Are eBay clamping down on Chinese location abuse?

We’ve discussed Chinese location abuse from Chinese sellers many times over the years and it’s a bit of a moving target. Some Chinese sellers operate fantastic eBay businesses but there are many who invariably try to skirt around the rules (and often downright lie) in order to game eBay Best Match giving all Chinese sellers a bad name.

Why does Chinese location abuse exist?

The reason that Chinese location abuse is a common practice is that by claiming a UK location they get better exposure in Best Match. Their lies also prevent buyers from hiding their items by clicking the search option supposed to only show items located within the UK. It makes for a terrible buying experience, not that buyers mind buying from overseas, China or anywhere else in the world, it’s just that they like to know in advance that’s what they are doing and choose which purchases they want from a UK source and which they’re happy to have shipped from abroad.

Historic Chinese location abuse on eBay

Location abuse started with Chinese sellers quite frankly telling lies and pretending that their stock was based in the UK in order to attract more customers. The stock was always in China and they’d claim long despatch times and typically 5 day courier services to disguise the fact they were shipping from overseas. Buyers universally hated this as they lost all their consumer rights, for instance who wants to return a broken product when you have to pay shipping back to China?

Then specialist fulfilment houses set up in the UK to cater for the Chinese Sellers. They’d ship their stock over to the UK in bulk, store it from a UK location and could fulfil much faster. The problem with this came when HMRC clamped down and pointed out that if their stock was in the UK then the Chinese Sellers should be paying VAT. A program of Due Diligence came in for fulfilment houses and surprise surprise they found themselves deserted by the Chinese Sellers who reverted to shipping their stock from China.

Today we still see Chinese location abuse on eBay – often times they still have stock located in China but ship to the UK in bulk with pre-printed Royal Mail or other courier labels already attached and a UK fulfilment house opens the bulk shipment and pops the parcels into the local UK courier and mail networks. Technically as the stock is then distributed from the UK VAT should still be paid but is doubtless in many cases being avoided.

What are eBay rumoured to be doing?

In order to allow time to ship from China, many sellers are still liars claiming that their stock is in the UK and in fact distributing from a UK warehouse whilst still avoiding VAT. In order to do this they claim perhaps a 3 day despatch time and a 5 day courier (there are no mainstream 5 day courier services in the UK – it’s all next day or 2 day services (3 days at the most if you’re dropping off at a Parcel Shop where the collection takes place the following day).

CIF News has broken a story where Chinese sellers are reporting a possible Chinese location abuse clamp down by eBay. Sellers report eBay are dictating new rules if they claim that their goods are located in an overseas warehouse (defined as a UK or US warehouse) and stipulating maximum despatch and transit times with assessments taking place from the end of March.

Anti eBay Chinese location abuse rules for UK warehouses

eBay will assess Chinese sellers claiming their goods are in UK warehouses on:

  • 80% of orders must be despatched within 2 working days of the order being received
  • 80% of orders must ship on a 3 day or faster courier service
  • 50% of orders must have a delivery scan no more than 5 days after payment

Anti eBay Chinese location abuse rules for US warehouses

The rules we’re hearing eBay are to impose immediately are:

  • 80% of orders must be despatched within 2 working days of the order being received
  • Other assessment criteria to be announced at a later date

What’s really going to be a problem for Chinese location abuse is the requirement to upload tracking numbers in a timely manner. eBay will soon see if goods are despatched on time and if they’re delivered within five days of payment. The chances are that if the stock is still in China that metrics will reveal this and, hopefully, eBay will start taking action.

An eBay spokesperson told Tamebay: “We have zero tolerance for sellers who fail to comply with their tax obligations and take any allegations of non-compliance very seriously. We will review the report and take action against any sellers in breach of our strict policies. eBay continues to share intelligence with HMRC to improve compliance with the law and we have long established processes to support brands in the fight against counterfeits.”

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I really hope so, it is currently beyond a joke. you search for something only to have the first 16 pages full of the same item from the same seller, with the same title.... except a random number put at the end to avoid the duplicate listing rule! So you tick UK only ( excluding every other country in the process) and suprise suprise.... they are all still there. Often under 'fast and free' somehow.... Often they have 5 day courier or dispatch times set so the item takes over a month! Just another reason why i have stopped buying on ebay. They need to be hard and fast on this issue as im sure it has driven many buyers aways already

Toby • 6th March 2019 •

Everyone please sign this petition Share it It’s regarding kicking the Chinese seller from eBay uk

Dave Parkin • 11th March 2019 •

hallelujah !!!!!!!!!!

Mark • 6th March 2019 •

From 1st February 2019 eBay started to act on peer to peer metrics of sellers who don't deliver or don't deliver orders in the time they promise. Those sellers who lie about their location will fall foul of these metrics due to exceeding the promised delivery time. They'll suffer the sanctions (and higher fees) that these metrics bring.

Jane • 6th March 2019 •

Come on Jane, the peer to peer metric system is a stealth fee on sellers and nothing to do with location abuse by the chinese. It relies on either poor tracking information from Royal Mail or a box that customers tick and has nothing to do with when sellers dispatch their items. It is a catch all net and is open to rampant abuse from buyers due to the massive amount of fraudulent Item Not as Described returns (again forced by E-bays poor return system). I was hoping E-bay would backtrack from what is an underhand and nefariously poorly thought out idea.

Mr E-bay seller • 6th March 2019 •

If an overseas seller lies about their location, more items will be delivered late and therefore more Item not Received cases opened. Seller Metrics move to very high and therefore, yes higher fees but also a lower search ranking. As for stealth fee, call it what you will but everyone is in the same boat hence peer to peer as you are measured against others in your category and no doubt have the same amount of false claims etc. Many 'false' claims are more about the buyer not wanting to pay return postage, there are companies using free returns without a rise in percentage of returns but a rise in sales that far exceeds the costs of giving free returns. If I have high peer to peer metric compared to other sellers in my category I'd take steps to see how I could fix it.

Jane • 6th March 2019 •

Seller metrics based on a peer to peer system suggest that someone is always doing badly. Worst case scenario, the sellers at the bottom leave because of the extra fees and then the next lot get charged more even if they were doing a great job. With regards - 'Many ‘false’ claims are more about the buyer not wanting to pay return postage, there are companies using free returns without a rise in percentage of returns but a rise in sales that far exceeds the costs of giving free returns.' You basically just admitted that buyers abuse the system to get free return post, and unfortunately E-bay promote this behaviour. Sellers get double punishment if this then pushes them in to 'very high', in this category. As just pointed out this could be through no fault of their own (just buyers wanting free returns). Also worth noting that at exactly the same time as this plan was announced in the seller update E-bay stopped allowing their CS team to change INAD to remorse reasons. 'Free returns', aren't free, the seller is paying. and for smaller sellers this can be crippling and often more than the entire value of the item itself. On a brighter note E-bay actually called me to ask what I think of recent updates and get seller feedback (the first time in 4 years!) and over the last 6 months E-bays CS team has been excellent in all regards. It's also good to see acknowledgement of the location abuse problem as it is rampant and does turn buyers away.

Mr E-Bay Seller • 6th March 2019 •

Great article Chris. Lets hope this comes into effect soon ;)

Julius Oliveti • 6th March 2019 •

Good news. However, it would be even easier, if there was a search option to search on the 'business location' (registered business address) as opposed to 'item location'. Obviously, greedy eBay would not go for this.

Martin • 6th March 2019 •

Just had a call from one of our suppliers / manufacturers who's family own a factory in China. He read the article and said some months ago they have been approached by a person stating they can get round all the Metrics that are being introduced by eBay. They operate in Portsmouth and use a number of university students and others who could do with a nice little cash earner who will hold stock items and charge just 40p per item to ship. If they were interested they would negotiate a pallet rate for shipping over and storage. They are also trying to establish other holding points in the UK which will all be outside of standard business warehousing to avoid taxes.

Mark • 6th March 2019 •

Anyone doing the above would be deemed a 'fulfilment house' and if they do not register under the fulfilment house due diligence scheme can face criminal charges.

Julius Oliveti • 6th March 2019 •

Another thing they should clamp down on is real UK sellers abusing the delivery markup system. There are some genuine UK sellers that will offer a standard, “premium” and next day delivery service. The standard is really just second class post which should take five days. The so called premium is just first class post. And their next day is a courier. What they do is quote the standard delivery as almost ten working days which then turns into nearly two weeks. They do this to encourage the seller to choose premium or next day delivery. All the delivery prices are inflated so they make more money. I ran into this when I bought a shower head from a plumbers merchant and chose standard, thinking no delivery would take ten days - but after ten days it still hadnt arrived. I phoned them up and asked how can it take so long, all they have to do is stick it in a jiffy bag and with second class it would take five days. But he was having none of it, I had paid only standard and it must stay on the shelf and I must wait the alotted time. It took almost two weeks to come with a second class stamp on it. My own fault I know, I got what I chose, but they were still being dishonest in saying I should have paid for a premium delivery at an inflated price. It would have taken only slightly longer to get a cheaper one from china where it probably originally came from.

Vinne • 6th March 2019 •

I think they are now trying to buy a little more delivery time by pretending to be located in Europe! I was going to buy a SLR lens recently from a company located in Switzerland - but looking into it further (seller details and feedback) they are shipping from China, so may well be 3rd rate fakes as well. So, I bought it from Currys - it was a little dearer, but I got it quickly and I know it is a genuine product. Upshot is one less sale on eBay with the consequential loss of fees. You need to hit this quickly and hard eBay.

BFT • 6th March 2019 •

Yep you are correct but the accounts are being opened by the person doing the shipping so they are outside of the net also they have a 1,000 listings as a private seller. Like all nets they catch things you don't want and allow things you do want to escape now and then.

Mark • 6th March 2019 •

Jane You say that sellers rated as Very High for Item Not Received cases, will be punished by being subject to higher fees. Is this a change of policy by eBay? When the system was originally announced, the punishment for this was longer estimated delivery times, and the extra fees only applied to sellers with a Very High rate of Not As Described cases. The current policy is silent on the subject - it doesn't mention ANY punishments for too many INR cases opened.

Bas • 6th March 2019 •

I've just reread my comment and it is a bit on the confused and mixed up side sorry. You're right, no extra fees for INR but too many cases opened and INR/late delivery will affect your account standing and visibility via performance metrics. If eBay are recording this then a very high level here will flag a problem. In the US since the beginning of last November sellers may have their delivery time extended by eBay if delivery is consistently late also, wonder if they'll do that here.

Jane • 6th March 2019 •

The union flag for GB. should be as a matter of courtesy be flown the correct way up.

john • 6th March 2019 •

Good spot!

Chris Dawson • 6th March 2019 •

There are too many China sellers are using fake locations. They say their locations are the UK but they are not in the UK. They are actually in China. As an eBay seller, I've purchased some items I thought located in the UK. But items were shipped from China. Then I search "UK Only", but there are still China sellers. I am not saying that all China sellers are not honest but many of them are doing this "location abuse". I always try to avoid purchasing things from Chinese sellers because it takes like a month or even longer to receive an item from China to the UK. And when a problem happens, it's hard to make a resolution but sometimes you can not avoid. As seller and buyer, I felt like I had been cheated by sellers location. I had these bad experiences as a buyer almost since a decade ago and the problem is; the year 2019 why does eBay allow them to use fake locations?

Billy • 6th March 2019 •

Simple! money!

Mick • 7th March 2019 •

It's not just the location they're faking. I purchased a blouse from a seller. item location was London. took 3wks to arrive. Tracking number was false. They give you a size chart in the photos to look at. . I'm a size 14 and ordered a XXL. Was still to small. So frustrated I binned it. So convinced it was posted from London.

Linda43c • 7th March 2019 •

Just seen this

Julius Oliveti • 7th March 2019 •

ebay hong kong logistic partner Continental Global Service Limited help all the Hong Kong China seller smuggling mobile camera, this company charge the seller 5% for VAT, so the Hong Kong seller can sell much lower than the local seller.

Dion • 7th March 2019 •

Seems like it's 100% legitimate. See this below from eBay China blog:

Julius Oliveti • 7th March 2019 •

eBay will officially implement the above evaluation criteria on April 23, 2019. The first evaluation trading cycle is from March 10th to April 6th, 2019. Unsatisfied accounts may be subject to sales restrictions. The assessment time for other indicators of overseas warehouses will be announced later. The seller center will also be on the performance of the new overseas warehouse trading assessment indicators in early April 2019.

Julius Oliveti • 7th March 2019 •

Good lord wake me up I'm must be dreaming, Ebay will actually clamp down on the Chinese location abuse.

Derek • 7th March 2019 •