eBay begin to enforce paperless payments policy

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eBay.com have begun blocking listings which offer to accept paper payments. The new was introduced on 20th October 2008, but sellers were given a grace period up to 15th January 2009 to update their listings.

eBay say they’ve started blocking “based on descriptions where sellers are most likely to still have violating text, and where we are confident our filters have high accuracy”. In other words if your listing still offers to accept checks (cheques for our UK readers 😉 ) or money orders you won’t be able to list them.

eBay will scan sellers additional checkout instructions (additional payment instructions in the UK) to start with as that’s the most likely place sellers will mention payment methods. They’ll then step up their filters to scan listing descriptions as well when determining which listings to block.

Sellers should be reassured that eBay’s filters are intelligent enough to differentiate between “check out my Store” and “personal check”, although I’d probably recommend you don’t include text like “We don’t accept personal checks” as that might be filtered incorrectly.

eBay advise all sellers who list on eBay.com to update their listings to remove mentions of banned payment methods as quickly as possible, but in particular to update checkout instructions immediately to ensure your listings don’t fail.

Most most third party tools will display an error to the seller if eBay block a listing based on this policy. In the Sell Your Item form a clear message will be displayed if the listing is filtered based on a banned payment method.

If listings are reported, even if eBay’s own filters didn’t block them, then they’ll be taken down by customer services on a case by case basis.

22 Responses

  1. And if you list on .co.uk and PAY for International Vis., and quite reasonably take GBP cheques? Does your International Vis. get blocked?

    And can .com users access International Shop items that take cheques?

    Asked about this around 2 months ago on UK PS board. It was ‘taken away’ by Pink James but nothing further was heard.

  2. John, we still haven’t had a straight answer about that one.

    FWIW I have a sneaking suspicion that though eBay.com *might* filter for “checks”, they probably won’t filter for “cheques”, so you might just get away with it. But that’s a big assumption and even if I’m right, they’ll get wise eventually.

    So for now, I think trial and error is the only way to go, and if we ever get an answer out of eBay, it’ll certainly be posted ASAP.

  3. Trouble is that I have a lot of UK customers who pay by cheque.

    They need to know who to make the cheque payable to and where to send it!

    I do state that cheques must be in GBP and drawn on a UK bank.

    Have only ever had 1 dollar cheque in error.

  4. That’s what automated end of item emails are for. By giving them the information at the time they need it they haven’t got to go looking.

    Personally I’m a great believer that “Item Description” means “Item Description” and nothing else. No T’s and C’s, no payment terms, not shipping information, no nothing that doesn’t relate directly to the product concerned.

    There’s enough other boxes on eBay (especially if you make use of the additional payment info, returns info and business seller info sections) for required content. Plus everyone knows that buyers never read listings anyway (generalisation or truth?) – the more spurious non-descriptive information that’s in the description the faster they’ll scroll past and ignore it.

  5. Sorry Chris but customers who may want to pay by cheque need the info prior to purchase. Can’t handle ASQ’s on this (and putting it in the FAQ’s probably breaches .com policy – if it is to be applied).

    It’s not in the main description anyway but it is in the tick boxes (ok hidden from .com) and the GBP UK Bank bit etc. is in the Sellers Payment Instructions. Again if the .com policy is to be applied then it would be in breach.

    Also remember that customers anyplace on earth could be buying through .com.

  6. So does eBay run some filter on these listings looking for the word “check” as a noun? Interpreting meaning in text is not an easy problem in computer science. Try reading a Babelfish translation. In the past I’ve sold used items (I don’t anymore) and might have said something like, “I ran a check on the device”. Very slippery slope but I’m glad this payment method is finally gone.

  7. What about the seller of tartan clothing? They could be using the word ‘check’ as a noun, with a completely different meaning? Are we going to have another word like ‘ivory’ that can’t be used, without perfectly acceptable items being removed?

  8. @Chris #10 – they’ve thought of that 😉 From the Dev. blog:

    We’re making the filters as smart as possible to take context into account. For example, we might block on the phrase “personal check” instead of “check” because it is more clearly a paper payment method.

  9. I’ve already seen one thread on seller central where the poster had the words “Check out my other items” and the listing failed. They revised the listing, without the phrase and were able to list the item. So the claim that their filters can tell the difference between “We accepts checks and money orders” and “Check out my other listings” is not quite true.

  10. Well, this is an example of why I closed my Ebay Store, The Wizard’s Warehouse, about 8 months ago. Stick it Ebay, I don’t need you. I now have my own website plus presence on other Auction sites that don’t tell me how to do business.

    Judging by Ebay’s results in the last few months they will be history before too much longer and Mr. D will be selling pencils on the sidewalk to pay his rent.
    My two cents

  11. Re #12.

    I changed my terminology on my US dollar auctions from “Please check my other auctions for more…..” to “Please view my other auctions for more…..”.

    When I was looking for something else on the US Seller Central board about two months ago, a seller claimed that they could not list an old celebrity signed money order, because the listing contained the term “money order”. (I haven’t saved the link). There can be good money in celebrity signed checks/cheques, but it may be less of a hassle to list them as “signed financial instruments”, or some such.

    Kind Regards, Kevin

  12. Listing on eBay Canada instead is possible, with worldwide shipping listings also show up on eBay.com with the same visibility. eBay Canada doesn’t have a paperless payments policy, unless it’s changed recently.

  13. eBay can “bot” out words like “checks,” or “money orders,” but it can’t interpret things like: “Traditional forms of payment are accepted,” or “Paypal is welcome, but so is everything else. Just contact me.”

    It is also possible to create a jpg that reads “Checks and Money Order Are Acceptable,” and post it with your listing. The only way eBay will spot this kind of thing is if someone rats on you.

  14. I think to sustain a business on eBay, time is better spent on working out how to work WITH the policies and not on how to go about cheating the system.

    …I do like the “Traditional forms of payment are accepted” though 😉

  15. I just recently was contacted by a eBay seller who was chastised for offering to take checks, and they asked why I was getting away with it. Oddly I never worry about the eBay Police because I felt I had nothing to hide. Boy was I wrong! The seller reported me (probably because they were caught and felt I should be punished) and I had over 60 listings pulled. Not so bad except the eBay Customer Jokesters harassed me via phone and email for two days until I informed them I would gladly leave and go elsewhere. Then they refunded my lost listings and acted nice after that. I’m not interested in fighting their “policies” but I will not trust their decision making process ever again. I’ll just take my “superseller feedback and go elsewhere.


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