Daily Mirror and Chinese VAT sellers on eBay UK latest

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The Mirror continue its investigation into Chinese sellers on eBay UK not correctly displaying VAT numbers in the latest piece by Andrew Penman titled: eBay insists these Chinese sellers are VAT registered – so why won’t they reveal their VAT numbers?

And now politicians are getting involved, quoted in the article is Shadow Small Business Minister Toby Perkins MP who said: “Businesses should be able to rely on the Government to stand up for them and ensure that rules are properly enforced. If our firms are being unfairly undercut, as this research suggests, then ministers should be fighting their corner and working across government and with providers, to close these loopholes.”

eBay have told Tamebay: “If any eBay sellers are found to be breaching VAT compliance rules then that is completely unacceptable. All non-UK sellers with inventory located in the UK should be UK VAT registered, and we cooperate with HMRC in all cases to help them enforce the law where there is evidence of underpayment of taxes. Where we identify sellers that are not compliant, we take action to suspend their accounts.”

This is an issue that concerns many sellers on eBay and, whilst it has proved a vital catalyst, I’m not entirely convinced that the Mirror banging on about it and a mere handful of offending sellers in one category sheds much light.

It’s a bigger problem than iPad covers. It seems to Tamebay that the HMRC holds the burden of responsibility to crack down on it and eBay needs to cooperate fully (and eBay does seem quite willing). The next comment I’d like to see would be that they are both working together to fill the national coffers with whatever unpaid VAT they can.

15 Responses

  1. Here’s a thing. If any seller has a manufacturer suggest that a product breaches their IP rights, even if in fact it doesn’t, ebay remove the listing IMMEDIATELY.

    There is no appeal or education procedure to go through. In my case the manufacturer’s claim was wrong because the claimants exclusive deal didn’t commence until 2 years after the product I sold had been legitimately produced.

    So why can’t ebay act IMMEDIATELY on this?

    VAT numbers are issued quickly. All ebay have to do is to tell any infringing seller they have say 30 days to correct, otherwise they will be removed.

    If they have incorrect Business Contact info they should be given 7 days.

    Ebay just need to track and follow up on the cases they open with the sellers. Of course they can’t do it all at once, but if they don’t start they’ll never do anything.

    Sellers should be free to report this to ebay, and expect ebay to act.

    Unfortunately eBay’s track record isn’t good. There is a seller in my sector who consistently uses duplicate listings. He has identical listings with just a random code of approx. 5 characters different on each listing.

    I have reported him many times and other sellers in the same sector tell me they also have reported him. Despite this after over 2 years he is still doing it. He must have a large number of policy violations on his record but is still allowed to do this – either that or ebay have done nothing about it of course. If ebay can’t fix a simple issue like this despite repeated requests from competing sellers, how are they ever going to take on a problem this big?

  2. Ebay and other online marketplaces are driven by profits. They have 0 ethics. They couldn’t give a stuff about taxes being correctly collected or creating a level playing field for all sellers regardless of location.

    The HMRC should levy fines against eBay who are clearly faciliating these chinese sellers. Then maybe both the HMRC and eBay might sit up and start doing something about it.

    Why the HMRC are happy to bleed VAT money to chinese business is beyond me.

  3. .
    Whilst ebay allow sellers to register on one country’s site (that does not require business details) and then allows that same seller to sell goods on another county’s website, without that information, this will go nowhere.

    This also applies to sellers registering on the UK site with contact details that are in another country, also using wrong contact UK info.

    As many sellers everywhere source products that are of Chinese origin, I cannot see how a UK seller can compete once a Chinese seller sell the same item.
    This also applies to Postage from the Far East being so stupidly low, as compared to UK postage rates.

    Clearly many businesses in the UK are flouting the VAT thresholds & only the HMRC can deal with that.
    Can only but wonder how much lower the National debt would be, if they did do something about collecting wrongly charged/uncharged VAT…..!!

  4. LJ, I do get the point, but it isn’t just a matter of ethics. Show me good businesses with a long lifecycle that people know to act badly. When this happens usually the business fails quickly or needs to act substantially to correct. Reputation is everything. If sellers don’t trust eBay they will have no market.

    What we need (and maybe pressure is already being exerted) are some of the large premium brands who sell on ebay to make an issue of this. It affects them as well. It would only need a couple to talk about leaving the ebay platform for ebay to sit up and take a whole lot more notice. These brands do care greatly about their reputation and brand values, and don’t take kindly to being associated with shoddy attitudes.

    Also, I am not a lawyer, but I would have thought that any company who turn a blind eye to legal infringements which are taking place as a result of their operations risk substantial litigation if not prosecution. I would think that contrary to what has been said above that ebay’s legal team are looking at their possible liabilities right now. For sure they would not just be ignoring it.

  5. Perhaps Tamebay.com should write a piece on the subject & expose the true scale of the situation – it will help get eBay to take a more responsible attitude towards it.

    I know that Andrew Penman has the pen between his teeth on the issue, knows about the scale of the VAT fraud and will not be dropping the subject until eBay actually do something positive about it.

    MP’s now need to apply pressure on HMRC & eBay to sort the situation out.

    New laws need to be put in place to stop VAT fraud happening on eBay & Amazon by any seller.

  6. I can’t see that ebay are either liable or responsible for how another individual or business conducts its taxation affairs. Up to the proper authorities to ensure compliance.

  7. “Duplicate listings…” “I have reported him many times and other sellers in the same sector tell me they also have reported him. Despite this after over 2 years he is still doing it. He must have a large number of policy violations on his record but is still allowed to do this – either that or ebay have done nothing about it of course.”

    I have also seen this. Usually support claim that if you report it action will be taken even when you point out that you have reported it many times and the seller is still doing it. But one guy told me that account handlers for key accounts could over-ride this.

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