OFT going after unregistered online traders?

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This morning’s eBid newsletter contains this interesting little tidbit:

We’ve also added the choice of ‘Business’ and ‘Individual’ account types to ‘My Personal Details’ and in the new sign ups form. This is in conjunction with the Office of Fair Trading and allows sellers to state whether they are business traders or simply selling off some personal possessions. Business sellers, if you haven’t yet updated your details, you should do so now. This also allows buyers the ability to distinguish between private sellers and traders.

Does this mean the Office of Fair Trading is going after traders who represent themselves as private sellers online? We’ve heard a rumour from several sources that one of next week’s eBay changes will be that all Powersellers will have to register with the site as business sellers. There will apparently be fee advantages for doing so, but business sellers will also have to acknowledge and uphold their buyers’ rights.

In fact, if you are a trader, then it is illegal in the UK to represent yourself as a private seller: buyers have many more rights when buying online from businesses, so traders who pretend to be just private sellers may be depriving those buyers of their legal rights.

Making it obvious who is a business and who a private seller should be a great step forward in cleaning up the site. We’d also like to see a block on listings with the dreaded phrase “I am not responsible for items lost in the post”: after all, if eBay can block “cash”, swearing and some brand names, why not block this off-putting nonsense which is both illegal and – in the case of those who take PayPal – just not true?

Of course, none of this is much use if buyers don’t know what their rights are. For example, just a couple of weeks ago I had a buyer express complete incredulity that I would replace an item lost in the post: “I didn’t know sellers had to do that!!!” That’s why in February, we’ll be running a series of posts looking at exactly what buyers’ legal rights are when they buy on eBay. In the meantime, we’ll be awaiting the announcements from eBay Towers with bated breath.

8 Responses

  1. There are so many obvious traders on ebay with this “I will not be held responsible” text right there in the listing. Some will have hundreds of templates to change if this becomes a blocked phrase 😈 πŸ˜†
    A look at buyer rights will be very welcome refresher for some and rather a shock to others.

  2. I refuse to buy from anyone who disclaims my rights as a buyer, as do many others. Those with unfair and restrictive terms such as lost in post are losing business hand over fist – and I believe that to be true for both business and private sellers. Even private sellers that take the care to ensure their parcel arrives will get better FVFs and more bidders πŸ˜†

  3. ‘There will apparently be fee advantages for doing so, but business sellers will also have to acknowledge and uphold their buyersÒ€ℒ rights.”

    oh i love this thought. its about time honest sellers are rewarded. really looking forward to the changes next week.

    embracing change!!!!! πŸ˜† 😎 πŸ™‚

  4. There are reasons why some sellers may prefer not to show themselves as either “business” or “private” sellers – people like me – I can’t say I’m a private seller, but if I say I’m a business seller then people will expect me to be around during the day, and as I have an office job and I can’t access my home email while at work, I don’t want people to get the idea that they can get instant answers.

    I do agree though that the “I’m not responsible” stuff should be banned. It’s just wrong.

  5. I think that’s a problem for many traders, not just those that also have a full time office job. Not everyone can be online from 9-5 every day. Thousands of “full time” sole traders are not available all the time to answer emails have the same problem as you…

  6. It’s unfortunate if it causes people difficulties, but the fact is that the law recognises business sellers *or* private sellers, and that’s it: there isn’t an “I’m a trader but it’s not my main source of income” intermediate stage. Not being around 24/7 to answer email is, as Chris says, something all of us have to find a way to deal with: and most buyers will cheerfully wait 12 hours or so for a response to email.

  7. Some of my emails wait longer than a few hours.

    I have had three questions over the weekend and I need to be at work to answer them so they’ll get answered tomorrow.

    I refuse to be a slave to the job and just don’t work weekends.



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