EBay moves further from auction roots with changes

Users irked by moves to cut cost of fixed-price listings and end check, money-order payments.

Ebay Wednesday announced that it is cutting the cost to list an item in its fixed price format by more than 70%, a move the online auctioneer said provides sellers its most competitive price list yet.

Despite the reduced fee, some sellers quickly and angrily protested this change, along with other eBay moves Wednesday like the company's decision to no longer accept checks and money orders from buyers.

The new prices -- for listings on www.ebay.com -- provides sellers a 30-day listing period for 35 cents. Previously, sellers paid the same amount for a seven-day listing. Under the new schedule, sellers can list multiple quantities of the same item for a single 35-cent listing fee. Previously multiple quantities of goods carried separate fees, eBay said.

The changes take effect Sept. 16.

"We aim to be the most competitive marketplace online, and this new, incredibly low pricing helps us achieve that goal," said Lorrie Norrington, president of eBay Marketplaces, in a statement. "A 35-cent listing fee virtually eliminates the upfront cost for sellers to put more of their great inventory on eBay and creates more opportunity than ever for sellers to build successful businesses."

In addition to the pricing changes, eBay also announced that as part of its move this fall to an electronic checkout process, the company plans to stop accepting checks and money orders as payment.

"Today, items paid with check or money order are 80% more likely to result in an item not received than those paid with credit card or PayPal," Norrington noted in a blog post. "Also, buyers who pay with check or money order are 50% more likely to leave negative feedback than those who pay with electronic methods. So starting in late October, 2008, we are moving to 100% electronic payments - credit cards, ProPay or PayPal."

Erick Schonfeld, a blogger at TechCrunch, noted that "the Web has moved on and eBay is stuck in still waters."

"This is not about fixed price versus auctions," Schonfeld added. "The main challenge eBay faces is that it is becoming easier and easier to find things to buy on the Web simply by searching for what you want on Google. During the early days of the Web, people needed a few big e-commerce sites they could trust and that could organize everything that was for sale online. That need was filled by Amazon and eBay."

However, now that people are comfortable crawling the Web for the best bargains, eBay is not longer the first place they look, he added. "Partly that is because eBay has done such a good job creating a semi-professional class of online sellers, that it is harder and harder to actually find bargains there," he said. "So online shoppers are going elsewhere."

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Heather Havenstein

Computerworld (US)
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