It has long been the theory that eBay Australia is a testing ground for any old daft idea its big US parent doesn’t want to inflict on its huge marketplace.
That may or may not be true, However, the latest move flagged last week is guaranteed to drive me and many of its long-time sellers away. Let me lay my cards on the table: I am what eBay calls a “consumer seller”… From time to time I sell personal goods that I no longer need or goods that I’m upgrading — such as fly fishing rods and reels.
Over the years, I’ve notched up 3979 items of feedback – 2838 of which are as a seller – and I’ve pretty much spent as much as I’ve made from sales.
Until now I have largely advocated eBay as reasonable place to buy and sell. No longer. Last week, eBay announced a series of fee changes that pander to its professional and business sellers with little thought for buyers and consumer sellers. The aim is to encourage professional business sellers to list more Buy It Now items which it claims consumers want. This is at the expense of the traditional consumer seller who often conducts 3-, 7- or 9-day open auctions. Highest bidder wins.
So what has changed. The fee structure affecting consumer sellers. And this will also effect the power of the buyer.
It is the non-store fee changes, in particular, that have raised my blood pressure to a dangerous level. These are fee changes affecting anybody who does not run an eBay store – the majority of consumer sellers who are not trying to making a living out of selling on eBay.
Here’s what eBay says in a statement on its website: “In recognition of the changing Australian retail landscape, the fee changes are aimed at encouraging professional and business sellers to list more Buy It Now items in Stores. The changes will also enable eBay to better differentiate and incentivise professional, business and consumer sellers.
“Retail in Australia is evolving rapidly with more consumers than ever before looking to purchase items online. With increased exposure to a variety of online shopping options, both locally and overseas, the format in which consumers purchase those items is dominated by fixed price. Future growth in ecommerce will primarily come from Fixed Price formats, such as Buy It Now which is already the most common way to shop on and offline and accounts for the majority of sales on eBay.com.au today.
“eBay needs to continue evolving to stay ahead of the trends in ecommerce and remain a valuable marketplace for all of its sellers. To do this, eBay needs to better differentiate between professional, business and consumer sellers. The price changes … are therefore designed to help encourage professional and business sellers to list items primarily in the Fixed Price, Buy It Now format using eBay Stores.
“In addition, consumer sellers have asked us to reduce the upfront risk when selling on eBay.com.au by removing insertion fees. Through their higher engagement with the site, consumer sellers are among eBay’s best buyers, therefore encouraging them to sell more keeps them actively engaged and buying on the site which benefits other sellers. For consumer sellers, auctions will remain an engaging way to sell and for buyers, an exciting way to buy second hand items or items of undetermined value on eBay.com.au.”
It is mostly a load of corporate waffle but it is the last paragraph that is, in my opinion, the biggest crock of nonsense. It is thrown in to attempt to pacify the consumer seller. Well it doesn't pacify me. But it is the buyer who is also the big loser here.
All eBay is doing is ensuring that the cheap marts of the real world become the cheap marts of the cyber world and the professional and business sellers can now list their products at whatever price they like and dictate the trade.
One of the fundamental ideas of eBay was that the buyers set the value of an object through their bidding. I’ve had some great returns on rare LPs from my vinyl collection when I sold that off a few years ago, and some appalling ones as well — because there was little to no demand. So some people got a bargain. But those same people often came back again — repeat buyers are what every seller wants, professional or not – because they recognised they could get what they wanted at a price they set themselves. If they missed out it was because the goods simply exceeded what they valued them at.
Over the past few years, eBay has been progressively sanitising the experience for buyers and downgrading consumer sellers to a bit part in the whole performance.
So what are the new fees: Firstly, eBay makes a big fuss about removing insertion fees which, unless you are selling your house, amount to a few dollars. They have been replaced with the following structure which will drive off many consumer sellers. It’s just too damn expensive.
eBay’s non-Store fee changes from September 22 are:
- Eligible sellers will be able to list up to 30 single quantity listings per month in any format with zero insertion fees (excludes Powersellers, Stores or sellers registered as a business on eBay)
- Final value fees will increase from 5.25 per cent to 7.9 per cent, capped at $49.95 for each of the first 30 listings per month
- Insertion fees remain as they are today for sellers who have exceeded the monthly 30 free insertion fee limit as well as PowerSellers, Store holders and sellers registered as a business on eBay, with no cap or sliding scale on the new final value fee of 7.9 per cent.
It is the second of those changes that is is the killer. A 2.65 per cent increase in amount eBay takes when an item is sold. So if you sell your item for $200 it will now cost you $15.80 in fees, for $500 it will cost you $39.50 … add in the value of your time to properly list goods and the time it takes in packaging — yes, you do charge separately as seller for mail and packaging but eBay has already set what it considers reasonable mail prices which don’t take time into account — and it becomes a loss-loss situation for the consumer seller.
And then there’s the impact on the buyer. It is already hard enough to sort through the junk on eBay. Yes, there is an Auction-only button you can apply to your search but the el cheapo dealers have already got around that by listing their junk goods at a starting price of $0.99 and cluttering the listings with their rubbish. There will be more and more of this junk listed on eBay now.
Worse, the professional and business sellers will now list Buy It Now items at prices just below those in real world retail stores. There is little to no value to the online buyer.
Sadly, eBay has fallen prey to greed and the consumer will be the one to suffer. My advice: go and search the Web for real bargains. With the Australian dollar soaring it is cheaper to buy directly online from some of the outstanding US, Canadian and European stores where the set prices represent far better value than those on eBay.
So come September 22 eBay Australia and I will have a far less intimate relationship than previously because I certainly won’t be selling much, if anything, through its website. And I have a feeling quite a few people will be joining me.
That, of course, means less choice for buyers – who also might start looking elsewhere as the number of quality items available up for auction dries up.
And so they should. Quantity is no subsititute for quality. And value for money is what is was all about. A long time ago.