Chinese location abuse on eBay rears it’s head again

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Chinese location abuse on eBay appears to be on the rise once again. In the past Chinese sellers claimed that their items were based in the UK but shipped from China. Then with the rise of cheap warehousing in the UK they started shipping their products in bulk to the UK to be fulfilled locally.

HMRC got involved as many of these sellers hadn’t registered for VAT. After a long campaign many Chinese sellers had to register for VAT and over the course of 2018 started to pay VAT. These sellers suddenly lost their 20% competitive edge and it would appear that a significant number have reverted to shipping from China. Some may have left without paying their bills to fulfilment houses and we’re already hearing of offers from these warehouses left with unpaid invoices and diminishing business.

This leaves the Chinese sellers with a problem, if their items aren’t in the UK then they are unlikely to attract sales and retain their eBay Best Match position and as they drop down search results sales tail off. Their solution is to revert to past behaviour and leave their Item Location as the UK and hence the rise in location abuse.

Today however, Chinese location abuse has a new tool in their eBay arsenal – eBay Promoted Listings. Having reverted to shipping from China they have at least a 20% advantage over UK sellers due to not paying VAT and so their budgets for promoted listings is higher. eBay have also in recent months assigned the first, fourth and fifth position in search results to Promoted Listings and so Chinese Location abuse doesn’t prevent Chinese sellers from buying the top search position.

How could eBay tackle Chinese location abuse?

There should be an easy way for eBay to tackle Chinese location abuse. In today’s world there is no such thing as a five day courier. Even economy services such as Hermes perform deliveries within three days and there isn’t a courier in the UK that takes five days to deliver an item.

eBay should do two things. Firstly remove the option for a five day courier and if a delivery estimate for an item purportedly located in the UK from a Chinese seller can’t be delivered within a short time span automatically assume it’s Chinese location abuse (because it almost certainly is) and demote their items to the last page of search results. Sellers registered in China will either be using a UK fulfilment house who will easily be able to deliver within a couple of days, or they are liars and are in reality shipping from China.

There are a few Chinese sellers who will ship in bulk to the UK and then have packages simply forwarded. This is still Chinese location abuse as the items aren’t in the UK at the time of purchase. It may save on individual shipping fees but it’s a scam and these sellers should also be paying VAT.

We should point out that here at Tamebay HQ we have no issue with Chinese sellers selling to the UK. It’s the way of the modern world and equally UK sellers can sell cross border into other countries. The issue we have is Chinese sellers who lie and cheat and mislead customers to unfairly compete with UK sellers.

The second thing that eBay could do is to control which sellers are allowed to buy their way to the top of search with eBay Promoted Listings. Today’s retail standards mean that consumers expect items to be delivered within a couple of days at most and they’ll simply stop buying on eBay if they are misled.

Impact of Chinese location abuse on UK sellers

Some sellers are telling us that their eBay Promoted Listings fees have sky rocketed in recent months as they are forced to compete with Chinese location abuse. They are in the bizarre position of their product being at the top of naturaly eBay Best Match search results but that is in reality second spot due to first spot being handed to eBay Promoted Listings. In order to keep a Chinese location abuse seller out of the top spot, UK sellers are having to bid higher for eBay Promoted Listings and then they’ll get first and second spot in search results. The downside is that consumers buy from the first search result which incurs the eBay Promoted Listings fee.

UK sellers who are having to outbid Chinese location abuse sellers are either losing their margins or refusing to play the game and losing sales. Either way their businesses are being severely impacted by loss of profits.

Location abuse has been an ongoing issue which we’ve been writing about on Tamebay for a decade. It’s now 2019 and time for eBay to clamp down and put a stop to it once and for all. Any account registered in China but claiming their stock is based in the UK should have a delivery time scale of five days or less. Buyers aren’t fooled as checking Chinese sellers’ feedback reveals the true item location so why are eBay so easily fooled by Chinese location abuse?

44 Responses

  1. I have been a victim of this ‘fraud’ -as i can not name it any other way.
    Picture this: One buys a product that upon arrival is ‘Not As Described’ – normally you would then contact seller for either exchange or refund and if it is needed item is being sent back to the seller. Yet when the seller is located in China the cost of sending it back very often is higher then the amount of money disputed and paid for the product. Chinese seller knows this loophole and use it for their own gain.
    Ebay have completely lost interest in resolving disputes by an actual human beings leaving all to be dealt with automaticly and when you open a case to ask for your money back it than advise to send the ‘unwanted’ item back (tracked so you need to submit prove that it traveled and have been accepted). Since it cost a lot to do so and by knowing no one will reimburse you -buyer is Always duped not only by the seller but also by the very platform he/she was using. On top of that there is almost no way to reason with ebay apart from flagging the auction as per above all is automated and badly coded meaning information gets nowhere.
    As you may suspect seller stopped responding as soon as you opened the case (before that you may still give a negative feedback – not after opening) and automated ebay when tracking number is not submitted dissmisses the case.
    …and it is so automated that after this experience ebay sends you a form so you can rate how happy you are with the way your case was handeld.
    Nightmare and frankly illegal – but somehow active.

  2. This practise is rife, and I have been caught out on many occasions. It is also affecting my business.
    Please eBay sort this out asap.

  3. I’ve stopped buying from eBay because of the pages of Chinese sellers selling the same product even if you click uk only. I bought 2 lots of LOL dolls, both meant to be from the uk but they were dangerous Chinese fakes. It will take the death of a child and eBay being sued for millions before they take notice.
    I still sell on eBay but they are not a priority as my licensed products are always below the fake Chinese dangerous crap. eBay doesn’t care about uk sellers, and don’t care if their negligence risks uk buyers

  4. As a customer I think twice before buying on ebay due to these Chinese scammers. Who wants to go through the rigmarole of checking every seller’s business details when purchasing to ensure buying from a genuine UK seller? It is particularly frustrating and time consuming as so many of the listings that come up first are from China no matter how you refine viewing them.
    As a seller my sales have halved over the last year thanks to ebay not sorting this problem out. Ebay can install the technology to hammer sellers for every perceived defect, real or not, so there is no reason these fraudulent Chinese sellers can’t be weeded out. Surely there must be something HMRC can do to lean on ebay for encouraging tax avoidance otherwise?

  5. I don’t see how ebay can keep turning a blind eye to this if they want to tackle their dodgy/untrustworthy marketplace image. Cleaning this up is a very obvious place to start.

    As a good example, search Marvel compression T-Shirts, filter for UK only.

    You will find sellers who:

    State a UK location but have a China address in business details
    Have feedback below 98% with negative comments saying that they are actually shipping from China, not UK
    Are unlikely to be paying Marvel for use of their characters and designs

    Look at the prices. Now do the same search on Amazon and compare.

    Which marketplace looks like the dodgy one?

    This is not too difficult for them to police and sort out. Buyer experiences will improve as a result, which will mean they won’t need to spend as much on TV adverts featuring trainer sniffing buyers to counter the negative ebay image problem.

  6. “Just checked what you said above and found loads. In the last 2 months this issue has exploded. They don’t need to do VAT evasion anymore. All they need to do is push out delivery times to 7-10 days, ramp up PYL percentage and voila….top of search.”

    Is that because Ebay have worked out how to keep the Chinese sweet by changing the sponsored ad system to push them to the top to make the products look cheap as the VAT fraud scam is closing in!!!!
    Can these people at the top of Ebay not see the Gerald Ratner moment coming…We bought stuff for Christmas had Illegal plugs, Electrics, Wiring and comments back from Chinese sellers stating try it first and see if works!! Yep will soon know when the house burns down…Then try getting the products returned, hang on it says UK, why am I sending back to China! again advertising misdescription.(thought that was Illegal?)
    Don’t get me started on the VAT numbers, mmmm Nil returns being filed me thinks!
    and what’s that…Dormant!?

    We also sell directly and it has been interesting to hear that buyers have started to say we don’t trust Ebay or Amazon, it has become a dodgy place to buy and no better than a bootsale in China Town and a lot of feedback says we then look directly for the sellers site to work out if they are UK companies. Even if a company that big loses it’s trust it’s a slippery slope. This is what Amazon’s strength was back in the day, pay a little more but know what you are getting and where…Unfortunately they are going the same way…And let’s be honest you can see where the sales are going on these platforms.

    I have been approached by two UK companies working on a UK version of both major platforms, One already has signed up a Very large number of very big UK retailers. Not sure how they are working this but you can only be a UK registered company. The clip per sale is minute in comparison and free to be on….Imagine if a few thousand sellers go on it and then the affilliate marketing guys jump on it, won’t take long to get it out there…Plus national advertising backed up by large household names…Interesting times!

  7. This problem can be solved with a British flag emblem next to sellers who are verified as UK based.

    It’s up to Ebay to

    There is nothing wrong with flying the flag and it would help to make it clear to sellers who they are dealing with.

    Our area is not affected by Chinese sellers, but as a buyer on Ebay I’ve had horrendous experiences from Chinese sellers masquerading as UK based and will be buying off Amazon from now on.

    A tip for buyers is to check the feedback if in doubt. All of these Chinese sellers will pick up load of negs and neutrals. If you see a seller with 50 or more negs in a month, they’re probably from China. Avoid.

  8. It is on the sole onus of Ebay as a business to implement an infrastructure to accurately and thoroughly:

    1. Go through the process of verifying legitimacy of ALL existing sellers through legal documentation and enforce a more rigorous registration process for any new sellers with a more fairer selling restriction based on a longer qualifying trading period. Similar to an employee three month temporary contract, but with strict penalties.

    2. Willingly and voluntarily co-operating with the UK government, HMRC and Trading Standards (which is going to be a miracle) to share data – specifically consumer based information

    3. Ironically, they should actually enforce the very policies they have created on their own marketplace. If they did, this would first and foremost eradicate a significant portion of issues. Double standards / Blind Eye / Corporate Greed

    4. The UK government needs to do more to protect UK businesses. New Laws to restrict overseas businesses from taking advantage of and exploiting our economy.

    There is so much more that can be listed but the bottom line is it is the sole responsibility of Ebay. They can make positive change. They continue to ignore us sellers who are the very reason they exist in the first place.

  9. It killed us, the fake and counterfeit games being boosted to the top of the fixed search. We made them well aware of it emailed “listening LOL ” Rob Hattrel it just got worse.
    Nothing is done about it, the site has become a paradise for the fakers even worse than ever.
    So much so we stopped buying stock into sell on ebay as it is just a waste of money now, margins are just not there….we normally reinvest thousands in stock for ebay were not spending a penny with them right now.
    eBay Promoted Listings will kill ebay in the long term, short term unmanaged and abused.

  10. If they eradicated a substantial portion of counterfeits and kicked off these unscrupulous sellers with standard measures which should have been there from day one then the longevity of Ebay as a unique marketplace would prevail.

    Ebay would’t have to shoot itself in the foot and at the same time de-value it self. The playing field would be not 100% level but sufficient enough and large enough for all genuine traders to thrive.

    We could all charge the correct higher RRP’s of our products which they deserve.

    No need for cheesy promotional gimmicks to pay additional advertising fees to promote our genuine products to rank higher amongst the counterfeits. Ebay would profit more from the higher RRP’s.

    Reputation and Brand Value is priceless. Ebay has become a Pound land marketplace. Consumers are now de-sensitised in committing fraudulent and abusive transactions using the safe-haven of the Money Back Guarantee as diplomatic immunity to invincibility. It is rather sad that this is now common practice by consumers and in this respect they should also be considered as part of the wider issue. Consumers need to be regulated too! Integrity, honesty and good old fashioned morals are non-existent in a globalized world over-indulged by capitalism and greed.

  11. i think this has killed every uk seller who pays uk Bills and invests into there local area and also uk, salarys and warehouses and emplying uk staff. ive been on ebay and amazon since 2002 started with 2k and built a multi million pound buisness up emply uk staff and pay uk taxes worked my arse off only to become a victim off my own success. the last 5 years its been going one way and one way only and thats down. ebay dont care and are all for the chinese. the local chinese goverments and chinese ebay even do conferences training them up how to sell on ebay and amazon and how to rip us all off. how do i know because i emply staff over there i have 2 offices in china i have sent staff into these meetings i have videos and imadges, it gets better not only do they get all the support and showed how to diddle the uk they also get 20% kick back for doing over seas buisness. so every 100k they do they get 20k back from there local goverment office. how do the qualify for this simple they just need a chinese office in china emplying chinese staff. there local goverment see it has they are putting people into jobs. just go onto ebay or amazon and put ipad case every page is full off chinese sellers they are selling at a lose well you think they are but belive me there kick back is there profit. i have wrote many storys and seen many case off uk companys going out of buisness because of this. my local TSO is trying to get me on natinal TV so i can actually tell them the whole story has trying to type it on here would take me for months. and i want uk companys to understand what is going on in the uk retail market and online market. you might thing this is silly but belive me its a series situation to be in, there has been billions of unpaid tax and vat the goverment knows they just ignore it and act when its far to late. but if you are a uk company have uk offices they are soon onto you making your lives hell virtualy making your business impossible to run and be profitable. i just hope one day i can get it out there what i know and what ive seen which is the truth.

  12. Not only that some have their vat and address as Aberdeen hmrc. Surely that can’t be right!

  13. @ Keiron

    Also worth mentioning that there are reports online suggesting that the Chinese government have negotiated a deal with the Royal Mail on exclusive postage rates. It has been said that some of these rates are cheaper for a Chinese company to ship directly to a UK consumer compared to a UK company posting directly to a UK consumer.

    Ultimately until legal policies are reformed here in UK there is nothing mandatory required by any party to respond or resolve. Law governs everything. If the marketplaces are doing nothing then surely there should be stronger laws made powerful enough to enforce changes. All of us collectively need a louder speakerphone / engagement program with the government to take notice. Its difficult for them to quantify the sheer scale of the issue.

    The UK economy as a whole needs better protection for the very companies and people who sacrifice everything for nothing.

  14. Only way to sort it out is:

    1) Make platforms collect the VAT.

    Buyer makes 20% VAT transaction with Platform
    Seller make Zero Rated VAT transaction with Platform
    Platform pays HMRC the VAT

    This is a new EU Law – have to wait until 2021

    2) Third Party Liability for Fulfilment Centres warehousing Non-Compliant Goods

    All Fulfilment Centres must be held equally liable for Non-compliant Goods and Fake goods ensure that all stock in their warehouses complies with EU and UK regulations & is not counterfeit.

    EU have already proposed this too:

    Fulfilment centres would be or become economic operators and therefore liable under Article 3(12)(h): ‘any other natural or legal person established in the Union and other than a distributor, who warehouses, packages and ships products to or within the Union market’.

  15. Everyone is missing the point here it’s not just vat the problem. It’s everything they get a 20% kick back so not a fair business mode any longer. Ebay and amazon are Favouring them Germany has the same problem same has America part from America is double taxing them now cursing them to Leave America and hit Europe. The situation is bigger and getting worse by day.

  16. This says it all get me on national tv and they have a shock what the real truth is. Amazon and ebay are the worst for it no Policeing you report the sellers nothing gets done. And when it does after 6mths of chasing they close one shop and open another 20 shops selling the same items I bought to the attention of ebay one Chinese seller with 24 shops reported them 12 times nothing done multi listings the lot nothing gets done we are fighting a losing battle. I read one ☝️ comment on here that it’s a fair deal now open borders, no it’s not I have lived in China in a place called Wuxi, no foreigner can open a business or invest in China. You cannot open bank accounts you cannot buy property. The list goes on what we cannot do but hey ho they can keep coming to the U.K. in 1000s and the U.K. government are blind what’s happening.

    Click on the link again more tax and vat.

  17. Maybe we need a Donald Trump to come and long and create a equal playing field as he seems to be sticking up for America against China.

  18. The US and the UK are both run by a tiny ruling class who definitely do not care about the populace. Don’t look to them for help. DT is a temporary nuisance to them, they’ll get rid of him soon enough.

  19. Its too late. The irrevocable damage has been beautifully executed by the governments past and present who have sold their souls a very long time ago in exchange for the lively hoods and welfare of its tax paying citizens. Hard brexit, soft brexit or no brexit, it will not make any difference because those multi-billion pound deals have been signed, sealed and delivered. We’re practically living in a lawless country in my opinion.

    Local MPs cannot help. Trading Standards have no backbone and cannot enforce any power to disrupt these traders that we have reported as addresses are virtual and not physical. Its been 14 months and all traders on ebay continue selling counterfeit jewellery. HMRC not interested just file a report under pile of others. Ebay happy to ignore their own policies and UK laws and continue to profit. They answer to none. That leaves who???? Exactly. There is nobody to stop anybody. So what is the solution!?!?

  20. We have no chance we are just hanging by the thread. We used to have account managers they was useless. 300 million vat left the U.K. in 2017 400 million in 2018. Yet they soon after U.K. company’s and willing to prosecute them and close them down. If that’s not Victimisation what is when they are prosecuting there own. What about closing these 3pl warehouses down. Also any Chinese seller close down. It’s simple easy way to deal this. This vat what has left the U.K. it’s only what we know. Then there is the tax which we believe is twice has much has the vat. Here is the deal the Chinese have the company in the U.K. the bring Chinese staff to the U.K. on 6mth holiday visas but they are in the warehouses or offices doing the job of the U.K. people. More unpaid revenue. I can keep going and going. There is a warehouse in Manchester he is the Chinese boss of 30 ebay and amazon sellers. Every seller works for him not for themselves it madness so he has 30 shops doing 25000 orders a week.

  21. @ Alan Paterson (not myself Peterson!)

    Appreciate your feedback, however that response from ebay is expected and pathetic for the second largest online marketplace in the world. They are fully aware and have been for many years. They lack the moral integrity to implement a better infrastructure.

    What is needed is for these monopolies Ebay, Amazon, Facebook, Google to all be fully regulated in UK.

    We need a collective voice. A national movement. Every legitimate UK business to unite and speak out against these issues. It needs to be in the tens of thousands for these MP’s to take notice.

    I feel for everyone here who has commented in this article and those in other articles here on Tamebay. It is valuable to share the similar experiences and frustrations but ultimately, humbly speaking, its like talking to a brick wall because sharing feedback here is one thing and taking tangible actions with the right people is another. We need to address these issues through effective communication channels.

    Maybe Tamebay could look at reaching out and inviting the following on their website to discuss some useful topics:

    Local MP’s
    Trading Standards
    Commercial Lawyers
    Action Fraud

  22. Might be worth mentioning this:

    Work in progress at the moment & currently being setup. This is from the website:

    “UKORA is a new representative body focused on ensuring UK Online Retailers have a voice in government, influencing policy and legislation within the UK and Europe. Until now there has been no political representation for eCommerce companies.

    We have teamed up with Retailers Against VAT Abuse Schemes (RAVAS) and VATFRAUD.ORG who have already had great success in closing the Channel Islands VAT Loophole and campaigning against Online VAT Fraud.

    We already have a number of the UK’s largest eCommerce businesses who have become stakeholders in UKORA.”

    We are currently working on a submission for the Public Accounts Committee & National Audit Office. We are in direct contact with them.

    The submission includes:

    1) VAT Fraud
    2) eBay allowing duplicate Accounts & Abuse
    3) Online Marketplace Seller Checks & Abuse
    4) Dangerous, Unsafe & Counterfeit Goods
    5) Unfair Postal Rates
    6) WEEE and Packaging Laws

    We already have MP’s, Lord’s, QC’s, Trade Organisations & Large Retailers who are backing us. We are also in direct contact with Director General level people in the EU.

    So if anyone is interested in getting involved get in touch via website

  23. It was me who flagged this to Tamebay. I created 2 youtube videos. I have emailed them directly to Rob Hattrell and eBay management.

    I contacted Tamebay who rightly agree that no way should anything which has 10 day delivery estimate be getting near to best match top spot but because this ‘test’ with product placements is happening then they are. Please check my videos beow:



  24. It was me who flagged this to Tamebay. I created 2 youtube videos. I have emailed them directly to Rob Hattrell and eBay management.

    I contacted Tamebay who rightly agree that no way should anything which has 10 day delivery estimate be getting near to best match top spot but because this ‘test’ with product placements is happening then they are. Please check my videos below:



  25. It was me who flagged this to Tamebay. I created 2 youtube videos. I have emailed them directly to Rob Hattrell and eBay management.

    I contacted Tamebay who rightly agree that no way should anything which has 10 day delivery estimate be getting near to best match top spot but because this ‘test’ with product placements is happening then they are. Please check my youtube videos on this. Search: eBay item location mis representation and PYL issue

  26. ” In today’s world there is no such thing as a five day courier.”
    Yes there is.

    “there isn’t a courier in the UK that takes five days to deliver an item.”
    again, yes there is.

    really, really bad, ill-thought out advice here. you should know better Tamebay.

    it’s already a nightmare trying to sell large, big-ticket items on ebay, without ebay acting like everything fits in an envelope and arrives the next day, when that is not the case at all. our large item deliveries take 1-2 weeks from order, removing the already-too-short 5-day option is a staggeringly short-sighted suggestion.

    you can sell cars on ebay, you can sell homes on ebay, you can sell whole businesses and even entire towns. not everything fits in a bloody envelope and arrives tomorrow. we have enough problems with ebay trying to chase away every niche except the 99p plastic tat market, stop encourage them to make things even worse.

  27. Maybe as you suggest James there are certain categories (heavy white goods for example) where delivery times maybe as you say, however, the items we are focussing on here are the normal smaller Chinese items (high volume).

    If eBay were to listen I think they should look at this category by category.

  28. Just also checked my Dec traffic v Aug.

    Impressions up by 30%
    CTR down by 30%
    STR down very slightly
    sales down 30%
    number of orders down 40%.

    The issue is CTR. As these sellers using PYL are ‘leap-frogging’ good sellers in the organic search are all being moved lower. We cannot compete on PYL as they have an extra 20% spending power now they are not paying VAT after retreating back to China. Less people are clicking into my adverts.

    No way should sellers this bad be at top spot. Top spot should be for the best seller with premium badge and top rates seller status. Good selling history and good reviews etc. The search is screwed ATM.


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