eBay's Plan To Eliminate Negative Buyer Comments Draws Fire

eBay says sellers will no longer be able to leave negative or neutral feedback about buyers.
Auction site eBay will do away with negative buyer references, along with a host of other changes it says are aimed at improving the customer experience.

John Donahoe, president and CEO-elect of eBay, announced the moves recently during eBay's third-annual eCommerce Forum. The company also will change fees, raise selling standards, and offer incentives and discounts.

"Consumers have more choices than ever, and they expect more when they shop online today. We're serious about making eBay easier and safer to shop," he said. The company said that, beginning later this year, sellers will no longer be able to leave negative or neutral feedback about buyers.

"The eBay Feedback system was originally designed to provide a simple, honest, accurate record of the buyer's and seller's online experience to ensure safe and satisfactory trade," the company explained in a statement on its Web site. "It was driven by two factors: transparency and accountability. Over time, we found that the transparency of the existing Feedback system makes some members reluctant to hold others accountable. For example, buyers fear retaliatory Feedback from sellers if they leave a negative."

eBay said the changes to the feedback system will improve accuracy and accountability.

Critics argue that the move could increase buyer fraud. Opponents have left thousands of comments complaining about the elimination of negative buyer references.

The company said "sellers will be protected from buyers who violate our policies without risking a cut in good buyer activity," and "buyers will be more honest when they leave [seller] Feedback since they will not fear retaliatory negative Feedback."

The online auction site also plans to reduce listing, or "insertion," fees globally but the decreases will range from 25% to 50%, varying by country. EBay said it wants to encourage sellers to list more items and use more pictures and it will eliminate fees in the United States for its "gallery" option. The online auction site will increase sales, or "final value," fees. The shift will lower risks of not selling an item, eBay said.

"Put simply, we will make more of our money when sellers are successful," Donahoe said.

EBay said it will decrease search exposure for the listings of sellers who have high rates of customer dissatisfaction, and it will require a safe payment option, such as PayPal or a major credit card, for sellers who have lower rates of customer satisfaction or who sell in categories that have a high number of buyer complaints. Search exposure will increase for the listings of sellers with the best buyer satisfaction ratings, Donahoe said.

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