eBay VeRO – Brand control or abuse?

Category: eBay News
eBay VeRO - Brand control or abuse?

David Brackin, managing director of Stuff U Sell, is an eBay specialist at the heart of several leading off-price luxury stores and a regular ChannelX contributor. Today he looks at the history of eBay VeRO and how sellers today find the experience of being on the receiving end of a VeRO report.

It was twenty years ago in 2004 that Tiffany sued eBay over Trademark Infringement for allowing the sales of counterfeit silver jewellery on the platform.  The case was hard fought with eBay winning four years later, but the episode left a long shadow over the marketplace.  The establishment of the VeRO programme – eBay’s Verified Rights Owner programme – gave virtually absolute power to brands to have items removed from the marketplace.  All that was needed was a faxed (!) sworn statement that an item was fake and a seller had no option.  While the brand must provide a contact email address, there is no requirement for them to act reasonably or even to reply. Or for it to work at all.  There is no formal route for appeal. No matter what size or volume of trading you had, just a handful of these would see account actions taken.

When I first founded my business, I had funding rejected when I told investors about how we might be closed down without notice, and I had sleepless nights worrying about whether today would be the fateful third notice.

Over two decades this position has slowly softened but VeRO remains remarkably unchanged.  The faxes are gone but no doubt that rapid business innovation beyond that in legal teams is rarely rewarded. A few legal cases have been brought – Quadkids meant that UK courts supported the idea that brands needed at least as much justification as they would for a legal action.  Agencies – VeRO farms – emerged to process huge numbers of claims against sellers who were perceived to be damaging the brand values.  Was this high minded counterfeit prevention or high-handed competition disruption?

Over my time, I have seen a range of reports on my accounts and others.  Some brands have behaved impeccably. I have exchanged messages with in-house counsel on the finer points of european design copyright and received a coveted withdrawal notice for my efforts.  In other cases, I have been told that a report was filed by the agent as soon as we had 100 listings for a particular brand live on the site – with no regard for whether they were legitimate – or indeed whether the brand itself was our client selling the goods!

Brands are important.  They convey a sense of quality to buyers and counterfeits are a damaging and illegal trade.  I trade in a lot of fashion and I want a marketplace where buyers can buy in confidence.  However it is time that eBay made the seller’s job a little easier and clamped down on the rogue VeRO reporters.  Appeals should be moderated.  Prompt, reasonable replies should be expected and  repeated baseless agency-led reports should impact a brands ability to damage the millions of small businesses that rely on eBay for their livelihoods.

2 Responses

  1. Very interested to hear others’ experiences of Vero and Trademark infringement.
    We have had a few many years ago on ebay from Doctor Who cufflinks to Lego cufflinks and I learned that you couldn’t sell just what you wanted. These listings were removed and rightfully so.
    My problems are with Amazon, who, unlike ebay, take a more proactive stance.

    In my most recent experiences from few weeks ago, they are starting to tell me they are removing products for Trademark Infringement. I eventually managed to contact the “Health Specialist” and explained the words of the charms we sell are everyday words and although they may be trademarked by someone, they are not being used wrongly.

    A few were
    Shakespeare silver charm
    Jockey on a horse silver charm
    Cruise ship silver charm
    Marathon 26.2 mile running shoe earrings.
    Buckingham Palace silver charm.
    plus many more

    Although the health specialists were useless, giving advice to hyphenate words and using “compatible with” to avoid removal, one or two have taken on board the stupidity of Amazon’s AI incompetence.
    They are now actively asking for examples via email so they can try and FIX their issues.

    I have bleeted on to family and friends about how taking ONE word from a title and not looking at the rest of the data is mind blowing for a company of Amazon’s size. I can understand that Amazon wants to protect THEIR brand so there aren’t legal cases against them, but this is where AI, when programmed right, should come in to it’s own.

    It’s very interesting in one way, that as these occur, you learn more about the marketplace and laws.
    I found a few years back that you could sell a “Route 66” charm in the USA but not in Europe.
    I was told that someone had trademarked it in Europe but in the USA it was attempted and thrown out as ridiculous.

    Anyway, many thanks.
    Kind regards Simon

  2. Yes eBay’s VERO program has never been fit for purpose and was massively open to abuse by the brands and their many agents.
    We had many take downs that threatended our eBay business for many years when the brands decided they didn’t like their goods being sold on marketplaces like eBay.
    Now we don’t list some brands on eBay due to the Vero takedowns, and hence eBay is not our 5th largest channel when it was for many years the top channel.
    Amazon is pretty bad for it too – thankfully lots of new marketplaces who back the sellers.

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