eBay to ban email communications from August

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At the Developer’s Conference, held just prior to eBay Live!, Adam Trachtenberg announced that emails between sellers and buyers prior to a sale would be anonymised. The reveal that this change will roll out across eBay sites in late August.

This means that buyers and sellers will no longer have access to each other’s email addresses prior to a sale. Only once a bidder has won an item will the buyer and seller be able to email each other off eBay.

How this will work is that when an email is sent by a buyer using Ask Seller a Question it will still be delivered to your email inbox, as well as to your My Messages on eBay. When replying to the email it will no longer send it directly to the buyers inbox and you won’t be able to see their private email address. Each message will have a unique identifier and the reply will be sent to them via eBay, using the identifier to redirect the message to their real email address as well as placing a copy in their My Messages.

This is great news as it also means buyers will no longer have the choice of hiding their email address which currently results in the dreaded [email protected] reply to address. For sellers who routinely use email for replies, rather than clicking through to My Messages, it’s all too easy to hit reply without noticing the email is not the user’s address. Replying to the email gives no warning that the buyer will never actually receive it.

Once anonymised emails are introduced sellers will be able to reply from their normal email program, safe in the knowledge that their answer will end up in the buyer’s My Messages on eBay as well as in their inbox.

Once all eBay communications are via My Messages it’s been announced that . Where this leaves sellers in the UK who make use of , which automatically inserts their email address into listings, is unclear – currently the UK specifically allows for the inclusion of email addresses in listings.

Overall I’ll welcome this change, buyers and sellers will have more reliable communications ensuring all emails are routed through My Messages. Also hopefully my personal quota of eBay spam mail will decline as fraudsters will find it increasingly difficult to obtain email addresses.

45 Responses

  1. Wow. Just when I thought eBay was starting to learn, it’s becoming clear that it was more likely the affects of the summer heat after all. This is yet another example of eBay in panic mode. But instead of calming down and bringing any logic to the conference table, they continue to dig a giant hole for themselves. It’s a really sad thing to watch. It would behoove the powers that be to study a little history – their own and many lessons from history in general. Until eBay grows past panic mode, they cannot improve their downward spiral.

  2. buyers and sellers will have more reliable communications ensuring all emails are routed through My Messages

    eBay email and their My Messages system reliable, you’re kidding right. 😆

  3. Chris,

    Great explanation and I agree, if this is the solution as you have explained it, I think it should be workable.

    Any updates on removal of business telephone numbers from listings on your end?

    I think this possible change will damage eBays allure for small B&M businesses. Physical shops want to have exposure of their brand and location anywhere they spend money to advertise products.

    Removal of email, in exchange for an email system which works and is more secure is not as big a deal as removal of telephone contact capability for customer service.

    Let me know if you hear any updates…


    Scott Pooler

  4. Scott, re. the phone number issue, there will have to be different arrangements in the US and Europe because European consumer law requires us to have a phone number available to buyers. In France, your phone number is on your listings: no arguments, no opt-out, eBay just put it there for you. In the UK, you have to show it on your listings, your About Me page or on another page in your shop. Many UK sellers complained vociferously about this at the time it was introduced, so it’s been rather odd to watch so many US sellers argue in favour of keeping phone numbers!

  5. “Overall I’ll welcome this change, buyers and sellers will have more reliable communications ensuring all emails are routed through My Messages”

    I don’t think I would put eBay, My Messages and Reliable in the same sentence, especially on a Friday,, fingers crossed that it works OK.

    As for having to ammend ANOTHER 300 listings well thats just become part of monthly eBay life.

  6. as long as they all come in to the same inbox I dont care,
    at the moment
    we get some ask seller a question etc to my messages and others to our email depending on the question

  7. I would quite like to see a proper profile page for business sellers showing all the proper info, with any memberships of Trade organisations, Chamber of Commerce or whatever, with a click through from the right hand details box, or perhaps from the feedback page.

    Make it a lot easier to update info rather than as Whirly says messing about with multiple listings, and I would think a lot of buyers would like being able to check on the sellers credentials.

  8. I strongly recommend that any information that isn’t the basic product details (and that includes email, Ts&Cs, phone, returns, postage, insurance.. pretty much everything) should not be included in the product description.

    This information should either be in the eBay specified box, eg postage in the postage section, returns info in the returns policy, or on a custom shop page.

    That way anything which needs editing due to a future policy change can be done without having to edit listing descriptions and can normally be accomplished by a bulk edit.

  9. This is great news for me, I’ll be able to use a proper fully featured email client again, instead of being forced to use that horrible web interface to ebay messages.

  10. crikey
    trade associations, chamber of commerce, boy scout ,girl guide badges,
    beanie baby club stars, milk monitor, school prefect, hockey team captain,holy communion date,

    for gawds sake is powerseller, DSRs and feedback not Enough

  11. a Friend of mine works for a very well known politician and is a member of various groups,and commitees,
    he lists them all in detail on his email ,
    by the time you have read them, your bored rigid ,
    you dont really read the actual message properly

  12. On the face of it, this kills services such as Vendio’s Buyer Appreciation, and my own similar service at AuctionThanx.com !

    It appears that the only direct email communication can only ever be between seller and winning bidder.

    Putting this together with other pending changes such as payment options, responsibilty for item specifics entered, revised links policy, smaller item description area and restricted HTML and code etc for seller generated content, display of sponsored links/adverts etc – your buyers will no longer be your buyers – they will be eBays buyers.

  13. too right eddie
    though I would think ebay consider it a spin off ,not a right, , in fact I rather think thats why their doing it

  14. I can see why eBay are doing this.

    The only thing is we often need to send a couple of messages to answer the question, and email can be useful.

    We get a question from a buyer, like will this cable be suitable for my XXXX, but it can take time to research this so we would send an email to the buyer saying that we are looking into this and will mail you back. At this point someone in our shop as soon as he has time will look into it and mail the buyer back latter in the day.

    If we only use my messages and we are only limited to one response to a question this is not going to be as professional and it may make our communications look a little tardy.

  15. #19 probably correct Norf, since being forced to offer paypal I will be back in the Platinum program again at the next review, bigger discounts but more fees. Can’t blame them for it really.

  16. #20 Good point. Quite often we get asked by customers via my messages for more pictures of a particular item, we have to ask for there email address in order to send the pictures.

  17. #22 eBay would argue that you should add those pictures to your auction or that they should have been there in the first place.

    I can see their point – I can’t imagine Argos emailing more specific pictures of their products on request 😯

    However I can also see the point that eBay buyers are on the whole a little more demanding than Argos customers.

  18. #23 What I consider to be enough information is not always what buyers consider enough, especially if they are spending £800.

    We offer a much better service than argos and I am more than happy to help a customer in anyway I can to acheive a sale and if that means more pictures thats fine with me.

  19. ebay message system has a flaw: it has a daily limit of number of message that you can reply to your trading members – depending on your feedback score, date of registration, etc.

    If they are not going to remove this restriction permanently, I really wonder how their system would work without hassles!

    Just like the other says, ebay…. please fix your system before introducing another breakable!

  20. Nothing about Ebay surprises me. I have had an account, at 100 % positive, suspended for no reason. Received a plethora of automated repsonses to my queries as to why they would do this and they continue libelling me, saying it’s a ‘genuine suspension’ for ‘feedback manipulation’ so anyway, I’ve nothing to lose, they have genuinely been ridiculous so I’m suing them. Much as I dont need the hassle, I hate false allegations and injustice, these guys at Ebay are wway too bully-like for me. I’m glad they got sued in France too. I just wish there is an alternative, can’t believe someone hasn’t come up with a good alternative. Amazon is OK but it needs a good few so the monopoly of Ebay will be stopped once and for all, they are demonic at the moment, and reading forums, I can see I’m not alone in suffering abuse and bad experiences from Ebay.

  21. I’m constantly reminded of the star wars line here – “the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers”.

    Ebay appear to squeeze and squeeze and squeeze, the fun has gone, the pride in my powerseller ids and my feedback has gone, I feel as tho the profits will soon follow.

    Feedback removal was good news, but we still can’t leave a hopeless pointless timewasting buyer a neg.

    I originally saw ebay as a partner and a friend, helping me grow my business and my brand. This was perhaps two-three years ago…(been on ebay full time around 6 years now) since then its been heading downhill at pace.

    One of my dolphins died in their nets by the way.. managed to save another. Have been working hard on our own sites, and for the last 3 months my ebay sales have fell – small whoop for joy, and I never thought I’d say that. Our web sites sales have more than doubled, and we have full control over them, I can email and talk to MY customers whenever I want.

    Am giving the 5p listing day a real shot tho… 25000 items+ listed across my ids at the mo…

    I agree with #22, I often need to point customers to a site so they can figure out exactly which part they need, all the fitment information simply can’t be squeezed into an ad, and sometimes 10 pictures isn’t enough!

    The customers sometimes also want a deal – what if I buy ten? what if I buy X Y Z? ebay simply isn’t flexible enough… the email address gives you the flexibility to help customers, who then still look at ebay as a good place to buy, and deal on…

    #23 our ebay customers are hugely demanding – bought on saturday – wanted next day delivery on sunday!! and then complained today (monday!)
    crazy stuff.

  22. “The customers sometimes also want a deal – what if I buy ten? what if I buy X Y Z? ebay simply isn’t flexible enough… the email address gives you the flexibility to help customers, who then still look at ebay as a good place to buy, and deal on”

    Sounds as though the only people to lose out on this are those that deal out of Ebay, you cant really fault Ebay at taking this action

  23. It’s not a good change. I work in an office during the day, check my messages (not allowed to log onto my home email via webmail) and sometimes see questions that I can’t answer until I get home (eg what’s the catalogue number of the CD or where was it made) and I like to send a “I’ve seen your question and will answer this evening” type reply which I can’t do if I’m limited to only replying once.

    And I do get asked for extra pictures – sometimes stuff I couldn’t possibly anticipate and wouldn’t put in the original lising – for example for my gemstone earrings I use a generic pic with the disclaimer that the earrings are natural gemstones and the colours and patterns may vary slightly. A lady asked me if I could make sure that the earrings “matched” (which I try my best to do anyway) and she wanted “stripey rather than blotchy” tigers eye. So I made up a pair of earrings to her requirements and emailed her the pic of the exact pair she would get – and she bought them. (and no, Argos wouldn’t offer a service like that – especially for a £3.50 item!)

    Other people want pics of the CD label, or want different earwires on the earrings and want a pic of it – how can I offer that kind of service now? Ebay should allow more than one response to a message and allow a picture to be attached or our businesses will once again suffer.

  24. I have no problem with this system, other than 1 reply per email, that is a major problem.

    I have just been in negotiation with a buyer for 11 items.

    This involved countless emails backwards and forwards.

    A cause for Tamebay to champion Sue, Chris?

    More than one answer per ASQ would be advisable.

    Otherwise people will just put their email in the answer anyway and ask the buyer to contact them with that.

    So a sensible open communication system would be good.

    One answer per question is a very poor system.


  25. In addition to @30 …Part of that negotiation was explaining the use of the Best Offer button (which we have to do quite a lot).


  26. “This involved countless emails backwards and forwards.” Every time you receive a reply you can reply to it again 😀

    (Also have you tried answering the same question twice lately? I seem to be able to reply more than once when I’ve tried to)

  27. #32

    It is a wonderful innovation 🙂


    I sometimes get my answer wrong Chris, questions are not always straight forward.

    I would think that a 3 strikes policy woud cover it, then the system would be VERY good…

    I humbly ask you to champion this “improvement” if it has not already been adopted by Ebay 🙂


  28. I am still emailing this customer now by the way…

    They have forgot which items they were interested in and I am not sure if they have found my counter offers…

    Communication is key, safe communication of course, but it needs to be safe OPEN communication not restricted.

    It is similar to the Best Offer situation, when Ebay UK implemented one offer and you are out, it didn’t work as well as the USA version (as regular readers here will remember, it was through this site that this change was championed).

    Restrictive communication and safe communication are very different.

    It would be nice if Ebay took the suggestion before the implementation though, many of their errors and subsequent changes in the past have been reactive instead of proactive….


  29. #34 It’s the only fun I can offer buyers these days if that makes sense, auctions in my cats. are dead ducks, I’ll leave those to the dropshipping/not in stock on a slow boat from china dipsticks! ,, who spend most of there life wondering which employee’s account to use next after another SNP suspension.

    By offering “best offer” I am putting a bit of fun/negotiation into the transaction.

    If my counter offer is declined I often get a email asking “how much do you want etc” this can lead to a lengthy set of emails before a deal is struck.

  30. In Blackthorne you can set counter offers as a percentage apparently, althought not sure if it works on UK listings.

    North would know, he was championing Blackthorne a while back.

    Looks very complicated though…

    Sorry for going OT.

    (Sue, do you remember how we both wanted an excel sheet that you could put certain elements of the description in and then produce a CSV? Well we have one… 🙂 )

  31. we dont do best offers, though blackthorne does have the facility, to set autodecline by percentage
    I am a tad annoyed with blackthorne at the moment as they still have not updated to include the ISV option, they are very very much US centered,

  32. I really find this move interesting. Maybe it is to circumvent the fact that many eBay.com members post outside links to stand alone stores everywhere. It’s just that eBay is probably at a point where they believe more government is necessary.

    Look at the lawsuit regarding “fake” products. They have to do something to keep the monkeys in line.

    I can foresee my description pages becoming very long now. We used to get questions asked all the time regarding different sizes, patterns, etc. Now we will have to create the listing, as if we were selling it to a 4 year old.

    I guess simplicity isn’t something eBay is interested in. It’s more about control, and projections that they are more concerned about.

    Oh Well.

  33. This will be a big backward step for us.

    We use the Live Person application to handle all of our eBay emails. We reply directly through this system and copy / paste all replies into the eBay system to ensure that the customer gets it.

    The benefits for us and our customers are that a unique support ticket number is generated so that all related emails & replies are linked and shown together on one page.

    This speeds up our response times and is one of the reasons we have a 4.9 DSR score for communication.

    Around 90% of the emails that we get from eBay customers are answered with one of the canned answers that we have set up. Mostly because the customer does not read the information on the listing.

    If we have to revert to the eBay email system alone it will have a very negative impact on our response times and my stress levels.

  34. #28 yes. we are absolutely doing everything we can to trade off ebay. That is my number one business priority.

    At the moment I cannot jump ship (5 staff, mortgages, rent, rates, vat, Income tax etc etc) but the plan is to slow down ebay sales and concentrate elsewhere. The 5p listing days are the only days we advertise everything we have on ebay.

    I check tamebay several times a day in the forlorn hope that something will make me want to sell more through ebay – but nothing comes.

    Ps. Please keep up the good work Sue and Chris.

  35. #33 Chris I just got a question tonight, answered it, then went to reply again to add something to my answer and it won’t let me. I just get a message saying that I have already answered. Luckily I can answer by email – and as it happens the customer has already bought the item – on ebid! (Even though the question was asked on ebay).

  36. It seems no-one has spotted/mentioned this from the Business Board

    [email protected] View Listings | Report 15-07-08 15:46 BST 19 of 21
    A couple of clarifications:

    1. Business sellers will continue to be able to have email addresses in listings.
    2. My Messages does not change as part of this initiative. What we will be anonymising and addressing are emails sent directly to your email inbox.

    More details will follow as we announce more details to the initiative. I hope this helps to clear up some of your concerns.


  37. The biggest problem with the email system is that I get repeated requestes every day for special orders. I set these up on ebay and run them as a regular ebay order. However it requires me to converse with the buyer multiple times, and send photos and links and sizes of products. The ebay email system does not allow characters such as inches or feet, I cannot insert links or photos and I can only reply once. So I guess the newest change to our internal procedures will have to be to reply with our phone number and have them call in their special order. I can then set the order up on my own website and bypass ebay. Funny – I never had a need for my own website until ebay got so penny pinching and doctorial on how I should run my business.

    Additionally, I keep every single email from my customers and use them as a history. Is eBay going to change how much and how long you can keep emails? Who are they to tell me when an email is no longer important?????

  38. Back when I started on ebay ten years ago, they had a great philoshilpy “that are people are good” and “once a relationship is made” the seller may do business privately with the buyer…… information flowed freely between all users bidders and buyers….and ebay eliminated the middle man between buyer and seller. Yay! Now ebay is the middle man, the fact that all bidding ids and emails are controlled and sent through ebay with a disclaimer, this person is dishonest, if they are not making ebay any money.etc.. is insulting. I am a seller and recently have resurfaced to notice that even if a bidder wins, i still cannot see there email address, why do I care? because I might want to contact them one day, and if i am not selling on ebay…I cannot…I guess I still have their shipping address..I can send them a note: The item you were looking for is available please email me at:


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