BBC Watchdog delays answering PowerSeller concerns

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Following on from the Watchdog program on 7th November this year the BBC are still being very coy regarding the content of the program. They have yet to come clean on how they purchased only a handful of goods from PowerSellers and yet 80% of them were counterfeit. I’ve bought a fair amount in my time and I certainly haven’t had a problem. Having said that it’s no great secret that eBay isn’t as free from fake goods as it could be. There are buyers out there however more than happy to buy copies, so long as they know up front that’s what they’re getting.

Whilst it’s against the law to sell counterfeits and morally wrong if you do not to state up front so the buyer knows what they’re getting there is a bigger issue. As Dan Wilson pointed out they portrayed the issue to be a PowerSeller problem. The program was not a balanced and fair portrayal of trading on eBay in general, or with PowerSellers in particular.

I wrote to the BBC to complain, this is my first email and the BBC response:

Dear Sirs
Your watchdog programme tonight featured fake items for sale on eBay.

Whilst fakes are touted for sale (just as they are in many venues including high street markets etc), I am very dismayed to see that you specifically reported eBay PowerSellers as the culprits. As a full time eBay PowerSeller who sells legitimate goods on the site portraying PowerSellers as criminals is despicable. Yes there are a few bad apples in the barrel, but seeing as about 70,000 people in the UK make their full time living on eBay your reporting doesn’t give a balanced view.

Professional sellers that are registered as small businesses, VAT registered, follow the Distance Selling Regulations and provide excellent customer service both pre and post sales do no deserve to be categorised with the few sellers who do hawk fake or counterfeit items.

I trust in future your program will seek to redress the balance.

Chris Dawson

Thank you for your email.

We are sorry if you felt Watchdog’s eBay investigation tarred all PowerSellers with the same brush, but in fact the programme made clear that most PowerSellers are honest. The ones selling counterfeits are clearly not the norm, but as there are plenty of them it was perfectly legitimate for the programme to question whether eBay is doing enough to stop them.

We can see no reason why traders selling authentic goods would suffer as a result of Watchdog exposing the rogues and in fact the narrative said that eBay was a good place to find a bargain, especially in the run-up to Christmas. However, when it appears to be so easy for unscrupulous traders to cheat the system it’s important to look at whether the current safeguards are sufficient – and Watchdog’s evidence suggests they are not.

The programme made it very clear that feedback should be carefully examined for any negative comments about authenticity and demonstrated how to do that, so we are confident that legitimate traders with consistently positive feedback have nothing to fear from the story.

Thank you, once more, for taking the time to contact the BBC.
BBC Information

Sadly this is just a boilerplate response sent out to tens if not hundreds of people that took the time to write voicing their concerns. Of course this doesn’t answer the questions as to why they portrayed 80% of purchases at random from PowerSellers to be fakes. Yes we know fakes are an issue on eBay – but the BBC has a duty to report in a balanced matter, after all we trust them don’t we? Time to write again for clarification

Thank you for your response, however I feel it has not addressed some points:-

1) Were you aware that some 70000 sellers on eBay make their living on eBay and are professional sellers that are registered as small businesses, VAT registered, follow the Distance Selling Regulations and provide excellent customer service both pre and post sales. Why did you not emphasise in your Watchdog program that it is a very small percentage that are fraudulent?

2) It seems less than likely that four out of five items for sale on eBay are counterfeit – did your researchers specifically target products that looked questionable? How were the products purchased selected? Suggesting that 80% of items sold by PowerSellers on eBay are counterfeit is giving a very unbalanced impression which is what your program implied. Why was this allowed to be aired?

3) You correctly advised buyers to check feedback and specifically for negative feedback before purchasing, however you gave no indication as to the feedback of the sellers who supplied the goods that you purchased. Did you select sellers with feedback showing they had previously sold fakes and why did you not give the feedback information and whether previous buyers had indicated counterfeit items being sold or not? Your program suggested you were not expecting fakes but you fail to say if the advice you give to keep safe was followed when making your purchases. This in my opinion gives a very unbalanced program and I would like your thoughts on the matter.

4) Finally why did you not invite a PowerSeller to appear on your program to give their views?

I look forward to hearing from you
Chris Dawson

Not too hard a set of questions to answer you’d think, after all someone at Watchdog must know how they selected the products to purchase – they bought them and made the program. It appears though that the BBC is having a difficulty in finding answers, another week has passed and this is the latest from them which arrived today

Dear Mr Dawson

This is an update to let you know that we are dealing with your recent complaint but are waiting to clarify some points with other colleagues in the BBC before we reply more fully to you.

We will of course respond as soon as possible but trust you will understand that the time taken can also depend on the nature and number of the other complaints we are currently investigating. The BBC also issues public responses to issues which prompt large numbers of significant complaints and these can be read on our website at

We would like to reassure you that your complaint has already been logged and circulated in our daily report to BBC managers. We would therefore be grateful if you would not reply to this email and, in the meantime, would like to thank you for contacting the BBC with details of your concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Wheeler
BBC Information

I’ll post an update as soon as they have managed to ” clarify some points with other colleagues” but in the mean time if you missed the program you can watch it here. Decide for yourself if it’s fair and balanced reporting or if Watchdog are guilty of sensationalising the story. Also why is it so hard for them to answer four simple questions?

One Response

  1. dear watchdog. i was so pleased to see you had done a programme on counterfeit goods that ebay are selling. please help me. i bought a computer in nov last year and thought i would do some buying and selling on ebay. which i did. i got good feedback and good customers and was doing ok as a starter. but i didnt have enough stock. so i looked on the wholesale site and saw ralph lauren 100% cashmere jumpers being sold in job lots. and it clearly stated that they could be sold separately on ebay. great i thought must get some. i looked at them being sold on ebay as 100% genuine cashmere and thought they are doin g really well i will get some. i got some delivered and set about putting them in my items for sale. within 5 min. the jumpers were taken off. and i was suspended from ebay . with no guarantee of ever being able to sell again. i was really upset and gobsmacked that these jumpers had been advertised on their site. and the TRUSTED POWERSELLER had been trading for a FEW YEARS. i emailed them and asked why they had taken the jumpers off when i bought them on one of their sites. they told me i was not allowed to sell counterfeit goods on their sites. they were quite adamant and have been really tough with me. but when i look on their wholesale site these jumpers are still being advertised as 100% genuine that you can resell separately on ebay. THIS IS WRONG. how can they be allowed to let powersellers sell counterfeit goods for YEARS and all i did was put a few jumpers on and got thrown off the site. not only that my other items that i had for sale i have lost the custom on. i have spent my last penny setting up my site. and have taken time. three months in fact. all to be taken away. i am really upset and feel helpless. i can honestly say i am really depressed about it. no one seems to be able to help. i honestly would not have tried to sell these jumpers. but they were clearly advertised as 100% genuine that you could resell on ebay. they must know this is going on as these powersellers have been selling for YEARS. i have printed off all those who are still selling and have been for years. it seems there is one rule for them and one rule for us. they clearly state they DO NOT ALLOW IT ON THEIR SITES. but they are every day and not doing a thing about it. the person i bought the jumpers off i can see has been taken off the site so they must be guilty about something or they wouldnt have taken him off. but today on their wholesale site they are still advertising 100% genuine stock. please do another programme as i would GLADLY come on and argue my case. i have worked hard all my life and believe in what is right. i live in morecambe and own my own pub and am well respected in the community. and i feel i have been really unfairly treated. i bet there are thousands of people being put through what i have every day. you must do something about it they cannot be allowed to get away with it. i understand other powersellers are genuine. but they are allowing these people to put counterfeit stock on their sites for years a thing which they are adamant they dont allow but they do. please do something. i have lost time, money, and am feeling really depressed just now. please help people like me. bye for now. looking forward to hearing from you.



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