£50k per week seller shut down over eBay messages

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Once again we’re writing to warn eBay sellers not to send contact details in eBay messages, in fact be extremely cautious in any content that could be interpreted by a robot into construing an off-site deal.

I received a phone call today on behalf of a retailer who was frantic because their £50k per week turnover eBay account had been suspended. That’s pretty much their entire business shut down on a Saturday.

The back story is that a buyer contacted the seller wanting a cable for their TV. The seller, genuinely a good helpful retailer, said “Send me a photo of the back of your TV and I’ll tell you if it will fit”. The buyer responded “I can’t send the image through eBay messages as it’s too big, can you give me your email address?”. When the seller said “No, I can’t send you my email address” their entire account was shut down by eBay.

Thankfully when I gave the advice to telephone eBay, rather than relying on online support, they managed to convince seller support to have their account reinstated, but for a few hours their business was shut down. They’re now doubtless in the throes of relisting items rather than enjoying a peaceful Saturday evening.

What’s going on?

To put it bluntly, eBay seem to be on a bit of an account suspension rampage and they’ve turned the filters up to the max. Just about anything that could be construed as an attempt to communicate off eBay will get you a suspension or a ban.

I don’t personally think a £50k per week eBay account is any more or less important than an account doing £500 per month – if this is your livelihood and if you have workers or dependents reliant on you making money then they’re equally crucial. However it’s worth noting that if eBay are willing to shut down the account of a £50k per week seller then they’ll have no compunction in closing an account that’s only doing £5k or £10k a month. Don’t let it be you.

Triggers that could get you an eBay seven day suspension or permanent account closure

If you mention any of the following in an email you’re highly likely to get suspended

  • Telephone number

    Anything that looks like a telephone number even if it isn’t

  • Email address

    Don’t include an email address or the word ’email’. This is particularly important as we know eBay messages aren’t up to scratch for sending high resolution images so don’t be tempted to chance it.

  • Physical address

    Don’t include any place names or post codes. Even if you’re giving an general location for a potential collection in person this could lose you your account

  • Invoice

    If you offer to provide something as innocent as a ‘VAT Invoice’ or ‘Commercial Invoice’ for an eBay sale this could be construed as an attempt to sell off eBay

  • Free

    Don’t offer to add any freebies in to sweeten a deal, eBay will construe this as fee avoidance

  • Replying to a buyer’s message

    Bizarrely we’ve heard of a couple of instances where sellers refused a buyer request to complete a deal off eBay and their account was still restricted. Don’t ever reply to any such requests but report them to eBay to cover your back.

There are likely many other ways to get your account closed or suspended, so if in doubt our best advice is either to ignore the email or contact eBay and ask for their advice as to the best way of wording your response.

What to do if you are suspended or your account is closed

Don’t delay, get straight on the phone to eBay. Don’t mess about with messages but speak to a human being and appeal your case. Explain that you had no intention of taking a deal off eBay, justify why you sent the message (or point out that your message refused an off site deal) and demand to be reinstated straight away in the strongest (but polite and professional) terms possible.

Finally, and this won’t help you in the slightest, email Tamebay or drop a note in comments below. We can’t help you get your account back but we are monitoring the situation and have written about it numerous times in the past few weeks.

91 Responses

  1. Well that’s just completely a ton of crap! I sell personalised items including invitations, so a buyer can email their party details such as address, email address and phone number for an rsvp……where does that leave me? eBay really need to sort themselves out instead of playing god. They will loose trust from sellers and soon eBay will learn the hard way once they realise the sellers are moving elsewhere because of their ridiculous rules. This doesn’t give me any hope for my business with eBay any more.

  2. Buyer contacted us in regards to faulty item puchased 5 months ago. We simply asked for his email address to send a prepaid label. Account was suspended. It was later re instated but i have been onto ebay many times asking how do we deal with warranty issues after 90 days when sales are deleted from ebay, answer was we dont know but do not attempt to ask for any details or try to give any i.e..returns address. Basically they want us to ignore the buyer after 90 days. Not good for good sellers and buyers. Really frustrating.

  3. An eBay Business Seller is legally required to have their Business Contact information available to buyers and POTENTIAL BUYERS.

    The regulations define being “available” as follows: –
    “something is made available to a consumer only if the consumer can reasonably be expected to know how to access it.”

    Currently this is on every listing and fully complies with this part of the regulations.

  4. Just imagine if you had a staff member that wanted to leave and he asked some one to send in a email asking your contact details. Wow now we have a real situation on our hands.

    Just a situation that can happen if your a large company on Ebay.

  5. At this rate you’ll have sellers screwing over ebay and the buyers for the sake of it because thhey got screwed over for no reason

  6. I wanted to report a buyer for asking for my postcode so they could drop in to view an item. I did not reply to it and decided to report the buyer. After spending 30 mins trying to work out how to do it l gave up. It is easy to report a buyer if they have purchased an item but not so if they message you, unless l missed something. This is not helping sellers protect themselves. DT

  7. this is an utter joke – so if someone sends you a message asking for your email and you message back saying no ebay does not allow an email to be sent through messages you could get banned for including the word email?
    Or if someone says ok what is your correct postcode to collect from because my sat nav is saying that’s incorrect and you confirm the postcdode you could get banned for including your postcode?

  8. This is really dangerous and scary.
    Some comments above mentioned employees who want to take revenge at their employer and may abuse.
    I can also think of competitors contacting and asking for contact details and bang – you’re out of business for a few hours or more.
    Damage done.

  9. eBay has become a complete joke, no wonder Amazon is running circles around them, how is one suppose to overlook there customer service team and run a million pound business at the same time on eBay?

    Seems like we need to start putting cameras in the customer service department just incase we get a customer asking for buyers address.

    Or it could be easier to kill all listings and move on to Amazon… eBay sellers have been unhappy with eBay for a while now and eBay is doing nothing about it. There needs to be eBay Boycott!!!

  10. I’m surprised that people are surprised….. after all it is ebay, the platform of crazy dictates and even more bonkers customer “service”. I wonder if Rob Hattrell is still doing his rounds visiting sellers? He may have to replan his schedule- after all he isn’t allowed to ask for the sellers premises postcode. What a farce.

  11. My email address is in my business information which is then showed at the bottom of each listing page, I can’t do anything about that, I do have some listings where it uses the word e-mail in the description and I have tried to bulk edit them to remove it (just in case) but I have found that the ‘find and replace’ in the bulk edit listing tool does not work, if I make the change and then click save the listing still shows the unwanted text – has anyone tried it? I have a lot of listings so to do each one by hand would take a long time, I don’t see any way to bulk remove text from multiple listings if this tool does not work?

  12. Can anyone help – customer who wants to return an item but hasnt got a printer so is cant go through ebay returns process , Hes asking for my adress – then he can go to post office – but i cant give the adress out . What can i do ? Thanks

  13. Assuming it’s a change of mind return and the customer is paying for it, they don’t need to print anything out, i.e. they don’t have to use eBays label. They simply open the case to confirm the return address and then send it back to you by whatever method they choose?

    And as far as I was aware you can still give out your address to people you have already transacted with, that not the case?

  14. Our restriction was removed after few phone calls spending over an hour on the phone.

    So here is what happened, We had a customer who ordered from eBay 1st 6 months ago and a month later they decided to order another item through our website directly.

    For some reason, the customer decided to contact us about the order they placed on our website through eBay Messages ! We asked customer questions about the order and then boom! Account restricted, we lost over £10k revenue over the Saturday.

    But that’s eBay! ….

  15. There is something more going on here than people are letting on. Almost every day we’ve had customers send us addresses and phone numbers, we’ve sent them VAT invoices and return labels, and we’ve even linked them to our site a couple times for various reasons. According to these Tamebay posts we should have been suspended multiple times but nothing has happened.

    I think either it’s restricted to a few categories or the sellers and buyers involved were already on the naughty list for something else.

  16. Yeah, same here, which was why I asssumed that if the question was related to a done deal there’s no issue. Every day, “I need to return this, what’s your return address?”. I always reply with the relevant details, why make a genuine buyer open a returns case after all, and never had any problems… so far 🙂

  17. We’re considering turning off ebay messaging to avoid this issue and protect ourselves, however if a customer gives an email address or phone number etc during an ebay case / managed return case would a ban still apply? Are they being monitored too? Or are ebay not worried because that’s post-sale?

    If anyone has any ideas it would be appreciated

  18. Question for the Tamebay team – have you tried approaching Rob Hattrell to raise this concern on our behalf? Given his willingness to engage with sellers I’d love to know what he says about all this.
    We’ve had no official communication or clarification from eBay about this confusing situation. I’d like to see Tamebay taking them to task on our behalf.

  19. We have this problem as we sell personalised printed items and the images sent through ebay messages are too small / low quality. Our contact details are in the business contact info in the listing., however we are finding more and more transactions are from mobile apps and it would appear (based on customer comments) that finding the business contact info is providing more difficult. We have lost business because the customer said we were being awkward !

  20. Um . . just take a look at the list of “Triggers that could get you an eBay seven day suspension or permanent account closure” above? How many of these are actually the Seller being professional, responsible and caring? Almost all!

    Unbelievably eBay seem to want to compel Sellers to use their site with one hand tied behind their backs! If they actually believe that penalising a Seller with a proven track record of up to £50,000.00 sales per week makes sense for them . . . well, you calculate the “lost revenue” they could suffer in lost fees.

    Not impossible that their business could be seriously damaged by this soon . . . and that’s THEIR business and not their customers who will move on to elsewhere instead! Crazy!!!

  21. It’s clear that ebay want to remove any seller-personalisation or identification on the site so they can make people think they are buying from ebay. Like people think they’re buying from Amazon (which obviously they can physically do).

    It certainly seems to be an identity problem for ebay

  22. i have asked ebay about post 90-day returns and how we’d find out info about them or send them a return address etc. This is their reply:

    “The best way for you to be able to ask the buyer their address or provide the return address to them is by sending them emails directly on their registered email address. You can get their email address directly on the payment confirmation you’ve received on the time they made a payment on the item.”
    ~Leo 11:14 AM

  23. I have contacted ebay about this and they have said
    “It is because currently, members are permitted to exchange contact information only post-transaction, after items have been purchased through the normal checkout flow. Hence, if the item is not yet purchased, both of you with the buyer aren’t allowed to share any contact details.”
    I asked about those using apps etc that can’t see business info and this was the feeback:
    “Since the contact details is available on the business seller information of the listing, advised the buyer to use a computer or a classic site in order for them to get your contact details.”

  24. I have just had a lengthy conversation with an ebay specialist in concierge. Bottom line…..one the buyer has clicked the “buy it now” button (ebay can now apply their fees) you can exchange any information you like.

  25. Yes I had the same conversation – it’s about committing to buy.
    It would mean turning off the automatic payment option and indicating in the description that questions can be answered after committing to buy and if the buyer decides to cancel afterwards then this is straightforward (although Concierge advised documenting any cancellation through eBay messages)

  26. Just received a heavy duty email from eBay, claiming and warning that some of my listings on eBay.com and eBay.au contain telephone numbers and contact details.
    I’ve checked them all and there are no contact details at all. Nothing.
    Am I going to get banned because their software is written in eBay Towers’ department of bloody stupid ideas and doesn’t work properly (what a surprise).
    I can’t get a resolution from Customer Services (I use the term loosely) so i have covered my backside by ending all those listings. This will probably soon be followed by ending all my UK and international listings – it’s all just too much hassle.

  27. The post code thing is a bit worrying. I sell large pre owned items that need to be sent via pallet. The cost of sending varies depending on the location. Very often people will message me with their address for a price. The option of putting in a flat rate is there but it would make it more expensive for the majority of customer.s

  28. I’m currently backing up all our companies listings as a preventative measure (there’s a fair number of listings!) In the event something untowards happens to them all via a sudden ban.

    I know I wouldn’t fancy the idea of having to manually input each one again for upload. That sorta stuff takes months and is evidently reliant now on no-one making a simple error in ebay messages.

    Has anyone else taken measures to safeguard their listings in such an event? Or am I going a bit overly paranoid here?

  29. Phew, glad I’m not the only one Alan 🙂 Glad to hear there are providers who offer that as part of their service.

    It seems like a good idea considering ebays recent changes in policy!

  30. Yes, but there will still be a bit of work to do. Biggerbids only save the listing description and images – which is the majority of the listing – but you would still need to re-do the item specifics on ebay if you ever lost your ebay listings for whatever reason.

    Also worth noting is that Biggerbids themselves haven’t quite caught up with new ebay rules. Their listing template is marginally wider than what is required for a mobile device and they also embed a link to their services into the HTML which needs to be removed manually as ebay no longer allow external links that take the buyer off site.

    Thats my only “gripes” with the Biggerbids service. Other than that they are great and peace of mind that all your stuff is backed up – and for such a small fee per month.

    We took it out the service back in 2007 in the event of an Extinction Level Event (like a meteor strike, earthquake, global meltdown or Amazon taking over ebay). Thankfully we have never needed to use it but it gives me a sense of security that all our descriptions and images etc are backed up.

  31. Yes, I would be interested in that. Sounds more “complete” compared to what I am doing.

  32. Re off Site dealing…….

    I have just sold 2 items, buyer paid, I have wrapped them ready to ship tomorrow.

    The buyer has just emailed asking if I have any more?

    I do, but having just had an ebay “police” warning for answering a similar question last week……..in which I said “yes, I could list them on ebay”…….I cant reply to this message for fear of being suspended

    I running scared ebay that will suspend my account for trying to do the right thing and replying to the message.

    Ebay have to realise their “robots” are not working……and penalising sellers who get legitimate questions from buyers.

  33. What are eBay playing at?…
    Their shambles of a marketplaces is going to become like a ghost town…why are there no humans behind this massacre

  34. I always ask for a buyer to confirm their address if I get an Item Not Received message.

    I suspect this may trigger a suspension these days so I will likely not bother asking. Though to be honest, in all the years of asking, no one has ever given a different address to the one I’ve already got.

    Perhaps also, instead of mentioning VAT invoices etc we should say VAT receipt and with mentioning emails getting you suspended, perhaps just say:

    “ebays new rules stipulate that all communications must be through Ebay messages only and no other way unfortunately.”

    Hopefully this wont trigger suspensions.

  35. I guess issue is more likely to occur, when it is a pre-sale situation. Surely if the message relates to an existing order (after-sale), and there has been a problem such as Not received, we can then ask for them to confirm address details etc

  36. just had a customer asking for help on an item…. has asked me to ring them ( number provided) to discuss….
    Guess i will get a ban for this, after all it’s my fault for….. oh hang on, i can’t control the buyers any more than i can control Royal mail delivery times. Yep, im screwed.

  37. I think what needs to be clarified, is not so much that we can’t send contact details.
    Thats very simple to understand and very clear. We all know what constitutes an address, a phone number or email.

    What needs URGENT clarification by eBay, is what happens when data is accidentally construed as contact details.

    And also, why eBay is punishing sellers who like in the case of this story, have simply said that they cannot share their e-mail.

    Are we supposed to infer that the word e-mail is banned from messages? Because why else would they ban the member if they didn’t include a physical e-mail?
    So should we avoid using the words address, phone number and e-mail?

    Or is there somthing more complex going on?

    Ultimately, I just want to know how we can answer questions which run close to the mark. I know that all of our staff are certainly understanding eBays policy here, but what they don’t understand is what to do when somone asks for a product number that looks like a phone number? etc etc.

    None of us I imagine want to run foul of eBays rules, but we all risk providing bad customer service unless we know exactly how we are allowed to support and assist our customers.

  38. You can share details providing the buyer has already purchased from the seller.

    What I don’t agree with is banning sellers who have received an email from a buyer requesting there email address before they have purchased anything.

  39. Hi all
    Is there a way I can block messages from buyers who send their phone numbers? If there is if you could send me a click by click detail of how I get to the right form on .co.uk. I have had a buyer asked me to phone him and feel a bit awkward about what I should do, end even more so that eBay don’t seem to have a system to stop the numbers getting through. It is an aftersales email, he wants to discuss his already received item

  40. some asking me for post code for a item i am selling so thay can look it up how far
    yet i do that ebay rules says cant give post code or you get a block on ebay
    so what the hell should you do if item is pick up only

  41. Interesting eBay ‘quirk’ I just discovered regarding questions I thought I’d share:

    We turned off questions (My eBay > Summary > Account > Manage Communications with Buyers).

    Much to my surprise we got a question through from a buyer (he had never purchased from us or had any contact before).

    I checked the listing using my PC, sure enough when buyer clicks ‘ask a question’ there is no option to submit a question – as you would expect.

    I then checked the same listing on my iPhone eBay App, and to my surprise I found that when a buyer clicks to ask a question, under about seller details section within the listing, they can still submit a question (even with questions turned off).

    I tried the same experiment with a large eBay seller Music Magpie (I know they have questions turned off) and the same was true of their listing – you can’t submit a question if you’re on the classic version of the eBay site (e.g. if you’re on a PC), but I could submit a question to them if I used the app on my iPhone.

    My conclusion – even if you turn off questions from potential buyers to avoid getting ‘caught out’, buyers can still submit pre-sales questions to you if they are using their eBay app – you seem to have no way to fully switch off questions across all eBay sales platforms.

    By the way, if a buyer is using the mobile version of eBay through the web browser on their phone, the same seems to be true, they can still ask questions, even if you have questions switched off.

    Just thought I’d share!

  42. Did you know that ebay is not in North Korea? thats because there is only room for one dictator.
    Another thing they have in common is that they both monitor emails !

  43. @ Nick

    The bots aren’t smart enough to know you are talking about a completely different item that has been sold. Only a human reading the message thread would be able to judge it properly, cross reference with another sale and realise that is what you are talking about.

    And you’re correct that the way around it is to continue the conversation by making sure post-sales messages are against the item they have bought. Buyers don’t always send the question about the item they actually mean to ask you about, or end up buying. Until now, this hasn’t mattered.

    In a nutshell: Bots aren’t smart. Double check that the message subject is for the item the buyer bought. Switch off your autopilot when replying post-sales. Otherwise you might get flagged.

  44. I sell very little locally and have sold more items to NZ & Aus through global shipping that 15/20 mile radius of where I live and in a pretty populated area.

    When I look at some of my competitors who buy similar sock, may of them “run a business” as have many similar items mostly new. Yet have no business information, most likely list at weekends when ebay run promotions for reduced final value fees.

    They would be better focusing their effort on making sure sellers who are clearly running a business are registered as a business. As they then have to offer minimum of 14 days returns which give buyers more confidence generally.

  45. This is going to really restrict my business on eBay. I sell joinery products, mainly gates and garage doors made to order as the items are too big and expensive to keep in stock.
    More often than not potential buyers contact me either by an eBay message or through the contact details within the listing to request a bespoke size.

    Also a lot of the time, potential customers need to actually speak to me on the phone as they may need me to explain to them in more detail certain aspects of the specifications in the listing, as it can be quite confusing for people sometimes unless they have a background in joinery or have some understanding of woodwork.

    Now it seems that I will be totally reliant on eBay’s messaging system and will be thrown into a state of panic anytime the word “email” is used or if somebody requests a “phone number”.
    It is going to be practically impossible and unworkable for me, given the number of eBay messages that I receive daily to monitor these properly and report these messages to eBay’s customer support team.

    What really frustrates me here is that I have worked very hard with eBay’s customer support team and the feedback that I have received from many customers over the last five years since establishing my eBay shop to make things run as smoothly as possible and make the buying experience more pleasant and easy.
    Now with one rule change they’ve undone all that hard work.

    It is a shame but I don’t think my kind of business is compatible with this selling platform anymore.

  46. Just a heads up really for fellow Tamebay pals. I had a warning yesterday when trying to send a Best Offer.

    Message to buyer.
    Hi *****, price includes light. £359.99+£89.99. Total £449.98.

    Delivery included.

    Warning from eBay.
    We’ve noticed that your offer included some contact information. We don’t allow email addresses, phone numbers or URLs in offer communications.

    According to the bot, telephone numbers now have £ signs in.

    I stripped out the message to the buyer and sent. He then emailed to ask if the offer included the light! FFS.

  47. Ebay has reached the zenith of ludicrous, one boneheaded rule after another issued from the top imbecile down. You deserve to fall eBay. And you will. And online will be a little happier place to trade.

  48. Until sellers vote with their feet ebay will continue to treat them with both contempt and disdain. Until a viable rival comes along it’s all about tipping points,,,,, just how far will sellers be pushed before realising that the platform is a creaking old joke of a wreck? If you solely rely on eBay for income, as many do, then my advice would be to diversify immediately, because sadly it’s only going one way.

  49. been 24 /7 full time ebay seller for best part or 20 years
    and its customer service is much much better now than its ever been,
    though the clicks ,ticks and conditions you need to wade thru to list are much more time consuming

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