Could eBay’s Seller Quality Crackdown Lead to ‘Black Hat’ Tactics?


Recently eBay introduced an update to their feedback mechanism, Feedback 2.0, that asks buyers to rate the quality of the item description, the seller’s communication, and the shipping speed and cost. Also as part of this effort to ‘clean up eBay’, they’re also punishing sellers who they consider in the lowest 2% of sellers. This punishment either comes as an outright total ban on selling or a reduction in the number of simultaneous auctions or dollar amount they can have up for sale at one time. So, how can this new rule enforcement affect your business and how might a bad competitor exploit it?

What might the quality crackdown mean to you?

Going by reports I’ve seen, this is being doled out mostly to mid-sized sellers who have a few recent negative, or even neutral, feedbacks while some some of the very largest, and therefore most profitable to eBay, sellers who have very poor customer service histories have escaped unscathed, so far anyway. For many it seems that just a handful of customer complaints could get your ability to sell on eBay seriously restricted or taken away. Also, appealing to eBay, including even to a Power Seller account rep, appears to do little good in having the restrictions removed.

In general, we can expect to see this come up with sellers who drop ship and therefore have little control over the buyer experience beyond the sale. It is also likely to be a problem with consignment sellers or with sellers of liquidation or returned items where the product quality may not be as the buyer expected or who may not know their merchandise that well. If this is how your eBay business operates you will need to pay even closer attention to your customer service to avoid these penalties.

However, eBay’s apparently draconian enforcement of this new rule may be used by your competitors to harm your business, particularly if you’re in a competitive area.

Here’s how it could work.

A competing seller starts several new buyer accounts using various proxy methods in order to reduce detection. Sellers who’re already in the black hat arena may already have this setup for shill bidding or other such nefarious activities. They’ll build up a little feedback on these accounts with cheap auctions, perhaps eBooks, but more likely other inexpensive items like used CDs in order to further reduce suspicion. Then, they win one of your auctions or buy-it-nows. After a few days, you don’t get a payment from them and, in turn, they claim to have sent the payment and will soon file a complaint that they never received the product. Not long afterwards you get a bright red negative feedback plus bad marks on the quality ratings. And, as black hatters are fond of saying, they rinse and repeat until your selling account is damaged beyond repair and you’re out of business, at least on eBay.

So what can you do to protect your business?

One semi-effective method is to make your listings “PayPal Account Required”. By requiring buyers to have a valid PayPal account this adds an additional hurdle, and a more trackable one, for them to jump through in order to damage your selling account. I used this technique myself to avoid getting hit by other various scams. Unfortunately, this means that you might lose some potential buyers who don’t have a PayPal account for one reason or another. Also, if the black hat seller is really determined to bring you down, they’ll probably go to this trouble.

Another block you can use is to restrict your listings to a particular country, making sure to block parts of the world where scammers often thrive. While this won’t prevent the determined, it will present another hurdle to jump. Like requiring PayPal, it also can reduce your customer base so be careful about using it.

Another method you can use is to clearly document any non-payer incidents both online and on paper. While the word is that eBay Trust and Safety isn’t accepting this kind of information to appeal a punishment, perhaps if you can show a pattern of activity they will take action and investigate it. Of course, this won’t help you in the short run.

If you primarily sell via auction, you might want to take the time to review bidders. Don’t feel shy about canceling and blocking questionable bidders. Look for ones with a pattern of negatives or ones with a lot of recent feedback building purchases. A sloppy black hat might try to reuse an account where they pulled this kind of thing before. Also, see if anyone else in your niche is suddenly getting questionable negatives, particularly by the same ID’s across several sellers, because that might also indicate black hat activity that you can proactively block.

At best, you can only throw up barriers for them to cross in order to get to you. But, by being proactive in dealing with problem/suspicious buyers and watching for a pattern of suspicious activity you can protect your eBay business as best you can.

This entry was posted on Friday, December 29th, 2017 at 9:11 pm and is filed under Online Auctions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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One Response to “Could eBay’s Seller Quality Crackdown Lead to ‘Black Hat’ Tactics?”

  1. eBay seller Says:

    It seems like the new eBay crackdown on sellers for quality could be used by unscrupulous sellers to attack the competition, right?


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