eBay penny price overcharge weirdness

eBay penny price overcharge weirdness

Spotted on eBay by a reader is a penny price overcharge event where the price of an item jumps from the view item page to the price you pay at checkout.

Viewing the item in question, the price is £9.99, but by the time you come to checkout the penny price overcharge takes place which means the price rises to £10.00. It’s only a penny, but what the heck is going on?

The three images above are screenshots we took of the purchase flow. The first shows the view item page, the second shows confirmation that the £9.99 item was added to the shopping basket, the third shows the item in the shopping basket but now the penny price overcharge shows a cost of £10.00.

There may be an explanation which is the result of a rounding error – the seller in question is Chinese registered and so eBay are obliged to collect VAT on the sale. Our thinking is that the price displayed on the listing is the original price listed but the proceeds of the sale the seller receives will be £9.99 less 20% VAT – £8.325. As we only deal in round pennies, that is probably being rounded to £8.33. Now, in the shopping basket eBay may be digitally holding on to the £8.33 price and then adding 20% VAT which comes to £9.996 and is then rounded up to £10.00. This theory at least explains what may be occurring, even if the outcome is unsatisfactory.

This kind of penny price weirdness isn’t entirely unprecedented and even made it into Superman 3…

We aren’t of course accusing eBay of purposefully undertaking the act of a penny price overcharge scam. It’s much more likely the innocent result of programming a complex financial transaction without fully taking into account potential rounding errors that look to have crept in. We’re guessing that the deduction of VAT in the seller pay out and a not quite corresponding collection of VAT for HMRC from the buyer is just an every day SNAFU that pleases no one, especially the buyer who feels like they’ve been bilked by a penny.

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1p multiplied by what - a million transactions a day ?, £10,000 a day extra income. Kerching ! Nice little earner and I will bet my HOUSE that it's not a mistake.

Noel • 21st July 2022 • Reply to Noel

Two decades of following eBay suggest from experience that cock up is always more likely than conspiracy in cases like this... the people doing the programming will be trying to get the job done and not thinking about making a profit and the people focused on turning a profit won't be thinking some dodgy code creation could be a profit centre.

Chris Dawson • 21st July 2022 • Reply to Chris Dawson

After pages and pages of droning negativity attacking ebay it is refreshing to see one objective post - even if it is from the author. I dont post on Tamebay anymore - this being the exception. When I do it is always objective and generally positive. I believe that you NEED to remain positive if you have genuinely chosen ebay as a platform to sell on - at least if you plan to have any degree of success on the platform. Anyway, what do i get in return for my positive posts? Trolled, insulted (in the worst possible way) and threatened. Can I ask Chris.... does it not concern you that people are using Tamebay as a sounding board to hate on ebay? Most new sellers who discover Tamebay are going to be dissuaded from even selling on ebay when they read all the hate. There is very little balance. When sellers stop selling - they stop reading Tamebay. These sellers are poisoning their own platform. Hell, there was one seller last week BOASTING that he would never be foolish to buy anything on ebay. Do they not see the irony in this stupidity? Thank you for the objective article and comment. Do you not feel lonely sometimes? I'm all for free speech online but this is woe-fully unbalanced. I would be genuinely interested in your thoughts on this.

Alan Paterson • 24th July 2022 • Reply to Alan Paterson

Good post Alan, and to some point I agree. You need confidence to thrive on a platform, that’s why we have drastically downgraded our interface with eBay over the past 18 months. Respectfully, have you not stopped to think that perhaps, just perhaps the negativity written about eBay may be in some part truthful? Just a thought. It’s all about opinion- often based on experience. And if peoples experience is generally negative then I’m afraid that’s what they will write about. Strangely there seems to be no gushing praise for the platform- perhaps those ultra happy eBay sellers are too busy packing their orders to be able to write or in reality don’t exist at all?

Jonty • 25th July 2022 • Reply to Jonty

Hi Jonty, how are you. I dont disagree with what you are saying. After all i quit ebay over the stress the metrics were giving me. OK, I also had serious health issues. As you know I was also challenged by ebay to quit lol. But at the end of the day I dont have an ebay business anymore and as for my health ...... several years now after my diagnosis and ...... I'm still here! I haven't died so dont I feel foolish for leaving the platform! I will use myself as an example if I may. This was no reason for me to quit. I perceived the service metrics problem as such a big negative that I felt (along with my health) I couldn't continue. Its all about perception. Often something is only a negative if you perceive it as such. Shame on me for quitting. I should just have tried to get on with things , then the only obstacle was my health. I know lots and lots of positive people who are having a great time on ebay. They have tried posting positive remarks on here - they are trolled and attacked so they say "whats the point". Unfortunately, Tamebay is not a place for positive sellers. I could name many successful sellers who offered support and advice only to get consistent hostile responses - usually from sellers who are failing. The culprits dont want to admit the problem could be THEM, God forbid so they lash out at the positive sellers trying to help. The user "r" (although he has went under many names in the past) is the worse for this negative habit. I am a great believer in the saying "what the mind believes and perceives it will achieve". I BELIEVED the service metrics were the worse thing ever, I PERCEIVED it could kill my ebay business so i ACHIEVED that by letting it kill my business. Doh! Here is what I learned - Its only a negative if you perceive it as such and if you cant change something change the way you perceive it - within reason. Now eBay dont always get things right but the biggest enemy holding ebay back at the moment is the sellers. We should be thinking of positive ways to promote the platform - not looking for ways to tear it down or sabotaging it or accuse them of fraud or ripping us off. Why damage the reputation of the platform ? After all, its where we all sell on! (except me I quit doh).

Alan Paterson • 25th July 2022 • Reply to Alan Paterson

bugger that took some doing been trying for months to get a bite

r • 25th July 2022 • Reply to r

thank you "r" for proving my point above. What you have just said is the definition of a troll. Spouting foul abusive content so you can "get a bite". I know what you are all about "r" and i recognise your style and negativity from all the other alias you have used. Troll. You troll me, you troll ebay and you pull everyone down on here with your constant "trash talk" of the platform.

Alan Paterson • 25th July 2022 • Reply to Alan Paterson


R • 25th July 2022 • Reply to R

Alan Paterson is right, you do nothing but complain. Are you now admitting that you complain in order for him “to bite”. Have all your posts been lies? Personally I would like to hear a fresh perspective. Have all the good sellers been scared away? I for one would like to hear from them.

Sarah Ellis • 25th July 2022 • Reply to Sarah Ellis

Thank you for your support Sarah. Let me know if I can help with anything. I presume you are selling on ebay. Full disclosure though. I havent sold on ebay for at least a couple of years. As you probably read - i quit! lol So my best advice meanwhile is dont copy me! :)

Alan Paterson • 26th July 2022 • Reply to Alan Paterson


R • 27th July 2022 • Reply to R

Alan, I get where you are coming from and respect your views as know from reading your posts you help a lot of people and understand how ebay works. Trouble with ebay, they charge some of the highest fees of a marketplace yet provide really poor user experience and get so many things wrong. Just reading the current community message boards they have destroyed some businesses with issues around VAT and removing listing that sellers have had up for years. Yet told the sellers time and time again there was no issues with their VAT numbers and registration. Currently my VAT number is not displayed along with my company reg number, which I am legally required to display. You have to wonder what they do with all the surveys they get that are sent out after every phone call or return. Get the periodic message we have listed but things don't seem to improve. The more ebay get involved in things the more they tend to make a mess of them. Prime example of returns, I can't deduct postage for not as described even thou the buyer has written in the box they did not read the listing. Or ebay "might" give you a postage credit but no transparency as to which order the credit is for.

Rob • 25th July 2022 • Reply to Rob

@ Rob I had this VAT SNAFU happen to me and it is as bad as they say. I had an email stating "We noticed the Value Added Tax (VAT) information on your account isn’t up to date" which later that day was followed by an email stating "Correction: Your account has the correct VAT details". But fast forward on from that first email by 2 months, and I get another email "Let’s reactivate your eBay account" Reactivate? Yes, that's right. They had ended all the listings. Even if the VAT was wrong (it wasn't) the way they did this is beyond belief, utterly incompetent, and though generally I'd be one of those people who'd be positive towards ebay, I think I'm done with them. I've relisted everything, but the sales have tanked. Listings that showed dozens, 100s, or even 1000s of units sold in sales history have been set back to zero. The consequences of that are obvious. I've been told they're working on restoring sales history, but that was a week ago and I'm not holding my breath. I don't put all my eggs in one basket, so even if ebay sales were zero, I'd be OK. But I know people who only sell on ebay. If it happened to them, we're talking zero income.

Gav • 25th July 2022 • Reply to Gav

It is shocking reading some of the messages on the community chat last week that they hosted. Countless sellers complaining of the same issues and all they could do is cut and paste the same response. Somewhere between HMRC and ebay there looks like something has gone wrong. If someone is genuine not paying VAT or registered correctly then fair enough remove all their listing. But surely if you are not registered correctly then your account should be suspended and you should not be able to relist any items till you have sorted the issue? I have a competitor who has two private accounts with over 2500 listings. Same seller on Amazon listed a Limited Company and VAT registered, same on own website yet on ebay, no returns policy, no VAT or limited company info.

Rob • 25th July 2022 • Reply to Rob

From what I could tell, the slightest deviation from what HMRC has as a sole proprietor's details, and the part of ebay programming that does VAT checking would not be able to match it to the business account. This, despite the fact it's been confirmed already with managed payments. There's more to it than that, but maybe we'll wait for Channel X to do a full article on the biggest ebay cock up in years. I'm sure it'll be any day now.

Gav • 26th July 2022 • Reply to Gav

Hi Rob, how are you. I know its a cliche now but I will say it. ebay dont always get it right BUT Ebay are the only platform who consistently try to get things right. Its like what Chris says in his article its more likely "cock up" than conspiracy. And he is right. But at least they always make an effort to fix. I heard about this monumental "cock up" with recognising VAT numbers and think I know what is triggering it. Its quite disgraceful and obviously needs to be fixed. Some sellers have actually had their listings ended. Such mistakes are horrible errors on ebays part. A minor problem in comparison - ebay overcharge by a penny and all hell breaks loose. Non-malicious - likely to be a programmer error and people react as if they are being defrauded and ebay are crooks. There are always problems selling on platforms. look at the farce with Amazon and their VTR. I know sellers who have lost their accounts over it. With the exception of a concierge rep inviting me to quit (sorry to keep going on about that i still cant believe it) - I have always had excellent service from ebay. Whether I was phoning for my account or representing someone else. Even non-concierge and talking to the Philippines - I always got the impression that the agent was doing their best - they are held to similar metrics as the sellers after all. When i compare ebay to the likes of Amazon I genuinely believe ebay wins hands down. There is not really any point even phoning Amazon services. Does anyone actually get anywhere? Maybe thats not fair to judge on a comparison but ebay really is the best out there when you compare. At least you can get a live person who is at least trying to help. I dont blame ebay for wanting to get involved and apparently "micro managing". Its to police their own platform from the bad sellers. I dont think they always go about it the best way but it needs to be monitored. I sympathise with this VAT glitch. There is no excuse for something like that. I hope you and Gav and everyone else who is experiencing it gets it fixed.

Alan Paterson • 25th July 2022 • Reply to Alan Paterson

"I heard about this monumental "cock up" with recognising VAT numbers and think I know what is triggering it. " What do you think is triggering it? You did not go on to say. Would be useful to get your take on it. Thanks!

Mike • 26th July 2022 • Reply to Mike

Hi Mike. I deliberately didn't say incase I am wrong. I dont want sellers reading my post and then phoning ebay thinking they now have a definitive solution. I have quite a few friends selling on ebay and several of them have had this problem. So i looked to see if there was a pattern. There was. Whether my theory is correct is another story. I didnt have a large enough sample of accounts. Is there any way of contacting you personally? I dont mind telling you my theory 1 to 1. Are you suffering from the VAT glitch? I dont like to post "solutions" unless I am at least approaching 100% sure. I try to avoid being the source of rumours and issues that could be a call driver to ebay. I hope that explains.

Alan Paterson • 26th July 2022 • Reply to Alan Paterson

Get your theory out there! if your right It could save a business or a lively hood If your wrong so what ebay gets a few more phone calls

R • 27th July 2022 • Reply to R

Maybe there is no theory ,its the normal giving it large

R • 27th July 2022 • Reply to R

You might not be able to advise Alan, but I can say what the solution was in my case, and I suspect the same will apply to many others. When channelX (tamebay to you) get around to doing their article on it, perhaps you can weigh in with your thoughts from your contacts. I run my business as a sole trader, and I think it's only sole traders that were affected by this incompetence. Despite there being over 3 million in the UK, ebay (and to be fair, Amazon as well) seem to have great difficulty dealing with this. I had to go to My Ebay > Account > Business Information > Business Details > Business Name, and change my business name to just my name, removing the T/A name. That is how HMRC registers sole traders for VAT, as the person not the T/A. Ebay must have to match their database exactly. For example if you had John Smith T/A JS Internet Sales as your business name, ebay would deem it not a match, because John Smith would be registered with HMRC for VAT, not John Smith T/A JS Internet Sales. If they can't match, they then say not valid VAT ID, even if it is accurate and correct to use a T/A name as well. It looks crap on the business seller information not having what you trade as, but that's ebay for you. The set up is years out of date and if they want to run the VAT compliance thing this way, perhaps have a separate bit for that rather than where it is now, or let us display the T/A name as well. Meanwhile, actual VAT dodgers get around it by having multiple accounts, business and/or private, and you can't even report them.

Gav • 27th July 2022 • Reply to Gav

Hi Alan, doing ok thanks. Managing to grown as a business as just moved into a bigger premises. Struggling with main ebay store as many brands don't want their name on ebay or even if they are ok with it ebay buyers don't want to pay full retail prices. Amazon is Amazon, if you have the right product and buy box then can do well. Shopify wins it for me in terms of ease of use, sales and if need support. Chat support has always been good, either walk you though support and always follow up to check things are working and sorted. Luckily I have not been affected by the VAT cock up, other than VAT and limited companies number not being displayed. currently. Reported end of last week, no update or resolution from them. If I phone up again have to start over and explain everything again. The fees ebay charge I expect them to be a world leader with regards to tech innovation and getting things perfect and easy to use first time around. New listing tool is prime example of where they get it wrong again. Tried it a couple of times, frustrating, time consuming are just a couple of polite words I use to describe it.

Rob • 26th July 2022 • Reply to Rob

Why haven't you approached eBay for a comment?

Lisa • 25th July 2022 • Reply to Lisa

Hi Lisa, it is ebays policy not to defend themselves on platforms such as this. They did however, encourage me to continue although they may not have liked what i said about their Service Metrics. You will not get a comment from ebay on these threads.

Alan Paterson • 25th July 2022 • Reply to Alan Paterson