eBay UK is cracking down on contact details in My Messages

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We’ve had a tip-off from a seller today saying that they’ve been actively prevented from sending an email via the eBay My Messages service because it contains “contact details”, specifically a phone number.

We know that eBay has been taking action against sellers including business contact details in listings and some sellers were surprised at the threat of sanction in recent weeks because the tougher rules are not supposed to come in until September. We wrote about that here: Clarification on the new Seller Contact details links policy on eBay UK.

But now it seems that the key arena eBay is cracking down on is the on-marketplace communications service My Messages that buyers and sellers use to send emails. As you can see from the image.

In this particular circumstance the buyer contacted the seller. He sells high end goods on eBay, with a price tag often over a grand, and the buyer wanted a detailed discussion about the items and installation. eBay made such a conversation impossible.

Several issues here present themselves. The first is a question: is the off-eBay trade problem for eBay so very huge? How much trade is going on that means eBay isn’t getting the fees? Our judgment is that it’s not such a big problem.

Secondly, there is scope for a more nuanced approach. eBay is investing in machine learning and artificial intelligence. That technology could be used in an instance like this.

The seller in question has been trading for more than a decade on eBay. He’s paid thousands in fees. He’s got a long heritage of selling expensive items on eBay. People like him can be trusted to swap contact details, stay ‘on-platform’ and play fair by eBay.

Such a message could be a valid approach for rookie, untested sellers new to selling big ticket items. And judging sellers by past performance would be a genuine display of the spirit of partnership eBay execs have said they want to have with eBay’s selling community.

Have you received this message from eBay?

Updated: 20:19, 11th July: This article has been revised at the request of eBay.

46 Responses

  1. When Ebay started the whole business was based on trust and the feedback was a revolutionary way to instil trust. Buyers and sellers could make up their own minds as to whether to trust the other person or not.

    Over the years, Ebay has eroded all this. More than half of buyers don’t leave feedback anymore, which makes it a bit irrelevant. Plus Ebay have created an atmosphere where sellers mistrust buyers & Ebay, buyers mistrust sellers, and Ebay mistrusts everybody!

    I think a back to basics approach is needed with a drop of “common sense” ( a new phrase for Ebay)

  2. They did the same to me
    I was suspended in May as I passed across my contact number
    Then last week a customed who wanted to discuss a sale of £2199.00 asked me
    To call him and gave his number
    I replied, no problem, I will call you tomorrow ( it was Sunday) and I was suspended indefinitely

    To be honest when I called, I did have a mindset where I thought, life is just too short to be dictated by eBay and was just calling to get my credits back on unpaid items and a return that hasn’t come back

    I was firstly spoken appallingly by the first ‘customer service’ advisor who took great pleasure in telling me there was nothing he would be willing to do and it was my fault that I had lost the credits and the return as the account was now closed, this was the English / Irish call centre

    As this totalled over £550, I waited until the next day and was transferred from the English / Irish call centre to the overseas centre, where one lady thought it was wrong that I would lose this money and eventually after being on the phone for over an hour, she said she would call me back

    She did call me back and said that she wasn’t authorised to make any changes to my account as the computer was stopping her but she transferred me back to the Irish call centre

    I then spoke with Luke, explained the situation, after speaking with him for over half an hour
    He lifted the rescriction

    I think the only way is to ignore any messages ?
    And sell 99p tat
    And then eBay will be happy

  3. just a quick question,was it the seller or the buyer trying to send the contact details over?as we need to resolve a similar issue and 3 members at ebay have now told me once the item has been purchased that contact details can be exchanged through the messaging system

  4. We feel this could be the end of eBay, as buyers are also getting warnings of account suspension for requesting a phone number or messaging please contact me on x

    We have found that by listing a 99p item for the buyer & getting the buyer to purchase it, you can supply all your contact details via messages & of course get theirs to communicate about the actual item required.

  5. i must admit it is getting a bit out of hand now mind,surely they would want to look after there longterm good sellers and just use a bit of common sense along the way would solve a massive amount of issues!

  6. So much for all the unctuous crap from the new VP. It’s obviously eBay business as usual, i.e. treating sellers like garbage.

  7. We had a potential buyer who messaged out of the blue wanting a little bit more information about a product and could we call them on X. Before we’d even read the message, we got an email from eBay rapping OUR knuckles saying that sort of behaviour is not allowed, no contact details etc and if we carried on we’d be in trouble. We didn’t even know who this person was so how can we get told off?

  8. I commented on this yesterday. Sellers are asking me how we’re supposed to do business now. I’m not positive about our future on eBay, everything is pointing to a totally automated closed catalogue system, the ean numbers etc.. amazon Mark 2. I’m going to put my rare high value items on a private account and on other channels and just leave the brand new buy it now items on my business account – as they suit eBay’s current requirements and won’t get me kicked off the site!

  9. It’s the light in the referidgerator syndrome. Is the light on or off? Ebay clearly believe enough off-Ebay trade occurs to make this worth while. One argument would be that their policies and treatment of sellers over many years has encouraged such illicit trade. Buyers and sellers facing continued unrectified technical problems will feel no loyalty to Ebay.

    So what goes around comes around. Ebay gets what they deserve. Clearly in Ebay towers the decision is to crack down even harder.

    Here’s an Aesop’s fable:

    The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

  10. We have been getting this message for about a year now, as a lot of customers are not sure if xy or z is the version they need. We used to have message them back after this started that they can find contact details below the description, but soon that will be gone. Our sales are 53% lower since this started, and most sales on ebay are now from repeat buyers. We have traded on ebay since the late 90’s

  11. Ebay have definitely got tougher over this recently. We had our account suspended as we sell expensive furniture and buyer wanted to view the item first so we gave them our shop address and our account was suspended. Then in the last week they did it again but also deleted all of our fixed prices listings, some of which are 7 years old with thousands of sales because they misread a message where we told a buyer cash on collection was fine but they had to do the transaction through ebay first.

  12. I recently had an item on auction.The buyer contacted me to say they lived in the same city and would I be ok with them collecting and paying cash,
    I have done this a few times and was in the process of giving my address when I got an email from Ebay warning me for doing an off site deal.
    The thing is as a long time seller I can be trusted to mark the item as sold once the buyer has collected so their fees are not an issue.
    Maybe they can clamp down on all the unregistered business sellers all over the site but then they still get their fees from them so probably not interested

  13. We have never made attempts to sell off eBay over the years, if customers are happy to pay 20% more to shop on these marketplaces instead of going direct that is up to them.
    They will be hiding your username next, it is just getting silly now. We message every customer with a dispatch message it is good service at the end of the day.

  14. . . . and many Chinese sellers sit there happily pretending to be in the UK by simply saying so to eBay whilst they send ALL their goods directly from China and often quoting bogus despatch dates and fake tracking numbers! Do eBay care? No evidence of that!

    Sadly eBay have clearly shown that they have lost their way over these past few years and this article shows, almost beyond ALL others, how they are like a frightened animal caught in a cars headlights . . .

    . . . all that now remains is to guess how long it’ll be before eBay are little more than flattened road-kill!

    I used to love eBay as it was in the beginning, the diversity, the co-operation and trust between strangers, all these aspects eBay brought to the “WWW” . . . and how many SME’s can trace their origins back to that period?

    eBay are like a bad dream and sadly for them too many buyers and sellers are waking up. Very sad.

  15. I too have been restricted for one week for “violating” the service. Without going into all the ins and outs of the transaction I agreed a price via the messaging service and when the buyer tried to pay the agreed price the ebay system wouldn’t allow it. I tried changing the sale to “best offer” and still it wouldn’t allow it. I always try to proceed sales via ebay and paypal and have no wish to circumvent fees due however ebay need to look at their system and procedures and remember the first rule of sales is you have a willing seller and a willing buyer that should be the first call. It has left a very bitter taste and as a result I am looking into other sites. It has made me feel like a criminal and that is how ebay see me. If you want a copy of the transcript of the “chat” I had let me know as apart from anything else there is an underlying threat in the conversation. Not happy.

  16. Like many sellers we rely heavily on communications with potential buyers, and we’ll always try to do the sale on the platform it was generated from, but ebay’s approach (where we have to tell buyers we can’t give them our contact details) is an embarrassing impediment and disincentive. We find we have to choose our words so carefully to avoid a “bot attack” and with repeat business in particular it’s now much safer to take the communications off ebay at the earliest opportunity.

    We’ve had a few google our userid and discover we have a website and contact us directly with the sale being completed via the website. That’s happening more than it did before so eBay is actually losing out at least as far as we’re concerned – yet we’ve done nothing to either encourage or discourage it.

    Instead of being so negative eBay should be taking a much more positive pro-active approach. Unfortunately the culture doesn’t seem to know any other way than use a big stick.

    Understanding why both buyers and sellers even want to go outside the platform and addressing those issues positively would be a better approach.

    Fixing the abysmal communications system would be a good starting point.

    Giving sellers the ability to directly invoice buyers from within eBay (with fees) would be another (instead the only way we can do this is via the “send an offer” button which is not triggered by all queries customers make, or to do a custom listing which is unwieldy and time consuming and not always feasible).

    We recently had a customer who after they had paid decided they wanted to change to a faster postage service. We told them it would cost extra and would send them a paypal invoice, they agreed. We and the buyer both got a warning for this even though eBay has no simple way of facilitating the charge. eBay were protecting a 15c revenue (we are in Australia)

    We’ve had two queries today where being able to just trigger an offer or send them an invoice within the ebay system (with fees applied) would have resulted in a quick and simple sale, but instead we have to do this time consuming careful little dance ritual to get to the end point. One has disappeared completely, one has come back through our website. eBay has lost out completely.

  17. We need an Ebay type saleroom without all the bull to start up and give Ebay a run for their money.

  18. I wonder if cross border comms are under the same scrutiny. I have never had the messages re contact details (although I probably will now) as we sell mostly low priced silver charms. But, thinking about how the different sites are very very different in their setup and design if you logged into say ebay.ie or ebay.au then maybe the comms would be permitted.

    I dare anyone to try it B-)

  19. As far as selling is concerned eBay is now total rubbish, and I only now use it if I want to buy something. Its pants, why people still use it as a selling platform is beyond me. I want to sell my stuff under my conditions, not be dictated to by some jumped up little company that wants to rule over you. I don’t trust them and I don’t like them and I would love to see them go under. Something else would take its place, nature abhors a vacuum.

  20. I get round it by putting a space between each number of my phone number. Seems to trip the system.

  21. Got suspended for asking the buyer his email to send a prepaid label for an item sold 5 months ago. Although eBay reinstated next day after a phone call but had no answer or explanation that how do we deal with old orders which no longer exist on eBay. They said, phone us and we will see if we can pass on the label or message. Shocked.

  22. This is a joke. But not a funny one.

    Customers often phone up to ask questions about the item, delivery, returns etc. Now we have to communicate by the eBay email only? That’s taking things too far. How long before we get suspended for offering our products on Amazon or our own website?

    Customers can easily find our contact details on the web so what is the point?

    Livid eBay seller since 2002.

  23. Old signature…

    Kind regards
    01449 774610

    New signature

    Kind regards
    Google our phone number

  24. I sell 2nd hand hi-end electronics and they can be quite complicated to use, so we get a lot of correspondence and questions about the item. Trying to go back and forth via ebays message system can take days – the customer usually gets bored and loses interest. We used to be able to give them our phone number and have a quick chat over the phone, then they would place the order through ebay – alas no more.
    Ended up being restricted for 7 days last week.
    Im completely fed up with ebay telling me how to run my own business !!!

  25. Ebay only exists because sellers (private and Business) use it as a platform to sell their wares. As the sellers decline so will ebay. When the sellers are gone, so is ebay.
    Ebay have for quite a long time, treated their sellers appallingly and the treatment is getting worse.
    Business sellers will disappear first as they find other platforms. Smaller platforms dedicated to a particular area that specialise are the correct way forward. A lot of dedicated specialist platforms already exist and more are arriving. Businesses will move forward and eventually away from ebay. Private sellers will follow.
    I have used ebay for around 10 years selling in a certain antique and vintage area, if I look at the fees I have paid them it frightens me. I now find that there are smaller sites specific to my items. These sites are much more seller friendly and the fees are usually fairer with less hassle. I sell all over the world to buyers who are now looking at the specialist sites just as strongly as they used to look at ebay.
    Ebay is huge and probably thinks it is invincible and for the time being it probably is, but all empires that have ever risen have all eventually fallen, ebay is no different.

  26. The irony is that the founder of eBay Pierre Omidyar – now a philanthropist – hoped the platform would be a way of bringing people together socially. Trade things and make friends in the process. How the current shower in charge have betrayed those principles.

    They are now more like a vicious bunch of incompetent stasi, happy to wreck honest businesses on a whim when a bot thinks it’s spotted an email, phone number or trigger word. As usual, it is pure chance whether the person you get to speak to can even understand why your blameless business has been destroyed in error, let alone act to remedy the crime.

    Nice to see they monitor tamebay. Not to learn from their mistakes impact on sellers, but to demand articles rewriting to be nicer to them!

  27. Maybe someone should set up a site where sellers wishing to have they contact information could volunteer their details.
    then a buyer could just search a user name to find contact information.
    this would all be outside of the control of eBay.
    (well until they buy the site/host/company and close it)

  28. still cant work out what all the witter is about
    its ebays ball learn to bend it,, or sit on the bench

  29. Ebay should start policing all the fraudulent and phantom sellers, who interestingly always appear to have lots of feedback before harassing genuine buyers and sellers.

  30. Two things. Whilst “helpful information” on how a seller might attempt to circumnavigate these seemingly banal conditions imposed by eBay might be helpful they will be read by eBay too remember? So easy to set up bots to seek out images with watermarking and then delete them automatically you know?

    Secondly whilst we are all aware that there is a section of eBay sellers that will pull ANY trick to circumnavigate ever increasing eBay fees the reports from so many above, who may be a drop in the ocean, clearly demonstrate that eBay have taken a hammer to crack a nut with their approach.

    Like so many of the actions they take the team that creates them never seem to show the intelligence to “think an idea through” and look for counter productive results. Knee-jerk ideas and reactions seem all eBay are capable of!

    eBay? When you read this take responsibility for your actions and tweak your conditions?

  31. This is how stupid Ebay is.

    A potential buyer on my personal account recently sent me this:

    “That sounds alright send me your number and if passing later I will call to see if I can pick up 🙂 ”

    I ignored the message on the basis that he wanted an off-site deal. He emailed again a few days later asking if the item was still for sale. My reply was:

    “Yes it is still available, hence it being on Ebay. I can’t give you out telephone numbers as Ebay doesn’t like numbers going out for off-site deal reasons. I’m at home tonight: if you’re at a loose end and fancy a CD player, then tonight is the only night I’m free for the next fortnight. ”

    I now wake up this morning to find my buying and selling privileges suspended for 7 days for a) not asking for an off-site deal and b) for not giving out my telephone number.

    Utterly ridiculous. Thanks, Ebay.


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