EBay to turn on feedback system changes

Australia first in line for EBay's roll out this month of controversial changes to its feedback system

To counterbalance the sellers' loss of power, eBay is instituting several measures, such as removing negative and neutral ratings left by buyers who don't respond to complaints that they didn't pay for their items. Moreover, eBay will from now on -- and retroactively -- remove negative and neutral ratings on sellers from buyers who are suspended from the marketplace.

EBay is also giving sellers new options to proactively block certain buyers from doing business with them, such as those who have a certain number of unpaid-item and policy-violation claims. In addition, eBay is launching a new reporting hub that sellers can use to inform eBay about problematic buyers.

While eBay is to be commended for striving to improve the buying experience, the feedback changes could use further refinement and review, said Jonathan Garriss, executive director of the Professional eBay Sellers Alliance (PESA), a group of large sellers that has often been highly critical of eBay.

For starters, eBay has never been very aggressive or particularly interested in disciplining buyers who violate its policies, so the new reporting hub and the negative-feedback removal of bad buyers will have little effect unless eBay pumps up its enforcement, Garriss said. "Supposedly, eBay has always been policing buyer behavior, but it never happened quite right," he said. "Many sellers will confirm that buyers have tended to not be held to the rules."

Garriss, also CEO of Gotham City Online, an apparel store on eBay is also concerned about what he calls a lack of transparency in the detailed ratings that buyers can leave for sellers. As it stands now, sellers get aggregate results every month for these so-called DSRs (detailed seller ratings), and don't know how individual buyers rated them.

This lack of transparency lends itself to buyer retaliation, and more so since eBay this year started tying DSRs to sellers' visibility on search engine results and to fee discounts, Garriss said. Now that sellers can only leave positive ratings for buyers, eBay should tie specific DSR evaluations to individual buyers, thus giving sellers a chance to, if necessary, defend themselves from unfair actions, he said. DSRs let buyers rate sellers specifically in four areas with a scale of one to five stars: accuracy of item description, communication, shipping time, and shipping and handling charges.

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