Business seller registration : some thoughts on enforcement

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“Why do ebay search results bring up more & more listings obviously business masquerading as private sellers?” It’s been one of the most popular questions on our a Skribit board, and it’s also something I’ve been wondering about myself.

Back in to force sellers who are operating businesses on the site to register as such. It’s important to remember than this isn’t just : it’s the law, and anyone who is running a business but representing themself as a private seller is breaking that law.

And there are plenty of sellers on eBay UK who look like they’re breaking that law. Whether they believe that calling themselves private sellers will stop the taxman from noticing them, or whether they want to deny their buyers the legal rights they have when buying from a business, I wouldn’t like to speculate, but almost everyday, I get an email from someone saying “my competitor so-and-so is still registered as private, what can I do about it?” So I asked eBay to let us know exactly what they’re doing to enforce this rule. Here’s what they told me:

“Generally speaking, we lack the capability to investigate sellers outside eBay to identify if they are businesses or not. We are, however, reviewing member reports of sellers who should have registered as businesses but haven’t.

We have a GMV threshold in place above which sellers need to have a business account, and we’ve set it at a level that sellers could reasonably only achieve if they were a business. Below that, sellers have a legal obligation to self-declare if they are a business, but as mentioned above, we’re largely reliant on member reports of this – and on there being enough prima facie evidence available in the report or in the listings that the seller is a business seller. This applies to businesses trading on eBay across multiple accounts as much as to single accounts, although the former is of course harder to spot.

We will enforce reports of business sellers who are displaying only partial addresses, whether this is outright omission or selective concealment of address information in out-of-the-way places.

Sellers are usually warned for first-time infringements of our policies, and that’s the case here too. We remind them of their legal obligations when we warn them. Repeat offenders will face restrictions up to permanent suspension.”

Obviously the GMV level for compulsory business accounts isn’t being revealed, or illegal sellers would be certain to trade just below it to avoid notice. Otherwise, the message is clear: if you spot someone trading as a private seller when they should be business-registered, report them. And keep reporting them until they register correctly, or quit selling. If they choose to break the law, it’s up to all of us to stop them.

32 Responses

  1. Interesting – this is something I’ve been wondering about too.

    Whilst I appreciate that below a certain level ebay is reliant on member reports, it’s a shame that a single report doesn’t seem to be sufficient, where the seller is quite clearly a business, or where no address is displayed.

  2. A better question would be why are Ebay doing this now?

    It has been the law since 2000.

    Makes you wonder who “persuaded” them.

  3. Quick search of a top brand cosmetic.
    579 results, 336 of those from private sellers. That’s a LOT of reporting!
    Who has time for that? I am rather disappointed in ebay’s response concerning the fact that it’s on a reporting basis and not something ebay is actively looking for. Sellers ARE braking the law, but ebay would rather get rid of the diamond class sellers who had an attack of the numptie buyers than take REAL action.

    Thank-you Sue for taking the question seriously and putting it forward to ebay, I thought it was just me with a bee in my bonnet over it.

  4. Perhaps it’s something tyo do with the ‘new’ description/retail laws that just came into being.

    Ebay will pass the responsibility onto sellers of course…..Nothing new there, then!!!!!!!!

  5. @TC that is a tricky category, my wife sells unwanted cosmetics all the time on her private account. Things like clinique bonus time stuff, free stuff with magazine subscriptions, unwanted birthday/Christmas etc gifts, so a simple search of a well known brand is not selective enough to weasel out the private/traders. Maybe there would be a good search string that would be more selective?

    I imagine that if my wife sells her spare cosmetics on ebay then a lot of others will too. So it may be that most of the 336 actually are private.

    Just my thoughts I might be totally off the mark.

  6. @Store Your Stuff
    Not talking about Clinique, but a brand that do not do sample sizes, free gift items or any kind of GWP.
    Yes, some will be clutter clearing, but 13 private sellers (responsible for a large portion of the listings detailed above) have ebay shops each with at least 25 listings (some have hundreds of items), feedback levels per month of bronze powersellers or higher and many multiple items, items from other brands and other types of stuff such as jewellery, watches, clothing and accessories. At least 2 have a powerseller logo next to their feedback scores.
    If these 13 sellers are not businesses then I don’t know what they are.

  7. There is a very simple solution for the problem: ebay need to charge higher fees to private sellers and lower fees to business sellers.

    They want to have private sellers out anyway so there would be no harm to raise the fees for the private ones and leave them unchanged for the business ones.

  8. Betty, they already are doing exactly that: private sellers are not eligible for any of the FVF discounts introduced earlier this year.

  9. TC – you said: “If these 13 sellers are not businesses then I don’t know what they are.”

    I said, they are “Scotch Mist…”

    meaning they are probably a figment of our imagination…

    but my sense of humour can verge on the strange most of the time so I would ignore anything I say that doesn’t make sense on first reading! 😀

  10. oh, there are no smileys here anymore so I can’t put one with a finger gyrating a-la-cucoo fashion, lol.

    Definately not a figment of the imagination, but ebay probably won’t be able to see them. A bit like mist then …..

    (gives up)

  11. “And keep reporting them until they register correctly”

    Why should the “community” identify and report them?

    Is it not Ebays job to police their site Chris?

    Especially as they are now no longer a community…

    When it stops caring about the small seller, it becomes a mega-corp with the expected amount of compassion it is currently showing.

    Ebay is now one big corporate monster, with many users.

    It is as much a community as Microsoft is, is it not?

    So I ask the question, why should I take time from my business to police Ebays site for them?

    It is not as if they could not afford to do it themselves, is it?

    Mark 🙂

  12. (sticks tongue out at Whirly) Ha! Do I see a Pot calling a Kettle Black then??

    @TC . Whirly finger smiley thingey… Oh… you’ve met me then?

    I looked Scotch Mist up on Wiki to double check the meaning – the Scots originally used it to describe pouring rain as Scotch Mist (i.e. a tad of understatement) I suppose I don’t mean a figment of imagination really, more something that is pretending to be something else… if you see what I mean.

    I shall now shut up and slink away…

    is not a figment of my imagination ,I wake up to it most mornings and see it most evenings

    its a glorious haze on the banks of the loch ,or on the tree tops in the Glen,

  14. Ah but you aren’t some soft pappy southerner, are you North?

    “scotch mist (Grose 1811 Dictionary)
    scotch mist

    A sober soaking rain; a Scotch mist will wet an Englishman to the skin.”


  15. @TC #7 hmm see your point, but in that case report the 13 sellers that you mention, it won’t be too time consuming. But would be worth it IMHO.

    @Mark, the reason we should do eBays job for them, is because it actually helps us the most. If you erode your competitors “illegal” trading advantage then surely it will benefit our own business? For sure you don’t HAVE to, but if you don’t then your competitors will retain the edge over you. I think it’s just a business as usual process, like monitoring what your sellers are up to in case they do something better than you.

  16. [seller ID removed by moderator] on ebay is clearly not a registered seller, How do I report him?

    Is there a link on

    He sells AutoCAD Architect’s Residential UK Details-Original CDs

  17. The reason for reporting is quite simple. You guys all buy on eBay – if you make a purchase from an obviously business seller who then deny you your consumer rights report em.

    I know I would, why should a seller get away with it if they’ve cost me money?

    As a seller if a competitor is competing unfairly with me (like I have time to check :p ) again why wouldn’t I report them?

  18. If I honestly throught for one minute that ebay would take reports seriously, then reporting would happen more often. As it stands there is nothing to gain and my prescious time to waste.
    I have to think seriously about every minute of my working day and spend it productively. Unfortunately ebay does not represent productivity on any level at the moment. It’s a drain financially, emotionally and time-wise.

    Sounds like I have given up doesn’t it?
    Well not yet, but it’s fast approaching.

  19. How do you report?

    It would make reporting easier if they added the option to the drop down menu’s on the report this listing link

  20. Keith, see link in #21, or report to PS Support (via the PS portal or forum) if you have access to them. But you’re completely right about the “report this item” links.

  21. seems these days ebay can detect the last time I farted, so why cant they do their own dirty work

  22. Do I not pay Ebay to police their own website Chris?

    It is there responsibility to keep their site clean, not mine.

    My responsibility is to service my customers to the highest standards possible.

    I have way too much to do, just make a living.

    I am not being negative, I just do not see why I should do what Ebay should be doing.

    They do not pay me, Ebay is not a community any more, it is a megacorp.

    They should invest some of their profits in keeping their own site clean it seems, something other than a computerised 1 neg and your banned system maybe?

    Mark 🙂

  23. It seems that the number of sellers being reported for all sorts of violations is going up, actually. If I was a betting man, I’d say that it was due to seller’s listing positions being messed around in best match. Seems that sellers are trying anything possible to knock off the competition and get their products back in top spots…

  24. @Mark Classic – Really, though, without a community based policing policy, think of the amount of resources it would take for eBay to do all of the “cleaning”. They would never be able to keep up. It’s just not feasible. Community policing is really their best bet. There is also the inherint incentive to whistle blow anonymously to tople a competitor.

    EBay sees it as: your sales, customers, and profits can increase by tattling on competitors and toppling the cheaters.

  25. Well, I did some reporting of sellers not listings and after 7 days I received a response:


    Thank you for contacting us regarding these eBay members, my name is Gerard and I apologise for the delay in responding.

    I have read your email and I would like to thank you for taking the time to let us know about the members in question . We take reports of members who break our rules very seriously.

    Let me reassure you that it’s our top priority to ensure eBay remains a safe and reputable place to shop. We’ll investigate your report and take any appropriate action in accordance with our site policies.

    As it’s important that eBay maintains member privacy, we won’t be able to share details of any action we take on the other member’s account.
    This eBay principle protects the privacy of all our members.

    In future, to help us investigate more quickly, please report questionable listings via our online form. You can use the “Report this item” link at the bottom of the item page, or else click on “Contact Us”
    from most help pages and then select the reason for your report.

    Thank you again for bringing this matter to our attention and for helping us to keep eBay a safe and reputable place to buy and sell.

    Kind regards,

    Gerard Cooney
    eBay PowerSeller Team

    So basically, each listing needs reporting rather than seller.
    I don’t have time for that, so I guess these peeps are just left to trade how they want and not within the law.
    Thanks for your support ebay (are you picking up on the sarcasm ebay emplyees, it’s being laid on rather thickly)

  26. Yes, I’ve come across that problem too and I refuse to sit around and report listings in groups of ten when there are thousands that need to be reported. It’s not as if we ever get any thanks. I used to report those false car auctions that are big money scams, but after having a slap for telling people how to spot them on the PS forum I stopped. I could easily spot half a dozen in a page if I set the search results just-so.



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