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:
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.
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.
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
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 www.bbc.co.uk/complaints.
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.
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?