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eBay: Good afternoon. With us today is Rob Chesnut, Vice President of Rules, Trust and Safety. Today Rob will field questions concerning trust and safety in the eBay Marketplace. Thank you for joining us, and we welcome your individual questions. Welcome, Rob.
Rob: Hi everybody, welcome to the Trust & Safety Town Hall - I'm Rob Chesnut.
I'm the person responsible for keeping the eBay sites around the world safe so that community members can have a great experience trading with each other. I've also got several members of the Trust and Safety team here with me at eBay headquarters in San Jose, CA who may jump in on some topic areas. For the next hour, we'll be answering questions that have been sent in to the Town Hall registration page over the last week, and we'll be taking live questions as well.
A transcript of this Town Hall will be posted on the Trust & Safety Town Hall page next week. And you can always visit us on the new Security & Resolution Center .
Before I get into the questions, let me quickly highlight a couple of areas where T&S has been active since our last Town Hall talk.
First, buyer protection - as many of you might remember, in mid-2003 eBay offered only basic buyer protection that covered the first of a transaction, with a processing fee. Today, through our payment service PayPal, we now offer free, automatic buyer protection to PayPal customers on many of our sites - on our US site, for example, this protection is offered on nearly 80% of eBay listings, and similar protection is available on our Canada, UK, and Germany sites. Australia, France and Italy, you're next! This protection is such a great cushion for buyers who have a bad experience -- it's even more important to sellers, who enjoy even more success with consumers when they have eBay and PayPal standing behind them, backing up transactions.
Second is in the area of dispute resolution - we know that people are basically good. We also know that when something goes wrong, members were reporting to us that they were having trouble communicating with each other and resolving disputes through emails. We've rolled out the first phases of a resolution center, an automated service that enables members to more easily communicate with each other within the eBay site, and helps them resolve their problems. We've made this feature available to members going through Unpaid Items and Items Not Received - we think that this is going to go a long way towards enabling a better experience for all members.
The last area I'll mention is the Unpaid Item issue - sellers are held back from their goals when buyers bid on their items but don't follow through. We've put a lot of effort in the last year into studying the program, and we have a series of measures in place, and on the way, to address the problem. Our Buyer Requirements tool puts sellers in control of their listings, enabling them to block bidders by country, feedback, or other criteria. Our immediate payment feature has been very popular among sellers who use the fixed price format. And we're introducing new messaging specifically targeted at new bidders that has already had a significant positive impact on unpaid item rates. We're going to keep after this problem; we know that it's important to you.
I think that's a good overview of some key areas, let's take some questions.
Before we start, I should mention that we've received hundreds of questions for this Town Hall in advance. In an effort to answer as many questions as possible, I've grouped some of the questions into different buckets. We'll put two or three questions up onto the screen at a time that are related, and I'll try to provide answers to each question. In addition to the questions submitted in advance, I'll also be watching questions that are submitted live, and I'll take a number of those as well.
Let's start with the first two questions, that deal with spoof emails:
Vnigrelli: How do email spoofers obtain eBay members' email addresses, is there a leak within eBay?
atrain2004: What can we do as a community to stop the spoof e-mail of all types?
Rob: Spoof email is a significant challenge to the eBay community. I'm sure that most of you have probably received these emails, which pretend to come from eBay, carry some message of urgency, and ask you to click on a link to a web page. The web page looks like a real eBay or PayPal page, and asks for your personal information. These spoof emails have become a problem for every major internet company and financial institution, and we're working very hard to address the problem.
The bad guys are getting the emails from a wide variety of sources. For you old timers, you may remember that many users used their email address as their user ID in the early days. This accounts for many of the millions of user addresses that are in the public. eBay, in its past, used to make email addresses more widely available to members, and as a result, spoofers have been able to compile a substantial list of eBay email addresses. Further, in cases where a spoofer has been able to obtain a member's password, the spoofer was able to look at a user's feedback profile and see the email address of every user that the member had done business with for the last 90 days.
These are all issues that eBay has addressed over the past 3 years. However, the bad guys haven't stopped there, and they now send untargeted emails to millions of email addresses across the internet, knowing that a certain percentage of them will inevitably belong to eBay and PayPal members. In short, fraudsters have little problem getting access to email addresses.
As a community, there are two specific things that you can do. One, spread the word. Tell your friends and your transaction partners to be on the lookout for any email that asks for personal or financial information. You cannot rely on the "from" line of the email or branded logos in the email - it is very difficult if not impossible to distinguish spoof emails from real ones. eBay and PayPal will never ask for your personal or financial information in an email.
To help, eBay has released a form of spoof protection in the eBay Toolbar. I urge all eBay users to download the toolbar, which is available for free at our Security Center. This tool helps users identify spoof websites and protect their financial information.
Second Chance Offers
Burnettdiecasts: Please explain how you are going to combat the flood of bogus Second Chance Offers that are currently the scourge of eBay? I have both received some and have had clients receiving them and they do not seem to be under control.
Intheshadowplay: I don't understand why it's against eBay rules for me to contact eBay users to buy items outside of an eBay auction. I understand that eBay needs to warn members of the risks but I don't think it should be against the rules. If I see that the user has good feedback and I feel comfortable taking the risk, then it should be between the user and myself. I suspect this rule is not about safety but maintaining and increasing eBay's profits.
Schliemannh: I have tried the new buyer protection section - "Item Received Not As Described" - what a waste of time and effort. The seller just ignored me, and eBay was no help - did not return my emails - dispute console did not allow me to escalate issue, because it continued to state a payment method I had not used. What is eBay going to do to truly give buyers some protection, not just a fuzzy feel good nonsense section like the one in place now?
Rob: Burnettdiecasts raises a related issue, that is, fake emails being sent to potential bidders from fraudsters. Like spoof emails, these messages appear to come from eBay, and encourage buyers to send money, usually through a cash payment service such as Western Union to a foreign country for high-priced goods. eBay is aggressively educating people about the risk associated with these messages. In particular, we've made it clear throughout the eBay site that a buyer should never pay for an item with cash, particularly through a service such as Western Union or MoneyGram. These services are never appropriate for payment of an eBay transaction. In addition, eBay has already placed tighter limits on the Contact eBay Member system. Brand new users are not permitted to use the system for four days, which gives our security team an opportunity to prevent these accounts from being used for bogus offers such as this.
Intheshadowplay, eBay's rules against "off-eBay" transactions have a dual purpose. You're right, it's in our interest, and the community's interest, to keep transactions that start on eBay ON eBay through the end. Allowing individual sellers to siphon off buyers for private transactions isn't fair to eBay, and it isn't fair to the other sellers who pay listing fees to attract their business. Worse, these off-eBay transactions are statistically far more likely to end up in fraud than transactions on eBay, and they are not covered by eBay's Feedback system, or its buyer protection policies.
Now let's address Schliemannh's question about our Item Not Received process. Up front, let's understand what the Item Not Received (hereafter INR) process is trying to do. It serves several purposes. First, it helps parties who want to resolve their disputes, by giving them an easy forum on eBay to work out their problems. Many buyers and sellers have expressed great frustration over their inability to contact each other due to spam email filters and other matters. Further, it allows eBay to learn more about users so that we may go back and help to resolve problems. Third, it gives eBay a better early-warning system for fraudulent sellers. Schliemannh, you're right. If a seller is not interested in working out a dispute, the INR system won't help you.
If you want solid buyer protection, rather than "fuzziness," you should learn more about PayPal's Buyer Protection program. This program provides free, automatic buyer protection up to $1000 on eligible items when you pay with PayPal. On the US site, nearly 80 percent of all listings automatically come with this protection - just look for the little PayPal Protection logo when you search or browse. Pay with PayPal and you're covered.
Let's do a seller protection question next.
dalmonte81: Mr. Chesnut, I have noticed that when selling a high priced item, I have received many emails from people bribing me to accept payments through services outside of eBay such as Western Union since they can not use PayPal in their country. I keep getting the same question asked by many people. My question to you is, why are certain countries not allowed to use PayPal and second, how do I get these people to stop writing to me?
Rob: We just addressed that issue, let's look at seller protection.
Toytastic: What steps are you taking to help get sellers better protected against fraudulent payments via PayPal, as the majority of our transactions are not eligible for the seller protection policy, we do all we can by checking feedback, viewing the buyer's items for sale etc. But this process can take up valuable time, time we could use better listing items and dealing with customers. Regards toytastic
Rob: PayPal and eBay provide a number of tools and services to protect sellers. For example, eBay's buyer requirement system, which I'll talk about further in a minute, PayPal payment receiving preferences, and PayPal's screening of buyer registrations - these are great offerings to help prevent buyer fraud, and PayPal is among the best in the industry at this.
After that, you know your business better than we do. Each seller is different, and wants to accept a different level of risk. For sellers with a lower risk tolerance, PayPal has a Seller Protection program that is the only one of its kind in the industry. It provides sellers with full protection against fraud, provided they meet certain requirements, such as shipping to the buyer's confirmed address.
Let's take a live question next.
darla1118: Should I have firewall protection?
Rob: Simply put, darla1118, yes. Many online hackers look for unprotected computers as potential tools for their dirty work. You should consult with your ISP to determine which firewall will work best for you. For more information, look at our Safety Tip on Firewall Protection in the eBay Security & Resolution Center.
For those of you who haven't seen the Security Center, you can reach it from a link that's at the bottom of every page on the eBay site. It has a wealth of information on how to protect yourself online, and we're constantly updating it with new information.
minervabird: What is being done to curtail the latest infestations of fraudulent sellers from China? They are shilling each others' IDs to build feedback, and selling counterfeit brand name items. They are being reported and remain on the site anyway.
Rob: Intellectual property issues become more challenging as eBay's global reach grows wider. The sale of counterfeit goods is far more common in China than in the US, and yes, we've noticed some sellers from China coming to the eBay site and listing branded goods that appear suspicious.
We have a global team, including representatives from China, that are hard at work on this issue, and we've taken strong steps in categories such as Shoes, Watches, and Golf Equipment, where the problems have bubbled up, suspending literally hundreds of sellers, and ending the listings. We've also worked with law enforcement in China, encouraging arrest of individuals who engage in this practice. We'll stay on top of it.
Cstall: I'd like to see the problem of shipping charges addressed. While this is not directly a safety issue it does affect the trust of buyers. So many eBayers are now tacking on ridiculously high "handling" charges. The bid or Buy It Now prices are misleading when not taking these extra costs into consideration. I've heard people say eBay is a "rip-off" for this reason. eBay should require all handling charges to be included in the bid price. Thanks.
Anniejbg: Excessive postal costs have become a license to print money for some unscrupulous sellers. What more can be done to warn the unwary buyer about this serious breech of eBay principles?
Rob: This is definitely a problem. We've seen some sellers listing items at well below their value, and charging what appears to be excessive shipping to gain a competitive advantage and avoid eBay fees. This is a practice that eBay will not tolerate, and we are hard at work on a plan to effectively address the issue. As you know, it's a challenge for eBay to figure out what a reasonable shipping fee is for an item that we've never seen, and we do want to respect our sellers. However, some sellers are clearly taking advantage of our latitude in this area, and I promise you that this issue will be addressed in the coming months.
Unpaid Items - Buyer Requirements
Beggerbabe: If there is just one thing you could say about buyer requirements, what would that be?
jack_zzzz: eBay should allow Sellers to customise Buyer Requirements more specifically e.g. Feedback Score of 0 to 5 and possibly NEG feedback left in past 30 days. Current requirements of "Feedback score of -1 or less OR Have received 2 Unpaid Item strikes in the last 30 days" probably blocks very few Non Paying Bidders.
Coutureandcollectables: I cannot understand why eBay allows unregistered users to successfully bid on products. As Sellers we cannot always look into the background of bidders, it is too time consuming. I feel that eBay really lets their Sellers down when it comes to policing bidders & non-payment. The wait to file an unpaid item is ridiculous, once you pay to list it, you should be able to sell without waiting 60 days for a refund.
Rob: Beggerbabe, can I get three things? We know that the buyer's failure to pay for an item is a big source of frustration for sellers. That's why we introduced eBay's Buyer Requirements system, which all sellers can access from their My eBay page. This system recognizes, again, that sellers know their own businesses better than eBay, and gives each seller the opportunity to customize bidder requirement to their own needs. We have launched two phases of Buyer Requirements so far, which allow sellers to block:
- buyers registered in countries to which sellers have designated they won't ship
- buyers with net negative feedback scores
- buyers with two Unpaid Item strikes in the last 30 days
- buyers who are not registered with PayPal.
jack_zzzz, we do know that buyers who have registered with PayPal have an 80 percent lower unpaid item rate than others. We have gotten a lot of positive feedback from sellers about these first two phases, and we will explore adding further options in '05.
For example, within 2 months, the third phase of Buyer Requirements will launch which will allow the seller to limit the number of items that any single buyer can bid on of their own listings within a 10 day period.
Couture, only registered users can bid on eBay. True, we could put greater restrictions on new bidders, and require higher levels of verification. However, our studies suggest that such steps would actually discourage large numbers of good bidders, so instead we've opted for the Buyer Requirements route.
As for the wait on unpaid item refunds, we've heard you, and made some changes. Final Value Fees can now be requested in as few as zero days, up to 7 days, and a seller need only wait 14 days at most. These changes, which were implemented last summer, have been very positive in speeding up this process.
petej281: Why does eBay make little or no effort to co-operate with law enforcement officers in the closing down of auctions relating to counterfeit items?
Justmackintosh: Have any prosecutions taken place regarding fraudsters who send spoof emails to eBay users? If so, how many? If not, why not?
jack7040_0: Sir, when is eBay going prosecute and make an example of those scoundrels who send spoof emails with the intent to defraud? I have yet to see or hear of eBay mounting a prosecution. Many of your customers are relatively poor and find these fraudsters quite intimidating. It would send a message to these people and your customers would be happy, believe me. Warmest regards, jack walsh
Julesmusician: I am very concerned that eBay do very little to actively investigate attempted fraud. A recent example saw a user offer me substantially more than the amount they won the item for and offered to pay by cheque. Recognising it was a fraud "in progress" I emailed eBay stating I would be willing to assist in catching the fraudster with the assistance of the police and eBay. The fraudster wanted to deliver the cheque to the UK. When I contacted eBay they said "just ignore the email" - instead of taking active fraud reduction steps with the police they did nothing, and were not interested in pursuing the fraudsters.
Rob: I have not done a very good job of promoting our work with law enforcement. While most users are unaware of our work in this area, in fact we have an extensive team of investigators stationed around the world, who work with law enforcement every day. This includes former Federal prosecutors, and detectives from law enforcement agencies such as Scotland Yard, the Italian police, the Australian police, and other agencies.
As a group, our investigators have been responsible, working with law enforcement, for hundreds of arrests of scammers around the world. For example, the US Secret Service, on their website, notes that they have worked with eBay on the arrest of over 100 individuals in Romania alone. We recently worked closely with NY State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on successful investigations and prosecutions of three sellers who were shill bidding on eBay.
In the future, we will be putting information about individual cases into our Security and Resolution Center, so that the community can get a better idea of our work in this area. It is important for bad guys around the world to realize that there will be severe consequences for their actions.
michaelc6077: Are complaints about malpractice really investigated by a human or just processed by a computer?
Rob: eBay's Trust and Safety department is made up of over 1000 individuals, real humans, who work around the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, keeping the sites orderly and safe. Their work is prioritized, and not all complaints are necessarily read by a human being. However, the team does work hard and follows up on the most serious cases.
Let's talk about Feedback.
Mvsewell: I always pay immediately after auction ends, but never get positive feedback unless I send them a positive first. Is this the way it should be?
Bibliosbooks: I feel that some sellers are operating a blackmail feedback policy, stating that they will not give feedback until they have received feedback. This means that if they send out shoddy goods buyers may be reluctant to give negative feedback as they will get negative in return. As a seller I always give positive feedback as soon as I have received payment and hope that if a buyer has any grievances they will give me a chance to rectify the matter.
5564sar: What does one do when feedback has been left and no feedback received despite contact with seller? I thought this was part of the trust between buyers/sellers and rely on it when choosing whether to buy from a seller. Is there a solution to this?
tinasthings77: Can something be done about Non-Paying Bidders leaving negative retaliation feedback, as it is very unfair that someone can bid on your items with no intention of paying, and then damage your good reputation?
Hdoutlet: Has eBay considered a check off system, tailored for buyers and sellers, that give specific steps to take PRIOR to posting negative/neutral feedback? A set of boxes 4-5 that would have to be checked off by the user as completed steps they have taken before they can push that easy to use [continue] button to post the bad comment.
doctor-deals: What are eBay's long term plans for the integration of the UPI, INR and Feedback system into a complete online dispute resolution tool that will help alleviate the majority of negative feedbacks that are caused by lack of communication?
Neababyblu: eBay is being ruined by scammers, shillers, and crooks. Why does eBay allow a person to have private feedback?? It just isn't right. They can bid on your auctions, and you can't see who else they are bidding on or who they have bought from in the past. It just encourages crooked dealings.
Buntybantam: Why is "private feedback" allowed? I thought the whole underlying success of eBay was based on the principle of feedback and yet I have come across people who have secret feedback. Surely if something that bad has happened they can simple re-register under a different name?
Rob: Okay, let's start with Feedback order. There is no defined protocol for who should leave Feedback first. Many sellers leave positive Feedback as soon as they receive payment and others, reasonably, want to be sure that the buyer has got the item, and is fully satisfied, before leaving a positive. Different approaches work for different people, and I don't want to tell everyone what works best for them.
5564sar, you're right, I get disappointed too when I don't get positive Feedback on one of my transactions. Statistically, Feedback is left on eBay transactions over 70 percent of the time, and we've taken a number of steps in our messaging and education to encourage the Feedback system. It's important to the community. However, if someone doesn't have the time or the inclination to leave you a positive, I'd chalk it up to the 30 percent, and realize you'll probably get one next time.
You can also look at a user's Feedback profile, and see whether they routinely leave Feedback for others - that's available at the View Feedback Left for Others tab on the Feedback page.
Hdoutlet, thanks for your question. We have actually implemented a process to slow up new users from leaving a negative Feedback. Two years ago, we put in place an additional page for anyone leaving a negative Feedback, strongly encouraging them to contact the other party and see if they could work out the dispute amicably before leaving a negative. Our new INR process is another step in this direction, and we hope it will encourage people to work through this before leaving a negative.
On private Feedback, we originally established this system so that a user could prevent the publication of a slanderous or improper remark if they chose to do so. I actually think that the use of private Feedback is more revealing about a user, and generally shy away from users with private Feedback. Believe it or not, we don't see a lot of scams or other problems from private feedback accounts, as most buyers tend to stay clear when they see the use of this feature. In a way, since it is revealing information about the user, I'm not particularly concerned about the use of the feature.
tinasthings, I haven't forgotten about you. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of unpaid items for sellers. The purpose of the Feedback system is primarily to ensure safe trading, so buyers will feel comfortable sending money to someone they've never met before.
Since eBay has to rely on the seller to determine whether the buyer has paid, we can't block a buyer's negative feedback. If we did, bad guys could sell items, accept payment from the buyer, then immediately report the buyer as not having paid. This would prevent the buyer from leaving Feedback to alert the community about the non-selling seller. Another example is when a seller changes the terms after sale. For example, if a seller raises his shipping fee above the amount specified in the listing, the buyer is within their rights to refrain from paying, and leave a negative. I know this is frustrating for good sellers. It's interesting though, that only 1.5 percent of buyers who have had an unpaid item strike held against them choose to leave a negative Feedback for the seller if the seller does not leave a negative for them.
I'd recommend that sellers use the Unpaid Item process to alert eBay about a buyer who doesn't pay, and refrain from leaving a negative if they are uncomfortable about receiving a negative.
hamsteruk23: What is shill bidding please?
Naturalbotanika: Does eBay sanction Titanium or Platium PS when caught shill bidding the same as eBay does any other user?
Rob: Shill bidding is where a seller bids on their own listing, or has someone bid on their listing on their behalf, all in an effort to artificially inflate the selling price. It not only violates eBay's rules, but it also violates Federal law and the laws of many states. Several sellers recently learned this lesson the hard way, when the NY Attorney General went after them for this practice. eBay has referred a number of shill bidding cases to law enforcement, and we plan to step up efforts in this area in 2005.
I don't care if the seller is a Titanium PowerSeller, a Gold PowerSeller, or a Tin PowerSeller. We suspended a Titanium PowerSeller just a few days ago, and I know of a number of cases where we've suspended PowerSellers in recent months. I hope that the specter of criminal prosecution is enough to discourage sellers who engage in this process.
eBay: Thank you for a wonderful chat. Unfortunately, we are almost out of time…do you have any parting words for us?
Rob: I'd encourage more users to take advantage of the Trust & Safety Discussion Board. I go onto that board several times a week, and I'm constantly amazed at the time and effort that many of our users put into these boards, helping users with Trust and Safety related problems, dishing out good advice, and even dropping me a note when they see something that's particularly disturbing. These folks have been a real rock in the community, and have saved a lot of users, particularly new users, from a bad experience. Anyone interested in learning how to protect themselves online could learn a lot by going to those boards and reading the posts. A big thank you for all the work that you guys do.
That's it, I'm sorry I couldn't get to everybody's questions, but I hope I covered a lot of different areas, and helped with some new insights.
eBay: Thank you for joining us for this Trust & Safety Town Hall with Rob Chesnut. We hope that we answered most of your questions. Next week, please visit the Trust & Safety Town Hall page for a transcript of today's event and the Trust & Safety Discussion Board, where we will post responses to some of the questions we were unable to get to during our town hall.
A Production of LiveWorld. Copyright 2005. All Rights Reserved
** Typos and misspellings have been corrected for the transcript. **