eBay UK Announces Delay to Service Metrics Penalties to 1st Feb 2019

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eBay today announced a delay to the Service Metrics Penalties (or 4% fines as you might call them) until February 2019. eBay originally confirmed they would apply from the 1st of October 2018.

David Brackin is the managing director of Stuff U Sell, the leading eBay trading assistant in the UK and a regular Tamebay contributor shares his thoughts on why this is a good move by eBay for sellers and what the future holds:

Returns are the grit in the wheels of ecommerce. As sellers, we hate the expense of packages being sent out and returned. Buyers hate the hassle of thinking they’ve bought the item they want, finding out it’s wrong and having to send it back. No one wants a high returns rate and while the right to checking sizing and trying-out will always be part of the online offering, it feels like returns could be avoided where item descriptions are wrong. Furthermore, eBay spend a lot of marketing money attracting new buyers for everyone to sell to, but a handful of sellers treat them so badly that they end up leaving.

This was the reasoning behind eBay’s Service Metrics penalties announced earlier in the year – to identify the small handful of sellers who were driving buyers away and to either have them mend their ways or to contribute more towards the cost of getting them back. And for everyone else, it is useful to see the data that only eBay can gather to show how our returns rates compare with other sellers in our sectors.

Put like that, you might expect that leadership from eBay on fixing this problem is something that would be welcomed by the seller community – don’t we all want the rotten apples either to improve or to be weeded out? However, the reaction from the seller community to this initiative has been overwhelmingly negative. Why is that?

The trouble is that this is really quite a complicated problem, and eBay were optimistic in how quickly it could be done – announcing it in the Autumn business update with a deadline of 1st October. For it to work and be seen to be fair in this short period, eBay needed to design a measure that successfully identified the bad apples, develop a dashboard to show all sellers what it is, and then to allow sellers the time to understand the new measure and adjust their behaviours. This has not been possible – it is then to eBay’s great credit that they have listened to sellers, sat back and taken a second look, and today announced that they are postponing the implementation of service metrics penalties until 1st Feb 2019, with the added bonus of pushing it back to after peak period.

It might be tempting for sellers to be uncharitable about this change. This would be wrong. In the past eBay would have launched it anyway. This announcement shows far eBay has come in listening to and seeking to partner with the seller community.

The metrics are complicated and the dashboard tricky to understand so it’s absolutely the right call to back off enforcement based on this information until they’ve had a chance to simplify, fix and sellers have had a good chance to understand what is going on. I don’t know about other sellers, but I’m looking forward to having extra business intelligence provided free of charge to understand if I have problems in some category or other. None of us wants more returns, do we?

It is also clear that eBay are determined to do something to change the behaviour of the handful of sellers who would have been caught up in these metrics – this metric is not going away, so we’d all do well look out for the additional explanatory videos and guidance on how the metrics work. I’m sure we’ll be talking a lot more about returns over the next six months.

70 Responses

  1. It’s difficult to think that sellers should be grateful to eBay for having delayed the implementation of a measure which:

    – makes no allowance for erroneously, wrongfully or fraudulently opened cases.

    – makes no allowance for multiple cases opened by the same buyer, or for items contained in the same package. If you sell stamps or buttons, and a single envelope gets delayed or damaged in the post, this could result in 20 or 30 cases being opened. And at that point, no matter what the seller or buyer does, a small-scale seller has enough UNREMOVABLE black marks to gain a 40% increase in his FVFs for 3 months or 12 months – or a reduction in the visibility of his items.

    – gives unlimited scope to competitors to open ONE disposable account, make multiple purchases of low-value items, claim for the lot of them, and thereby bankrupt the competition.

    If eBay want to punish the bad apples (and of course they should), then identifying them would be a good start. Not just looking for something that’s easy to count, refusing to implement the safeguards used on eBay’s other punishment schemes and punishing anyone who comes into the firing line.

    If the only way to identify the bad apples, is to prevent ANY cases being de-scored or treated as single instances, that suggests that the bad apples have found a way to circumvent the existing system. If that’s the case, the corruption or lax practice needs to be rooted out. Punishing other, blameless, sellers, won’t solve the problem.

  2. Great idea. Now we can all aim to get our percentage lower and then the average will go down…. then we have to aim to get it below that again and then it goes down again…

    Well I think you get the idea.

  3. It’s just too crude a tool. In our area of collectables, just 1 return out of 2,042 placed us as “average”. When it went up to 2 returns, we jumped to above average.

    So who are they using for comparison? A rate of 2 returns out of 2,000+ sales in the period was above average. Complete bullsh*t. Presumably 3 would have pushed us into the 4% surcharge. When we challenged CS how they made this comparison, they couldn’t say. Though they at least admitted it did seem harsh.

    This is being advertised as a measure to catch the bad apples, but in reality there will be innocent casualties caused by Ebay’s botched metrics.

    Why not just kick off those who provide consistently poor service on Ebay? That way everyone wins – buyers and good sellers.

    This penalties nonsense needs to be binned for good.

    It sums up all that is wrong with Ebay in the Wenig era.

  4. Great news!

    I feel a big weight just lifted off my shoulders.

    However, this is eBay through and through as of late. They continually come up with rubbish ideas, force them upon us and then at the last-minute delay or scrap them again and again.

    Off the top of my head after a hectic day:

    eBay Auto Returns
    eBay Returns Auto Refund (is that live yet?!)
    eBay Product Identifier
    eBay Premium Service criteria changes (delayed twice at least?)
    eBay Service Metrics page (Due mid July!)

    And that’s not mentioning any of the usual problems, shoddy website or pictures being deleted recently.

    It just smacks of poor management and poor (no) planning.

    We’ve been selling for 15 years on eBay and it’s certainly up there with being the worst year for eBay that I can remember. We’ve been selling for 15 years on eBay.

    Amazon on the other hand, well thats up and up.

  5. The article says that E-Bay have some bad sellers who are spoiling the experience for buyers. One can only assume that if that is the case, E-Bay must already have the data to support that.

    If the data is already there, then why the need to create this monster and apply it to all ? Would it be too sensible to simply act on the existing data and deal with the bad sellers that they must already know about ?

    I also go right back to:

    If you underperform against the metrics, then reduce visibility which will reduce sales for these sellers until they improve – The message from that is ‘if you don’t behave, you aren’t going to sell much, if anything on here’.

    However, what we have now is, if you underperform, you can carry on underperforming for as long as you want, and by as much as you want, provided you pay more by way of seller fees.

    I would love to hear anyone’s explanation as to how this approach improves the buyers experience, which if we believe what we are told, is the root of the matter !!

    My view, it doesn’t, its utterly unfit for purpose.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am glad its been deferred until next year, but the process right now is garbage.

  6. The 4% penalty has absolutely nothing to do with penalising Bad Sellers. Ebay has added this surcharge to add to their profits. Nothing else. They’ve exhausted all other ideas, and they can’t raise seller fees anymore, otherwise, they are out of line with other selling platforms.

    My sales have plummeted on ebay by 30% year on year. Instead of fighting to keep up, I’m spending the time listing on other Platforms, and I suggest others do the same with the spare time Ebay are giving us.

    Whatever you lose on ebay, you’ll make up elsewhere.

  7. This penalty was a farcical charade from the start.

    I, for one, would be glad if it never reared its head again.

    But, even if that were to occur, I’m sure another equally ridiculous metric will take its place.

  8. Trumpton, I totally agree, the mechanism set up to address the problem of the bad sellers chasing away new buyers, actually does nothing of the sort !

    I have been trying to assemble some logic since this all started to explain how this mechanism is something other than a money grab by E-Bay, but have drawn a complete blank.

  9. Ebay dont have a clue as to how difficult things are for smaller sellers, say up to 100k pa
    So i am switching to Amazon

  10. The article says ‘so we’d all do well look out for the additional explanatory videos and guidance on how the metrics work. I’m sure we’ll be talking a lot more about returns over the next six months’.

    Why would we want to watch videos about a system that is ill conceived. The whole thing is just a false system designed to put the fees up. Ebay like everyone is saying could just tackle the sellers who are bad apples, if that was the reason this penalty was brought in for. Instead they send emails to sellers telling them they are bad sellers and have a very high return rate.

    If you read article on returns rates in the UK, the average rates for on line sellers are between 19 and 30%. They by the way are actual returns. Ebays metrics were on return requests, so even returns requested that were closed without a return or just timed out without a return were added into ebays figures. Ebays figures had 2% as very high in my category. Way below the national figures but in ebay world really high.

    Why then would I want to listen to an ebay video telling me how I should improve when they are out of step with what the returns rates are in the real world and mislead sellers with inaccurate metrics into paying more money. Rather than waste time on telling us about metrics, EBay need to start looking at the harm this kind of greedy scheme is doing and just focus on improving themselves first.

  11. Ebay even punish sellers who are the victims of misuse of returns. When we asked Ebay customer services what they could do about a misuse or return case they just said refund the buyer, and report the buyer. The return was then used as part of our metrics penalty as it was falsely labels a SNAD.

    With the new automated returns misuse of returns will climb. Ebay will just use the cases as sticks to beat the sellers with and reward the buyers with a refund. The buyers will spread the word and do it again, seeing that ebay are giving them free returns without any punishment.

    Maybe though the videos they are going to do will sugar coat the whole issue and end and they all lived happily ever after in the wonderful world of eBay.

  12. The last two return request received on eBay timed out without the items being returned. I presume the buyer opened then wanting a full refund and to keep the so called faulty item. We get a lot of buyers doing this. All the returns requests are on my metrics. It seems unfair no return occurred. Yet eBay will use this to claim I am a bad seller, how is that fair.

  13. This is the killer line from the announcement on eBay:

    ‘As a result, we won’t be applying the surcharge to sellers directly listing on eBay.co.uk who are rated “Very High” in the applicable categories until 1 February 2019. This is to give you the time to get to know the Service Metrics tools and dashboard and to take the opportunity to improve your rating if necessary.’

    It is IMPOSSIBLE to do anything about it! As it stands, we have no control whatsoever over customers opening returns. There is nothing that we can do to mitigate against it. We can’t contest the returns.

    We cannot ‘improve’ our rating as much as we can’t reduce the amount of rainfall.

    What exactly to eBay expect us to do? Build a time machine ?

  14. What they expect is for you to put up with it so they can get more money out of you. They think EBay is the only one on the marketplace and we cannot do without them. We have reduced our listings on EBay because of things like this and the onset of Adyen as the process will be slow for people to make payments and they expect people to be with a company that nobody has heard of instead of a company like Paypal. The way things are going we will be done with Ebay within 12 months so trying to increase there turnover by 4% will back fire on them. We will be increasing on Amazon, our website and now looking at other items to sell on these and keep a close eye on OnBuy.com
    We are 50% down on lasy years figures for EBay so I think they need to find a person to turn the light of on their way out.

  15. When are they gonna build in metrics and punishments for the 52 parcels sat here on our warehouse floor where the buyer has been left a card and they have not bothered to go and collect.
    Or the 6 where the customer tells us what street they live on but no number.
    We have even had an address number 6 Manchester.

    As per usual eBay just let those buyers take sellers for a ride with no penalty.

    Returns are the fault of eBay we have around 21 returns per month from eBay for a particular dog collar and around 2 from Amazon on exactly the same item with sales or 70+ per month on eBay and 90+ on Amazon. The eBay description has all the measurements clearly shown and on Amazon the measurements are pretty poorly displayed yet their buyers get it right. So it cannot be us or the description.

    We are dreading this illegal 30 day returns forced on us as we never set out to be a lending library.

  16. Having had to rebuild my life after my indefinite suspension.. I think long term it’s a blessing in disguise, as yesterday I was offered an IT job that could lead to a career. this company just invents new ways to make it less and less profitable for sellers.

    Good luck to those who are successful on eBay but I wonder how many are actually making a living wage after fees honestly.

    I serve as a warning they can cull you at any time. I’ve been through six months of hell and would advise others to tread carefully and not have all your eggs in eBay’s basket.
    Everyone says I’ll get my website going.. but the reality is that is like eBay, in that you have to pay google more and more fees to be seen.

    I used to love being self employed but now I prefer being paid without the risk of it being refunded.

  17. 0.00% is what we are on which is strange as we had two returns opened, one which was sorted ASAP and buyer closed and another was a attempt at an eBay Freebee which never actually got sent back.
    Peers = 0.36%. I would love to know where they get this figure plus I would not trust it.
    Plus this is the only place I know that gives you a slap in the chops for accepting returns, it is actually mental, who does this.???
    Anyway it is just a hidden fee hike that is all, the platform is now struggling and is led by short term thinkers, they are just playing into Amazon hands more and more everyday…it is a crying shame…

    It is a stupid, ill thought out, badly implemented, and even worse will be badly managed. These stupid draconian defects system is just repeating the same mistakes of a few years ago.

  18. No matter what system is put in place there will always be occasions when the information recorded would need to be amended either due to errors or misuse. How can any system be just and fair if there is no appeals process. Especially if the incorrect data stored could eventually mean greater fees for a seller.

    This is the final straw for me the shop will close as soon as my stock is gone. Note to ebay I have been selling for over 10 years with a featured shop with a 35% repeat customer base a lot of unhappy buyers are not going to be able to buy from me soon. For that I am really sorry but I’ve had enough

  19. The attempt to claim that this mechanism is intended to improve the buyer experience, is, in my view, and pardon the language, polishing the turd.

  20. David Bracklin.
    “Do you really have no control at all over whether your buyers open SNAD returns?”

    Yes, of course we have SOME control.

    But as long as eBay counts individual cases rather than unique buyers, small sellers risk being fined for 3 months or 6 months, based on the actions of ONE buyer. Even a competitor. Even a blatant fraudster who is immediately NARU’d for making false SNAD claims.

    Because each item returned will generate a separate case, and each case is counted.

    Why should sellers be penalised for that?

  21. if Ebay are listening then listen to this,STOP and repay the 10% you charge us sellers on postage!!!!!the next thing they will be doing is putting a buyers premium on things like the auction houses do.oh with the postage 10% i was told to add it to the cost of any item im selling,i said but then you (ebay) get more of the postage,yes they said,Ebay wins whatever.

  22. They should have just implemented it when they said they would, and get rid of all the useless sellers. If you cannot get below the 4% you shouldn’t be selling at all.

  23. Hi Alan,

    I am glad we are both of the same view on the metric itself !

    My apologies, I did actually mean to write Very High, my chart suggests that a returns rate of 0.7% or 10 out of 1,600 would be deemed very high.

    I appreciate this is measured against my peers (albeit the data is unverifiable), but 10 returns out of 1,600 for used items, does not seem to me to be a number which should be deemed a problem by E-Bay. Don’t get me wrong, I try to achieve no returns whatsoever, but given the fake ones count, in current form, this appears a hiding to nothing.

    The other issue is, given this is apparently measured against my peers, the percentage that is deemed very high is going to move around without notice. It seems grossly unfair to be pootling along, having been below the last quarters threshold for very high, only to find at the next evaluation, the goalposts have moved.

    I think that is just crazy. If they must, pick a percentage for each category which is deemed very high, and measure everyone against a fixed target, at least we know where we stand.

  24. The metric is totally unfair and a cash grab for eBay pure and simple. Rather than tackle the bad apples they keep moving the bar down until we all get the charge. As the high return people leave the charge starts to affect people who have a small number of returns.

    Bogus returns are a massive problem for everyone, we already have the return postage fee to pay, the time testing the item and finding it worked all the time. Then having to resell the item at a lower fee because it can no longer be classed as new and unopened.

    And then eBay decide to ignore it was a misuse of return and look at the bogus reason the buyer gave to return the item and add that to the tally to go against you in the return penalty charge.

    How can that be fair?

  25. @Sam
    ” Yes I did read the metrics, and they both said item damaged.

    Take your ebay rose tinted Glasses off Alan….

    Your beloved site is a shambles, and everyone can see it…

    Bravo Sam,
    Alans rose tinted glasses are on permanently.

    Here is an example from Ebay US site on how they calculate the final value increase of 4% – ( but it is actually 40% increase )
    Source Ebay US policy page
    ” Seller B sold a men’s wristwatch for $9,640, including shipping. The seller has an Above Standard seller performance level and a Very High evaluation for ‘Item not as described’ returns on eBay.com in the Jewelry & Watches category, so an additional 4% final value fee applies.

    Final value fee calculation: 10% of $9,640 = $964 (fee capped at $750). 4% of $9,640 = $385.60. Total final value fee: $750 + $385.60 = $1,135.60 ”

    What is very worrying here is the fee increase is a whopping 51%!

  26. The only reason I can see about eBay automatically accepting returns rather than allow a seller to offer a replacement is to gain extra profit.

    90% of our returns (which are opened with the eBay standard ” buyer x has stated there is a problem with their item and wants to return the item for a full refund and yet in the comment section the buyer has written “hi, received this item this morning however it appears to be faulty please can you send a replacement”

    Once a buyer opens a return request literally the only option we have is to now issue a refund upon return. I don’t know why eBay do not make it more clear to buyers that if they open a return request it is to return the item for a full refund. We even put in all our correspondence and at the bottom of invoices for buyers to only open a return request if they do wish to return the item for a full refund as our options are completely restricted once a buyer opens a return request.

    We use to send out replacements if the buyer opened a request like this, however eBay will not close the return request down and it remains open for months and asking the buyer to close it down often results in no reply as they have their replacement and so their problem is now resolved. eBay will only close a case down if the buyer replies confirming they have received their replacement.

    My final issue is the cost of the eBay return label, last time I checked eBay charge sellers £3.05 to use their Royal Mail tracked return label.

    We use Royal Mail OBA and use to issue our buyers the exact same label which Royal Mail charge us £2.17.

    Now considering we only use tracked returns around 300 times a year I would assume eBay are getting a far lower price than £2.17 for the volume they are using so clearly they are making profit on these returns labels they are charging sellers.

    Not only are they profiteering from false claims of item not as describe (by the increase in FVF) they also have the cheek to profit from the same label we use to be able to use that they now issue to buyers and are charging us sellers more.

  27. I think ebay are bring in the additional 4% fee to pay for return postage for item not as described returns opened by buyers to get a free return. As I find now more and more when a buyer opens a return and the reason matches the listing, ebay say accepted the return or soon to be automatically accept the return. Once item is received back give them a call to try get the return postage back. They don’t want to piss buyers off by telling them they are wrong and need to pay for the return themselves, so ebay pay for the return but actually sellers are still paying for the return as they are just hiking up fees to cover this.

    How can you have a metric system where month to month you won’t have a clue what the goal post are.

  28. I see lots of comments here describing what’s wrong with this metric and implementation.

    Who has a better answer for how to bring back into line the sellers who are making buyers think we’re all shady people mis-describe things?

  29. Another issue I think that hasn’t been thought out properly…

    Say I have 1000 sales and 4 returns that are not as described (lets not factor in 1 of them was a miss use of the return process and stick with the 4)

    My return rate is 0.4% which eBay have judged to be high in comparison to my peers and charge me (and any one else in my category who is also classed as high) the additional 40% FVF

    Now I work my socks of and reduce that 4 returns down to 3 returns but so have my peers and so the goals have changed again and now 3 returns is classed has high so again another month of 40% higher FVF.

    Month 3, I am determined to get my “excessively high number of returns” down to 2 (0.2%, I know such a high number of returns right?!) but again so have my peers and so it is no longer 4 returns that are classed as high but now 2 are classed as high.

    In theory if eBay got rid of all the bad sellers (which is a good idea) and they are just left with good sellers who offer great service. A certain percentage of them really good sellers will always have an high return rate because if my returns (all be it if I only have 2 out of 1000 per month) is only 0.001% higher than my peers I am hit with this 40% FVF hike.

    Unless I have really missed something or not fully understood how this works it make things very difficult to run a business on eBay with the continuously uncertainty of what is class by eBay as good and what suddenly classed as bad.

  30. ebay can’t be trusted in black and white cases where buyers try it on to get free returns. How on earth are sellers meant to trust them with a metric system that sellers can’t see who they are compared to.

    At the minute when I ask the question do I trust ebay the answer is no. At the start of the year when asking the same question I would say yes. As things were pretty fair when returns were open. Now it is back to the days of dreading opening a message, as the first though now is whats gone wrong and what is it going to cost me.

    Reading this part on their update is also worrying. – A note on misfiled returns: Our customer service team cannot remove individual transactions. eBay is a marketplace and like all marketplaces, sellers may experience misfiled returns from time to time. We recognise this, and peer benchmarks are designed to reflect that incorrect returns happen from time to time.

    1/3 of my returns for the last 12 months are misfiled returns.

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