The global ban, announced Monday on eBay's Ink blog, settles what has been a difficult issue for the online retailer. International sales and shipments of ivory are prohibited since the material comes from endangered and protected African and Asian elephants. The United States prohibits imports, exports, and sale of products that come from endangered and threatened species.
However, some ivory remains in the United States in the form of heirlooms, antiques, and raw material from old estates. Some state governments have gone beyond the federal laws and instituted their own rules about buying, selling, and owning ivory. EBay banned cross-border ivory sales last year.
"This ban tried to balance the protection of endangered and protected species while also providing a way for sellers to offer legitimate ivory products legally allowed for sale within domestic markets," eBay blogger Richard Brewer-Hay wrote. "However, given the complexities of the global ivory trade, and the distinct and unique characteristics of the eBay Marketplace, the sale of any ivory on our site continued to be a concern within the company and among stakeholders."
During a meeting last week, eBay leaders concluded that they cannot determine whether ivory listed on the site complies with all laws regarding its sale. The policy prohibiting the sale of ivory and ivory products takes effect in December, and enforcement of the policy goes into effect in January.
"So, to protect our buyers and sellers, as well as animals in danger of extinction, eBay has decided to institute a global ban on the sale of all types of ivory," Brewer-Hay said.
There is, however, one exception. eBay will allow the sale of antiques (defined by the company as items made before 1900) that contain small amounts of ivory, as well pianos with ivory keys. Antique jewelry and chess sets made of ivory do not fall under the exemption and will no longer be listed on the site.
Until the ban takes effect, eBay plans to continue cooperating with law enforcement authorities investigating any suspicious sales of ivory products through its site.