eBay Community Court: the end of retaliatory negatives?

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eBay UK will, from early in the new year, be trialling a revolutionary addition to the feedback system. Community Court will allow those who feel they’ve received unfair negative feedback (neutrals and unfair positives may come at a later date) to have their complaint considered by a panel of community members. If enough agree that the feedback is unfair, it will be removed.

I first heard this system mooted at Live in June, and I had my doubts: who was going to ensure a fair, unbiased “trial”? Weren’t they going to undermine the very point of feedback, the ability to give a personal opinion? And wouldn’t this just mean that everyone ended up on 100%, and feedback was therefore meaningless?

But as this is to be implemented, I think it has avoided most of the potential pitfalls. Firstly, the panel will be 100 members strong. Cases will be assigned randomly, so packing the jury with those who are on your side is impossible.

Secondly, 70% of members must be in favour of feedback removal or it will not happen, so only feedback that is pretty obviously unfair will be removed. No one who has themselves transacted with either party will be eligible for the jury in their case.

Thirdly, a level of experience of both “sides” of eBay will be required before you can become a jury member: 50 feedback or more at 99% positive, 6 months membership and at least one positive feedback for each buying and selling will be required.

For a case to be considered, both parties will have to have left feedback: there is no hope that you can get your own neg removed, and then go on to leave a neg for your trading partner. The process will work like this:

  • The complainant files a complaint of unfair feedback, with a statement and, if required, up to three pictures with supporting evidence.
  • The defendent has two weeks to file their own statement, and can also add pictures.
  • If the other party does not respond at this point, the case is automatically found in favour of the complainant.
  • The complainant can then make a response to the defendent’s statement.
  • The jury consider. They have full information about the transaction, including access to the auction listing itself. They can vote yes, no or don’t know to removal, and 70% or more must agree to removal, or the feedback will stand.

I think this high bar to feedback removal will be the key to Community Court’s success. If the feedback is genuinely unfair, the vote will be an easy one. In those more tricky situations where either party could be correct, the vote is likely to be split, and the feedback is likely to stand.

At the moment, this is a UK trial and limited to UK buyers and sellers only. Transactions will be eligible which have taken place after the launch: those which took place beforehand will not be eligible, even if the feedback was left later. If both parties have left negs, and both wish to file to have them removed, two separate cases will need to be filed: in other words, the jury is deciding not who is right or wrong in any situation, but simply whether each feedback is unfair or not.

Like any change to feedback, there is going to be a lot of uproar about this. Already on the community boards, buyers are saying this will work in favour of (power)sellers, and sellers are seeing it as another blow to them. I think like most feedback changes, it won’t affect the majority of good sellers and decent buyers, but if it makes those bringing their money to the site feel a little more confident about doing so, then I’m all in favour.

What’s going to be interesting is to see how the community will consider retaliatory negs now. I think and hope that the lying, screaming return neg will be a thing of the past, but how about a more considered negative: “buyer negged me without telling me there’s a problem”? I wouldn’t like to predict what will happen to that sort of feedback, but it’s going to be very interesting finding out.

11 Responses

  1. good chance it will get bogged down with legalities and red tape and ebay will dump their idea,
    these days I take negatives on the chin and get on with things
    the odd one makes no differance, plus the effort that goes into negative removal is just not profitable

  2. At the outset it seems a very good idea. If implemented well it has the potential to take the ‘heat’ out of the feedback exchange on a troubled transaction and to give help to those troubled by a failing transaction.

    It would be nice to know that there would be a fairly even balance of buyers/sellers in the 100 jury members selected for each ‘appeal’.

    Might there be some Data Protection Act issues re the release of personal data to third parties (jury members in an uncontested case) without the defendant members approval. Suspect that eBays member contract already has this covered, but don’t know for sure.

    A bigger thought … Is there a possibility that it could it lead to other ‘Jury’ systems. e.g. removal of policy infringing items etc…. This could cut eBay support costs in a heartbeat, ….if it worked….


  3. Northumbrian could be right – it could be bogged down with legalities, but fundamentally I think it’s an excellent idea! I know they’ve been working on this since early 2007 at least.

  4. Probably the biggest challenge with this is getting a significant amount of buyers actually interested in being jurors.

    Whenever you get a large group of “eBayers” together you inevitably end up with a small percentage that do more buying than selling.

    This is evident on any discussion board, blog, etc where you ask for only the opinion of buyers, you get quite a few opinions of sellers.

  5. Pathetic, ebay is getting to be so dumb.
    Court on ebay give me a break.
    Why don’t they just keep on giving more and more bloody power to the buyer and keep ignoring the sellers concerns.
    How about all these idiot buyers who don’t pay or create fake names and ebay does nothing about it?
    This is just as bad as ebay taking away the sellers ability to have a neg removed for fake contact information.
    Ebay is all about the buyers and craps all over the sellers who have made ebay what it is now.

  6. In the seven years I’ve been on eBay this has to be the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a good few in my time. I’m not sure whether I should be laughing, crying or just angry that such a daft idea ever got off the ground. It sounds like one of those ideas discussed over a pint or twenty after work on a Friday night, but come Monday morning you realise it really wasn’t such a good idea after all and it’s probably best left buried in the drunken haze of Friday night.

    Feedback is exactly that, two people’s opinions of a transaction nothing more. By removing the feedback does it actually change anything? Does it fix a broken item, does it make good a miss-described item, does it fix a payment gone bad, etc. no of course it doesn’t. Perhaps eBay should look into policing the site which carries heaven knows how many dodgy listings, fake items, obvious bad sellers, etc. on a daily basis rather than papering over the cracks. It fixes nothing and is just paying lip service to the real problems the site suffers.

  7. I suspect the removals will be mostly the auto neg retaliations from feedback hostage sellers. I wish they just go to double blind and leave it at that.


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