eBay start suspending sellers because buyers asked a question

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eBay appear to be unrelenting in applying sanctions to users who attempt to exchange contact information in eBay messages. Once again we can only strongly suggest that you don’t try to bend this rule.

eBay are handing out suspensions to buyers!

Frankly I was a bit taken aback this week at the extent of the latest sanctions to be imposed and that’s because eBay aren’t just dinging sellers. eBay are also applying sanctions to buyers:

“Both of us [Buyer & Seller] got a 7 day suspension & the buyer has told he will never use eBay again.”
– Toby (Tamebay Comment)

“me too, I only asked to a seller if he could make me a commercial invoice, see below
Violating Text: can you make an invoice ?”

– Piero (Tamebay Comment)

I’m astonished that eBay appear to be liberally handing out 7 day suspensions to buyers. Although a suspension might seriously impact a seller’s business (and whilst I’m sure individual eBay employees would care a great deal), in the grand scheme of things there are plenty more retailers out there to take your place. However eBay care a great deal about buyers – remember eBay prevented you from leaving a negative feedback for buyers (or even a positive feedback with a negative tone). eBay did this because they can’t afford to upset buyers and have them driven away never to return.

Giving out suspensions to buyers isn’t just a draconian measure to take, it’s undoing all the work eBay have done over many years to make buyers love eBay and make sure that there’s nothing to upset them that will stop them buying again and again.

eBay hand out suspensions to sellers who refuse off-site deals

As if suspending buyers wasn’t enough, eBay are also suspending sellers just because a buyer asked for an off eBay deal. They’re suspending sellers for REFUSING to take the deal direct.

Sellers who insist that the transaction remains on eBay are being suspended because a buyer asked if they’d break the rules and the seller refused:

“I received a 7 day ban for replying to a chap asking if he could collect. I gave his my geographical area and the first half of my post code. When he asked about off site deals, I replied that I would not do such a thing.
A week later, I received my ban for trying to solicit an off site deal. Well played, eBay, well played.”

– Andy (Tamebay Comment)

This is crazy, how can you suspend a seller for seven days because a buyer asked them to deal direct and the seller insisted the deal be done through eBay?

Suspensions have got way out of hand

Suspending buyers, suspending sellers because a buyer asked a question that eBay didn’t like, it’s almost like eBay have an automated bot dishing out punishments with no human intervention and the settings have been turned up to the max.

In some ways it’s not surprising that eBay are wielding a very heavy stick considering ITV just aired ‘The eBay Scammers‘ – This is not quite the sort of publicity eBay would hope for. It’s also worth reiterating that eBay worked closely with the police to catch the scammers and they want to stamp out fraud, not just fraud that takes place on eBay but also fraud that takes place off eBay that’s associated with the site. If they stop buyers and sellers from exchanging contact details until after the sale is completed then they’re half way there to achieving this.

The thing is that if the suspensions carry on at the rate we’ve been hearing about them over the past few weeks it’ll be the sanctions themselves that drive buyers away from eBay. It’s not like there aren’t other marketplaces and websites out there that they could choose to shop on. Once a buyer gets upset with eBay and feels that they’ve been treated unfairly they’ll leave eBay never to return.

We’ll be keeping a watching eye on suspensions. Having already written about them several times recently and seen your comments we know it’s a concern for many, not least the sellers who have been on the receiving end of a suspension and more lately the buyers who have been dinged.

If you get suspended, especially if it’s because a buyer emailed you, drop us a line. We’ll be monitoring responses and are hoping that eBay dial back the measures a bit so that only those blatantly flouting the rules are impacted.

55 Responses

  1. We have quite a few questions each week which we’re now ensure how to reply to due to these new rules on contact info.

    I’ll either ask concierge how to reply or block the buyer and ignore the question, blocking is my preferred method, simply no time for this new round of nonsense .

    Although I’ve no plans to drop eBay at the moment, I keep looking at our success with adwords and what I could do with an extra 30 k with Google ad’s v’s eBay fees.

  2. so what is to stop a seller from opening up extra buying accounts and then asking buyer questions to their competitor sellers? Great way to see all the opposition off.

  3. We had a customer who was unsure what listing they needed to purchase for their requirements.
    From their requirements that they said in their message, we told them which listing to go for but they were still uncertain and said they wanted to email a picture to be certain it was the right item. We provided our email and got a straight 7 day Block on our account.
    We later had another customer who said they wanted to give us a call as they had some questions about an appliance, quite reasonable on a £500+ Spend. So, without thinking provided the phone number.
    The account was then completely suspended. eBay said that they determined that we “STILL” were not following policy.

    All of our listings were removed. More than 90% of our company revenue completely stopped right away. We always loved eBay and put all our eggs in its basket so to speak. How we have now been punished for this loyalty.

    eBay did reinstate our account but all of our listings were gone. Some nearly 10 years old and finding that data and pictures to relist has been difficult.

    6 weeks on our sales are still only 20% of where we were in terms of revenue. We have had to tell staff to stay at home. This is quite literally affecting peoples lives.

    We are scared to answer customers messages when they are asking for even basic things like postage prices. eBay doesn’t provide any details on what is and isn’t allowed, or at least, they need to be alot more specific when your entire livelyhood is on the line as to what is and is not allowed.
    To the point when we are actually now not even answering some messages because we don’t want to be suspended again.

    Where we were happy before doing all our trade on eBay, we never even bothered having a website, we are having to completely rethink this if this is how eBay is willing to treat you, how can you put all your faith in a company who would throw you to the curb without notice or a second thought. Why could they not have sent out a communication clarifying the exact points of this before enforcement, or give us a call if they were concerned we were not meeting requirements. When 90% of our trade is with them, they can be assured that they would have had our ear with anything that may jeopardise our ability to sell. In our mind, as we weren’t trying to get these customers to buy outside of eBay, we were doing nothing wrong. In fact, ironically, when we had customers calling saying they didn’t like eBay and they wanted to purchase direct, we actually told them we needed the order to come through eBay.

    For reference, we were selling nearly £90K a month through eBay, so we were paying considerable eBay fees.
    You have to question whether this enforcement would be welcomed by eBay shareholders where they are quite literally banning high quality sellers dedicated to customer service who were spending tens of thousands on fees a year, all because of suggestive messages which have little or no proof to them that you are willing to deal outside of eBay.

  4. If Ebay were concerned about stopping off site sales they should maybe consider the sponsored links that appear within item pages. I was looking at one of my listings earlier and there were 9 (Nine) sponsored links below the item description. All selling the same or similar products to myself. Two of the sponsored links had telephone numbers embedded into their links. So ironically the only place a telephone number is allowed on my listing is for my competitors to take sales away from Ebay!

  5. Has anyone else noticed that they seem to have stopped bothering removing contact details from messages, around the same time?

    I used to see the odd message with “” where the buyer had typed it, but now, they just come straight through, full details.

    It’s always innocent enough stuff for the most part, like wanting an invoice emailed over. But I don’t even want to reply in case a bot/numpty decides that I’m the one sending the email address. I’ve even stopped signing off with name and company name, which is a hard habit to break.

  6. Each time I have received a message form a buyer trying to intiate an off-ebay transaction I have gone a period of 3 days with no sales on my one business account. On my other business account when this happens I can go a periods of 3days , 7days or 10days with only sales from repeat buyers (I get no new buyers/traffic into my ebay shop) when I get messaged in this manner. I have contacted ebay CS and they say there are no “formal” restrictions on my accounts but it has been happening repeatedly sine June/July 2017 when ebay intorduced the enforcement on their off-ebay transactions rule. On my one business account I can get these type of messages every three days and it when it happens it has the effect of stopping all sales from any new buyers (only get the odd sale from repeat buyers who do not have to find me through any search engines) and my sales chart and history shows a clear pattern of this happening. So even if you do not get an official suspension it appears that receiving this type of messaging to incite off-ebay transactions can appear restrict your ability to sell in my opinion

  7. I have felt the full force of this and I believe it’s only a matter of time before I’m finished on eBay – I was handed a 7 day suspension in June because a customer asked if I had an item in stock that wasn’t listed on eBay, I replied I did and gave him the details, at that point eBay suspended me for 7 days. No transaction took place but I took it on the chin and resumed trading a week later. A month later a customer wanted to speak to me about an item and I messaged him my mobile number, this is in July – I spoke to the customer and he proceeded with the eBay transaction through eBay. A day letter my account was shut down with no explanation and all my listings removed.

    I was in complete shock. I had outstanding orders to process, messages to respond to and people who still needed to pay for there items (not dispatched of course) I have a loyal customer base and for me to vanish off eBay caused concern and of course people were worried that I had taken there money and ran. I was unable to log in to eBay and told I could never use eBay to buy or sell again. I’m not a high volume seller, maybe 50k a year turn over. I felt absolutely gutted.

    For the next 4 days I tried non-stop to get through to eBay and speak to someone who was able to listen to my concerns and came up against the same answer – sorry, you have already had a warning so you are done. I was unaware you couldn’t provide a phone number for questions via ebay – after all, it’s clearly displayed in my business profile so what’s the problem?

    It took me a week to get through to someone who finally listened and said, oh, it looks like it flagged the message up automatically and we can see the transaction was processed via eBay so we will reinstate your account, but any further communication of your number or contact details will lead to an outright ban.

    It was a massive stress, I had to re-list all my items and since then my sales have been down around 50%. I’m constantly in fear that I’m going to be banned again and on several occasions I’ve had customers wanting to speak to me on the phone or ask for my details. I feel I’m letting customers down by not responding to messages and in some cases ignoring them. Even so, it’s only a matter of time before one of their bots flags something up again.

  8. Each time I have received a message form a buyer trying to intiate an off-ebay transaction I have gone a period of 3 days with no sales on my one business account. On my other business account when this happens I can go a periods of 3days , 7days or 10days with only sales from repeat buyers (I get no new buyers/traffic into my ebay shop) when I get messaged in this manner.

    I have contacted ebay CS and they say there are no “formal” restrictions on my accounts but it has been happening repeatedly since June/July 2017 when ebay intorduced the enforcement on their off-ebay transactions rule.

    On my one business account I can get these type of messages every three days and it when it happens it has the effect of stopping all sales from any new buyers (only get the odd sale from repeat buyers who do not have to find me through any search engines) and my sales chart and history reflects this pattern. So even if you do not get an official suspension it appears that receiving this type of messaging to incite off-ebay transactions can appear to restrict your ability to sell in my opinion

  9. I’ve given up selling on ebay, far too many restrictions and rules without any recourse for common sense. Sad when it all started so brightly and bargains were to be had.

  10. I stopped selling on eBay over a year ago. Firstly their fees were making it unviable and secondly their stupidity with rules, it just got beyond a joke. I have no regrets leaving the platform and reading this just proves I was right to do so. Stupid company who treats its real customers (the sellers) like scum.

  11. I read the excellent Tamebay piece with incredulity then realised we were talking about eBay so I wasn’t surprised at all. What next, asking sellers and buyers to spy on each other?
    You couldn’t make it up……

  12. This is very timely as I’ve just had a warning from ebay.

    We sell a lot of kits (parts for classic motorscooters).

    The listing was for a rear hub nut kit (a nut, a lock-washer, another washer and 3 screws).

    The guy just wants the screws. They are a weird size, we have to have them made so they are £1.68 each.
    They aren’t listed on ebay as I currently don’t list anything below £10.

    We also sell parts where something sees something and says “I need this plus the widget” – widget being a part we don’t list.

    I’m chatting to ebay at the moment and there doesn’t appear to be a way round it.

    I don’t mind ebay taking a cut but they seem unable to offer a workround for my issue.

  13. Got suspended for offering a prepaid label for defective item sold 5 months ago. I have spoken to ebay few times and no one there had any suggestions on how do we deal with buyers with warranty issues. Basically ebay is telling us not to respond to buyers contacting after the transaction has been removed after 90 days of sale. After 90 days i cannot provide a returns aaddress and cannot ask for buyers address to send a label or collect . . fuming.

  14. I was banned permanently because I attempted to communicate outside for a specific transaction. Specified the reasons why, but eBay apparently didn’t care. So they just outright suspended me with no appeal. It sucks because I have been a member with them for over 5 years and over 400 feedback. For them to just outright close your account is ridiculous!

    Even trying to get a hold of them is a pain in the butt. Many attempts with no way to get my account reinstated.

    Just debating on whether to give up or just use Auction Essistance to help me create a new stealth account.

  15. Sounds to me like they’re using an automated systems that might be picking out keywords and applying automatic bans. Who knows?

  16. I now have to give very brief, often one word answers to buyers questions, in fear of being banned.
    I sell sofas, buyers want to talk about the product and possibly to view before purchasing.
    The new Bot reading of messages is ruining my business, buyers think I am rude or not interested because I cant give an proper answer.
    The end is nigh for me on ebay, after 10 years of trading !!

  17. i was making £600 a month untill march this year, i was resticted for 7 days after a question about a postcard and if he could buy another and combine postage, my sales have never been the same since, i can go 12 days without a sale then 2 items might sell then another 8 days might go by this is my business and part of how i make a living its been a nightmare

  18. Is this happening on those who are asking questions PRIOR to making any purchases or does it affect once the item has been purchased? We sell custom items and sometimes people will want to have their phone number printed so I am concerned this could affect us?

  19. After reading all these comments and more elsewhere, I’m seriously considering just turning off questions. I’ve always thought this was a bad idea but if eBay are being so stupid I might just have to do it.

    Most pre-sale questions I get are asking things that already detailed in the listing and/or ‘can I collect?’ which I don’t allow.

    Just looking at my last few pre-sale messages;

    1. Can you send 1st class? 1st class is already offered.
    2. Will these work with an electric guitar? Listing and title already states they are
    3. What size is the item? Listing and title already states the size
    4. Can you tell me the thickness and if it’s square shaped? Already stated

    OK I might lose a few sales but at least I won’t get asked a question that might lead to me being suspended.

    This really has to change, eBay are going to lose some (more) good sellers.

  20. @Chris Dawson – I strongly believe that you should raise this with the Ebay management. The current situation it’s very damaging for everyone: sellers, buyers and even Ebay itself.
    I’m pretty sure that the management has no idea on how the ” bot ” it’s doing the ” job ” and how much damage is doing in the process. By the time they will find out it will be too late.
    Ebay needs to understand that asking questions and replying it’s normal and it’s part of the pre-selling process and it has been like this forever, long before ebay even existed.
    Ebay it’s shooting them-self in the foot but their are using a shotgun and hit also our foot in the process.

  21. We’ve taken to not responding at all to any emails where the buyer is asking to do an deal off eBay. When we did respond 3 weeks ago to say we could only sell through eBay we got a 7 day suspension. Not worth the aggro …. eBay lack common sense when trying to reason with them on this (and lots of other) issue.

    I did point out that eBay themselves already have our contact details including phone number so buyers could look there anyway. Pointless.

  22. Hi

    I have 2 accounts both with high 100 percent positive feedbacks and Ebay have closed selling aspects of accounts forever…but I can still buy from them ..how kind..

    I have written to Dublin and they write the same things back every time..

    I never had any bad feedback and any issues i would resolve …
    What can i do ??

  23. Reading this thread probably just saved me a suspension
    We just received an eBay message asking if we were eBay only or if we had a retail outlet
    We just stopped ourselves answering nearly replied and this thread came to mind
    The cynic in me thinks
    This is Great way to get a rival suspended

  24. I had a very friendly customer who was a little OTT with their messages going into their daily personal life. They’d bought something from me as a present for a family member, and they were so happy with it, they wanted to write me a personal letter to send in the post to thank me. Their messages were buzzing with keywords that I felt a bot could easily pick up on and totally misrepresent. Thank goodness it didn’t, but it does show the paranoia that runs through the minds of sellers.
    eBay have completely lost the plot here. They have to find a new way to deal with this situation for everybody’s peace of mind. Like many others it also crossed my mind that a competitor can use this to try and destroy somebody else’s account.

  25. The days when eBay was great is gone paypal does the same now it’s risky business it’s a shame to see this happening you ask a simple question and your suspended

  26. Yet there are still some professional sellers openly advertising their premises and inviting visits.
    Then again some poor sellers receive an unsolicited message and receive a ban. All a bit suspicious or just one huge mess?

  27. I have been trying to get through to eBay to resolve a refund issue, what a laugh, can’t get through, they are a sheer waste of space and have no idea what customer service is and PayPal is the same with it’s so called automated service which does not answer my query but just goes round in circles. Neither make it easy to find a telephone number where you can actually speak to a human being, has anyone got any numbers I can try. I do agree that both are going down the pan.

  28. I quit as an eBay seller around 5 months ago.
    Finally, but not only, because eBay was trying to pretend that it new more about my items than I did by foreshortening descriptions into gobbledygook.

    It is the most duplicitous outfit that it has ever been my pleasure to encounter.

    My take on the latest communication issues is that eBay has suddenly tried to act on the fact that many sellers now have their own websites that can out compete eBay pricewise most times as eBay has become, to them, just a price list.

    eBay lost their usp the day that the very first seller opened their own website. eBay should have made sellers an offer that made eBay the ONLY place to sell. The chance for that has long gone.

    To survive eBay will need to change its basic model to reflect that it is on the way to becoming ‘just a price list’. Else eBay will just be selling commodity products, ends of lines and seconds at prices that only very large sellers can live with.


  29. Sat by the phone waiting for eBay Concierge to ring so they can tell us what we’re allowed to say.

    “Thank you. Would you mind if I called you today to discuss options? Could I get your name”

    Purchase price £1270 Inc Vat.

    It’s a ******* tragedy.

  30. Ebay are two sided. No addresses or phone numbers to be given out to there on the eBay site. Gumtree owned by eBay is a different matter, in so much as it pinpoints the exact house on its map, therefore we were broken into (just my 2 teenage daughters at home) to try to steal a £4000 jet ski my son had up for sale on the site. Can’t turn off location either.

    Seems to be one rule for one site another and potentially hazardous rule on the other.

  31. You are right, Anne. Ebay is two-sided and their policies contradict each other. Sorry to hear that you were broken into. It’s a horrible experience for anyone to undergo.

    Ebay have got too big and have failed to support the smaller enterprises who might actually want to give good old-fashioned service over the internet even though it grew mighty on the back of micro businesses like mine.

    I make handmade rosaries in natural stone. Sometimes a customer sees one they like but has a slightly different preference or need (for instance – I like that style but could you make one in amethyst instead of rose quartz? Or, I like that style but could you change the cross for this one?)

    Up until a couple of months ago Ebay were quite happy for me to encourage a discussion of a potential sale through their messaging system which would then be listed as a bespoke “special commission.” Any sales commissioned this way were ALWAYS listed on Ebay. Such customers have been delighted with this service and it has generated sales–most of them have returned and brought their friends with them.

    Now that has all changed. I have had to change every listing and switch off the question facility. Undoubtedly I will lose customers and income.

    There is no commercial sense on Ebay now except the kerching of big company trading. Ebay just don’t care about small companies or about offering a good steady service–they have lost their values completely. Apparently they really don’t give a toss about their buyers either. What arrogance!

    Sadly, we are either forced to accept, or simply walk away.

  32. C’mon let’s be honest. Ebay got it wrong big time now.
    We have received a warning on our account because we have replied to a customer technical enquiry via email and in the email was our company signature (address, phone nnumber, VAT, etc)
    Ebay considered that the signature is an invitation for the customer to take the deal offline. However- and this is the stupid part- the very same details (address, phone number, VAT, etc) + the email address are provided by ebay itself on each of our own listings.
    But ebay it’s permitted to do that while we are not.
    That is either corporate stupidity OR two-sided behaviour like Chris said earlier.

  33. This is getting absolutely absurd, I agree with the other seller who said they are now scared to answer customers questions.

    Not all scenarios and items can be dealt with in the same neat package ebay are trying to force on you, the world isn’t just black and white, there’s exceptions.

    For instance I really am not bothered about saving the 10% ebay seems to quite insultingly think we’re all trying to con them out of. It actually more piece of mind to pay that 10% and have everything on record etc for refunds and labels etc

    For instance an elderly gentleman tonight wanted help in directions to my house in order to collect a pair of hedge trimmers before securing the payment on ebay, keep in mind the sale would still go through on ebay, after his confidence was assured. When I tried to send my contact they said they will restrict me if i try again. It led me to be unable to complete the sale as he wanted a contact for when he arrives. I didn’t really know how to communicate with him, all i could say was sorry ebay wont let me do that im sorry.

    How are you meant to arrange anything on collection at the door? it’s obsurd, surely when people are travelling miles they need a contact to see if your in or if they get lost?

    Another example is when you have items yet to list and customers are asking you questions, and you have a more suitable option for them and they want to buy. They ask you how and you dont know how to direct them. My only option is to create a ‘fake’ listing, hoping know one will buy before they purchase, there’s no way to ‘reserve’ items for your buyers. And telling them to buy this purchase that has a nearly blank title and no pictures is hardly professional. Couldn’t there be some offer customer new item now button in the messages to complete a sale there and then?

    Theres also been times when customers have had to email there contact details when they;re buying for a relative or something of the sorts for a holiday home etc and it’s just a nightmare. They really need to look into changing this. I’ve never really felt like my communication has been restricted this much in the UK in my life.

  34. Quick questions, does any one know if the contact information for addresses changes after you’ve sold something for local collection, I know this sounds like a stupidly obvious question, but ive been reading about people getting banned for telling addresses to customers to see if the area to pick up is within their reach.

    Surely you’re ok to say the generally city your in to customers before the sale has ended? To see if you’re local enough.

    I’m making my own website as soon as I can now, this censorship is too much

  35. Had our listings temporarily turned off due to an innocuous question from a buyer. After a subsequent warning email and week and half of being put through department to ‘specialist’ departments, not one advisor could see why the account had been restricted. Something or someone had jumped the gun somewhere.

    These Bots have a lot of learning to do.


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