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09-17-2013 12:48 PM
Anyone who has been a larger seller on eBay for any substantial length of time has come to know the eBay VeRO (Verified Rights Owner) program intimately. Basically, the trademark owners (Rolex, Omega, etc.) employ 3rd party firms to scan eBay listings and bulk report any items they suspect might be replicas. Listings reported by these VeRO members are instantly removed and the seller is sent a dreaded "MC999" notice by eBay. Because the VeRO members aren't particularly careful or picky about the items they report, a very large number of authentic items are removed by eBay in the process and it is up to the affected sellers to contact the VeRO member and supply enough evidence of authenticity to have the VeRO member tell eBay to reinstate the listing. Supposedly, after the reinstatement (which tells eBay that the VeRO reported the item in error), the listing violation is completely removed from the seller's record. WRONG.
In over 30 years of selling/restoring vintage watches, I have never sold a fake/reproduction item. NEVER. In fact, my posts on this forum and others show that I have a zero tolerance for fake items and the damage they do to our hobby/trade. Nevertheless, about 3-4 times per year, I get an item removed by eBay VeRO/Trust & Safety in error because a third party representative of the trademark owner is bulk reporting fake items listed on eBay and marks my authentic item in error. It's a hassle, but I always take the time to contact the VeRO member and show them that the item is authentic, so the listing gets reinstated by eBay and all negative marks are removed from my record. Or so I thought......
Today, I had yet another item removed by eBay for "trademark violation" (an authentic used 1950s Omega watch dial), but this time the eBay message was different. The message from eBay did't give a link to contact the reporting VeRO member nor did it give any option for reinstatement. This message stated that my item was removed by a Trust & Safety employee based upon a report by another member (a competitor? a novice? a disgruntled buyer? who knows?) In addition, the message stated that part of the reasoning that went into the takedown was that I previously had a listing removed 2 months ago: a listing that was also reinstated by eBay 2 days later after the VeRO member admitted they made a mistake. So why is this infraction still on my record and being used against me in a later dispute?
I'm posting this story to warn sellers that your eBay MC999 Listing Policy Violations NEVER really go away, even when they are found to be in error, reversed by eBay and the listing is reinstated. And these eBay errors are later used as supporting evidence in new eBay takedown decisions by untrained Trust & Safety employees that have no specific knowledge about the hundreds of thousands of different types and categories of the items they are reviewing. The listings are removed based upon the employee "gut feel" and upon your seller reputation (which includes previous takedowns, ignoring the fact that those takedowns were found to be in error and reinstated). It's kind of like a court jury convicting you based upon a previous charge where the court found you innocent. The mere fact that you were under suspicion means that you must be guilty.
In addition, this new type of listing removal that comes from eBay Trust & Safety review (not a VeRO member) has no appeals process. Unlike the VeRO takedown which can be appealed by contacting the VeRO member with proof of authenticity, the takedown by a Trust & Safety employee (who has no training whatsoever in the item category) is arbitrary, without any supporting proof or facts and cannot be appealed. In fact, the listing doesn't even show up in "Unsold Items" like a VeRO removed listing does, so there is no way to reinstate other than to completely re-write the listing from scratch. There is also no way to have Trust & Safety review the listing that was removed because it is purged from the servers. All evidence is destroyed. Also, since there is no way to appeal this type of takedown, this (incorrect) infraction will remain on the seller record and be used against you in future reviews.
eBay is also having a problem with their "Seller Compliance" rating on their seller dashboard and has temporarily disabled that feature because they haven't been able to get the software to automatically adjust the seller compliance rating back up for VeRO takedowns that are reviewed and reinstated. A related problem?
It's unfortunate that eBay continues to find new ways to drive away honest sellers. There just is no possible way to build a long-term business selling on eBay. If the dwindling page views, constantly changing search order algorithms, rising fees and occasional fraudster buyers don't sink you, the eBay Trust & Safety group will eventually find a way to make it impossible to avoid their errors and resulting sanctions. The death spiral is inevitable. Building a business on eBay is like constructing your house on a bed of sand.
/stepping off soap box
09-17-2013 01:10 PM
"Trust & Safety employee (who has no training whatsoever in the item category)"
In some catagories on Ebay, they allow trusted users to vet the listings, so that is who, more than likely, had your item removed.
If I remember correctly Gregoryswatches used to be able to vet the watch catagory, he had a contact email and all he had to do was email Ebay and the item was removed, no questions asked, but he left a few years ago after some problems with Paypal.
Not all catagories are vetted this way, so you must have placed your Omega Watch Dial into a catagory that an Ebay user still vets.
09-17-2013 01:28 PM
You're referring to the "eBay Advanced Member Reporting" program where Trust & Safety selects a few members from certain categories and gives them direct access to Trust & Safety employees to report suspected counterfeits. I don't believe that this is the program that reported my listing because this was a watch part that no experienced watch seller would ever confuse with being counterfeit. It would take a complete newbie to make such an error.
In addition, my real complaint ISN'T that the listing was removed in error, but that there is no appeals process to remove the policy violation from my record. My additional concern is that previous VeRO takedowns that were later overturned (items found to be authentic) are being used as supporting proof to justify the new takedown.
It's a 100% statistical certainty that if you list enough items, you'll eventually have some of them removed by an overly ambitious VeRO member. It's a time waster, but you can have these errors corrected if you take the time to prove authenticity of your listings that are mistakenly removed by eBay. You're told that the infraction (error by eBay) is completely erased from your record.... but it isn't. That is the problem.
Any time there is a process for reporting/removing listings, there needs to be a similar process allowing sellers to appeal that decision while showing supporting proof why the takedown was made by eBay in error (item completely authentic and no eBay policies violated). If a seller wins that appeal, the infraction should be completely erased from the seller's record.
09-17-2013 01:45 PM - edited 09-17-2013 01:47 PM
I would suggest taking this offsite, such as a Letter to the Editor at ecommercebytes.com. I think you're pretty much preaching to the choir here; I don't think our connections are any better than yours, unfortunately.
(Come to think of it, you might also try a post to Trust & Safety/SafeHarbor, too.)
(Oh, never mind; I see you did...)
09-17-2013 02:41 PM
I was only mentioning the "ebay Advanced Member Reporting" as a possibility, as sometimes those assisting Ebay do make mistakes too.
You are not the first person to show up on the boards stating that a previous violation that had no merit was not removed from their record, normally I wouldn't suggest wasting your time calling Customer Service, but it might be a good idea to see if you can get the previous violation removed from your record.
09-17-2013 03:26 PM
... normally I wouldn't suggest wasting your time calling Customer Service, but it might be a good idea to see if you can get the previous violation removed from your record.
That was the first thing I did. Spent an hour on the phone talking to a Trust & Safety drone that read a canned script to me about the counterfeit items. Useless.
eBay has a swift, automated process for removing items that are casually reported under VeRO but a broken and very manual process for listing reinstatement. In addition, the promise that your policy compliance record is restored to its unblemished state after a listing reinstatement is NOT true. That is the point I wanted to warn other sellers about.