for ebay is about as useful as telling me I can’t bitch about copy protection making it impossible for me to copy my dvds to my laptop without becoming a felony usless I created a better drm system.

THATS NOT MY JOB. I’m an angry consumer that has been burnt by a broken system. I shall be PROACTIVE in letting others know how the system is broken.


And if you couldn’t tell from my earlier posts what I think is wrong with the system… Well… Then I’m not a perfect commentator. (never said I was perfect)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So what you are really saying is...

“..that there are a lot of annoyed sellers out there who know where your “friend” lives. ”

Yeah, he don’t care. Really, whats someone gonna do, beat him up? He makes it clear when he pays that a 20$ gratuity is required for positive feedback. He gets it more often than not.

And for the record, hes not doing anything illegal.

If the seller does not agree/does not pay, then he leaves negative feedback and states why. When the seller DOES pay, he also puts that in the comment.


What about abuse of feedback system?

What eBay SHOULD take control of are those that use feedback as a means of retaliation for negative feedback EARNED! I bought a re-furbished cell on ebay a few years back. After 2 replacements, I still did not have a working device. I posted the feedback “3 tries; still no phone. Great return policy (probably due to frequent use)”. The seller blasted me with “SELLER BEWARE!!! HORRIBLE EBAYER!!!! IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE!!!!”.

After giving it a closer look, I learned that this seller had done the exact thing to HUNDREDS of people who left negative or indifferent feedback about him. Some went thru mediation and “mutually agreeed to withdraw”. ON principal alone, I refused.

Chuck says:

System not only sucks, but is unfair.

Today, negative feedback can be removed for several reasons, this was not the case several years ago. I have a perfect record in reality, but due to a mistake made by a seller, which they then immediately admitted to by placing two positive remarks saying, ‘My mistake, I confused him with another ebayer.’ I will never have a 100% rating because ebay will not remove feedback, even if mutually agreed by buyer and seller, if the feedback was left before they institiuted the new rules. So I as a very long time user with a single mistake by a seller cannout have 100%, yet all these new jerks with a dozen negs removed because the seller did not want a retaliation neg can still have 100%.

I also have a very low number of feedback compared to the # of transactions I have because I refuse to leave feedback for a seller, until they have left it for me. I bid, I pay, and once they have my money, I have completed my end of the deal and should get positive feedback. I should be be extorted into leaving them pos. feedback before I get it. I used to explain to them that they if they try to extort a positive feedback in that dishonest way that I would give them a neg for doing just that, and then if they still refused, I would give them a neg. on the very last day before you could not leave feedbakc anymore. These days I don’t bother, but they still won’t get a pos from me till I get one.

Anonymous Coward says:


Ebay has an arbitration process, but it doesn’t stop negative feedback. I sold an item as-is clearly stated no returns, the buyer wanted to return anyway. They took it to arbitration and ebay froze the transaction amount in my paypal account for 5 weeks. They ruled in my favor, then the buyer left me negative feedback anyway.

Price2Sell on ebay says:

Why feedback works and makes ebay rich.

We buy and sell a lot on ebay. All sort of things. The feedback system is essencial. I would not buy a large item from someone with little or bad feedback.

This system relies on people being fair. It works for the very large majority of the population.

There will always be unhonest individuals like the previous postees. They too few to skew the system. Thanks God.

Mitch says:

Re: Why feedback works and makes ebay rich.

Ok, well lets flip this and say that I had a problem with the feedback leading me askew. I bidded and won a certain item from a seller who had a great feedback record. Item paid for and waiting on it to be delivered at this point. Now all this negative feedback starts showing up from buyers who havent received their items in 2 months. Now I see the score go to crap and I am in that boat as well. Still waiting to this day and the buyers contact numbers are disconnected. Does Ebay help me, HELL NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

Anonymous Coward says:

There is nothing wrong with eBay’s feedback system, if everybody would just use it properly. I choose my auctions wisely by weeding out the “too good to be true” or “something smells fishy” ones. When I win an auction or do a buy-it-now, I pay immediately. To not do so is stupid. The one time I did get ripped off (which deserved bad feedback), the guy’s ebay account got suspended before I could leave any bad feedback. I have never sold anything, but have a 100% good feedback rating for buying items. I get this because I am nice to people and I play by the rules. Threatening bad feedback without a $20 refund is nothing to be proud of. It’s a serious offense.

And no, not all feedbacks are lies. Far from it. However, you do have to read between the lines. I never really bother to look at the good feedbacks because they’re mostly sugar-coating. I just glance over them to get an idea of if the seller ships products on a timely basis and simple stuff like that. Then I examine how many bad or neutral feedbacks there are, how recent they are, and what the content involves. Sometimes it’s obvious that the seller has gotten unearned nasty remarks from a bad buyer, in which case I have no problem giving that seller my business. If the negative feedbacks list legitimate problems and the seller responds with a nasty tongue-lashing, I refuse to go anywhere near that one. Granted, there are many times when bad feedback could be avoided by simply communicating with the seller in the event of a problem, but sometimes the sellers are the problem and the only course of action is to leave bad feedback to warn others to stay away, and/or contact the eBay authorities for further legal action, is the problem is serious enough.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The other anonymous coward

“There is nothing wrong with eBay’s feedback system, if everybody would just use it properly.”

Right, I agree. It would work perfectly if this was a perfect world.

Problem is, its not used properly. It’s used for extortion. And I don’t mean by the rogues like myself and the 20$ requesting friend. I mean it’s used as an offensive weapon day in and day out by the massive rebuyers and resellers. I mean the “etiquette” behind posting timely positive fedback si sooo deeply ingrained in the average ebayers head that they don’t even realize what they are doing anymore. They aren’t leaving positive feedback becuase they had a pleasant experience. They are leaving positive feedback OUT OF FEAR OF RETALIATION. They are leaving positive feedback because they have been SHAMED into thinking they must. Even if the seller scammed them completely, they still leave postive feedback.

They system is NOT fine the way it is. the system is USELESS the way it is.

Jayrad says:

Too few chrctrs! A+

Maybe it would help if people could enter more than a few dozen characters to describe complex logistical and monetary transactions. There is absolutely no room to offer any kind of comprehensive defense to undeserved neutral or negative feedback.

With that said, I think sellers make 100% feedback seem a little overrated. 98% is still a hell of a lot when a buyer considers just how many crappy people are out there using the internet who wrecklessly give negatives.

A seller could argue “Yes, but a buyer will always choose someone with a 100% feedback rating. It’s not fair!” That’s true, if and only if you’re selling the same product for the same price as everyone else. Charge less, and stop turning eBay into a freakin’ retail store.

Anonymous Coward says:

Last I looked Ebay was mostly free to use; come up with a site you pay for and you have more of a right to bitch. Policing posts and reviewing requests takes time and people, who need money for the work they do. Don’t like it, don’t use it.

What do you want from an on-line swap-meet? It should always be “buyer beware,” even if you didn’t think a disreputable seller could hurt you for no reason, they can and will, and for no other reason than they were born an A-hole.

Michael Tuchman says:

Hopelessly inflated

If people are so sensitive that 99.9% feedback isn’t good enough, then society has problems. But the nature of feedback is that it must be accepted. The customer is entitled to his opinion. He should not be pressured out of it.

I’d rather see both the initial negative comment, and a statement of what the seller did to make things right – mutually withdrawn is highly suspicious to me now.

I look at number of transactions and an average to below average number of complaints. I pretty much ignore the written feebback.

Big Huge Dave says:

You're an idiot

“Thoughts like yours are exactly why I post negative feedback. I will now continue on with my methods with the knowledge that I am achieving the desired result.”

“And just how is that better than my struggle to alert the masses to the fact that the system is plain broken?”

You’re an idiot. You’re trying to lay out a logical argument that you have to screw people over by always leaving them bad feedback in order to “alert the masses” that their system is broken?!? So, becuase you’re OPINION is that it doesn’t work you’re going to keep screwing people over? Nice. It’s quite obvious that you’re just an asshole, that enjoys being an asshole, and has come up with an excuse for being an asshole.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You're an idiot

“So, because you’re OPINION is that it doesn’t work you’re going to keep screwing people over?”

The reason I think the system is broke is because you THINK I am screwing someone over by having an unfavorable opinion.

Really, I’m NOT screwing anyone. Thats the point. In my feedback, I say positive things (when warranted), but leave a negative score. That’s not screwing anyone any more than the unsuspecting gets screwed by thinking someone has pristine feedback cause they ahve 10,000 positives, and half of them could have just been afraid to tell the truth cause people like you have FRIGHTENED them into thinking they absolutely must leave positive feedback.

One thing is for certain, my feedback is actually read. (noone reads the postive feedback, but they LOVE to read the negative feedback).

So I’m actually helping alot more than you think. I’m really not screwing anyone.

Anonymous Coward says:

The feedback system is too simple. If you are leaving negative feedback it should require filling out a form with a variety of common reasons that can be selected and space to fully explain why you are leaving negative feedback. Wrong product, never received item, never paid, etc… This way people that engage in retaliatory feedback would have to at least justify the negative feedback. Also, this would provide potential buyers with more meaningful information because you could look at summary statistics for the various categories.

Of course, this system like every other else can be abused….

Mike says:


Sellers are permitted to respond to negative feedback. The problem with this is the seller can lie in their response. To the unsuspecting buyer it looks like the seller was right all along. In my case the seller responded that the item I ordered was delivered when in fact it was but to their address in CA. It was returned to them. I’m out 45 dollars and the company does not respond to E-mails or phone calls.

Anonymous Coward says:

My thoughs

I have baught exactly three items. magic cards from 1 person. “took a month to get even though it’s next day shipping” and 2 items from someone who lives abougt 150 miles from here. Got in 2 days.

I leave feedback once I recive the item. Mine is not A+++++++ seller.. Mine is.. Baught Item “date”, recived item “date” All sellers got a good but with remarks of the proper suspect. The guy I baught 2 items from had a 98% feedback and I read all the good and bad feedback before I baught them.. Some of them was just Bogus. Like I got the item in 6 days.. that’s to long “gives negative” or I got item but never responded to my e-mails “gives negative”.. that is bogus..

I buy, I pay and I wait for my items that’s it. If they get here in a reasonable amount of time It’s good feedback.. if not it’s nutral.. if not at all it’s negative

Jennifer Gault says:

eBay's feedback system

There are other sites coming out now that have centralized pay services built-in to them, and by those pay services incorporating escrow, reputations are not as critical. I have never been a fan of subjective feedback systems.

The site I like best that offers classifieds + Payments + Escrow is Still growing though, but they put everything on so stuff sells.

Mike Mixer says:


I have only had one seller who screwed me over.He didn’t like how the auction went so low so he resold my item and a couple others. He couldn’t be a man about it he just put up feedback that said I refused to pay. It is amazing how small the world is though,
he went to school with my sister in law. I just sent a picture of him and his buddies that she had to his house with a note saying i would really like him to
retract his feedback. it didn’t take long. I have run into a few people who tracked down idiots on ebay using background check sites and filed suit. You have to be careful these days, anyone can be found if the searcher is motivated.

JohnB says:

Ebay Can Fix it Easily

I’ve been buying and selling on Ebay since the beginning and I agree that the feedback system is badly broken but can be easily fixed. The biggest problem is the MANY sellers that automatically leave bad feedback for anyone that leaves them bad feedback, no matter how deserved.

SOLUTION: Feedback is not visable to either party until both parties have left feedback. If one party does not leave feedback within a certain time, say 30 days, then feedback will be frozen and the solo comment will be posted.

I would also like to see Ebay offer an option to split a long established account into two: a buying account and a selling account.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have been a member of eBay since only 2003. This past spring I received an email describing scams and identity problems and how to protect yourself from this. One of the first rules was to never use your aol,msn,yahoo screenname as your ebay name. Mine had been just that. After doing an id change, 1 day passed and suddenly my feedback score jumped to negative 1. (I had never made a purchase there-only registered) Because the “alleged transaction” from which the negative feedback was over 2 years old, eBay claimed they had no way whatsoever of removing it. The lady who left it (of course was convinced I’d earned it somehow) but nonetheless I later found, would not have been able to remove it either. After 2 years its there FOREVER, claims eBay.

Stinks huh?

John says:

Americans Unite Boycott Ebay

Everyday Ebay Shuts Down the Businesses of American Family?s for no reason at all.

Businesses that they worked hard to build and now rely on for a living after Ebay lied to them saying how good, safe and secure it is to build a Business on Ebay!!

Single Mom?s with kids to feed, Family Men with bills to pay, Struggling Students, Ebay does not care they have ruined many of our friends, family and people we know for no reason at all many who are to embarrassed to even talk openly about it.

Ebay forgets that they did not build Ebay the American people built it, every one of us by word of mouth, by telling all our friends and family how good Ebay was and how you could find good deals on Ebay and make some decent money, well it’s a few years later due to the outrageous fees compiled with deadbeat bidders, unsold items and the Ebay auction add-ons that Ebay has basically forced sellers to buy in order to sell their items buyers are paying as high as 35% more per item than they normally would on any other auction site, as for security Ebay has none they really on the members that they would ruin at the drop of a hat to police their site, why are we still shopping here???
And now that Ebay is expanding it?s foreign market the American people who made Ebay no longer matter we are a nuisance because we are used to Our Rights as Americans but this should be expected from a company started by a Frenchmen you know they come from that LOSER COUNTRY that spit all over the USA during the gulf war and in our hunt for Osama!!!!

Everyone Spread the Word Just Like You did before show this company that their actions are unacceptable.

Logo available at

Use any competitive Online Auction where you will get better deals and be respected.
Feel Free to post this Message anywhere you can

Big Blue says:

You are the dumbest most hypocritical ‘thing’ i have ever heard of. You say:

“Really, I’m NOT screwing anyone. Thats the point. In my feedback, I say positive things (when warranted), but leave a negative score. That’s not screwing anyone….”

Of course it is screwing people. Not everyone in this world is an un-employable nutcase like you who has time to read through everyones comments all day. Most people, especially with larger sellers, only look at the percentage. Who the hell is going to look through 1000 (or whatever number) to try and find the 1 neg? I can’t wait until you get sued for deffamation and lose everything you own except your shit-stained underpants.

If the feedback system on ebay doesn’t work, then it is because of creeps like you leaving bullshit ratings.

By your methods, everyone is guilty until proven innocent. What would the world be like if everyone thought like you? The answer is that there would be more people in prisons than there are people outside them.

The reason that people have good feedback ratings is because they work hard for them – something you would not know anything about.

The bottom line is, that one day, you will be found out, you will end up in court and hopefully you will have a criminal record (or if you manage to find a likeminded judge, you will deffinantly get a criminal record).

enjoy hell bitch

. says:

RE: John

Do you have any idea about what you are talking about?

The guy who invented ebay sold it long ago. You Americans are the ones who have turned it into what it is now, not the person who started the company.

As for your comment on the French, at least they do not go around shooting down allied aircraft and then try to cover it up like you bastards did when you shot down the poms planes.

Then you Americans go around telling people about weapons of mass destruction and so on in Iraq so you can go and invade it to get some cheap oil to help your country further destroy planet earth.

Congrats on being american you blind idiot.

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